How to Use Solver in Microsoft Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Solver in Microsoft Excel is a powerful tool that helps you find optimal solutions for complex problems with multiple constraints. To use it, you first need to set up a spreadsheet with the necessary formulas and constraints. Then, you’ll access Solver through the Data tab and define your objective cell, the cells you want to change, and any constraints. After you’ve set everything up, you simply run Solver, and it will use mathematical algorithms to find the best solution that meets all your constraints.

After you complete the action, Solver will provide you with a solution that optimizes your objective, whether that’s maximizing profit, minimizing costs, or achieving a specific goal. It will also present you with the values for each variable that lead to this optimal solution.


Microsoft Excel is not just a tool for organizing and analyzing data, but it can also be a powerful ally when it comes to problem-solving. One of its most dynamic features is Solver, an add-in program that takes your decision-making to the next level. But what exactly is Solver, and why should anyone care about it?

In its essence, Solver is like a personal assistant that specializes in mathematical optimization. It’s designed to handle complex problems that involve multiple variables and constraints. Think of it as a puzzle solver – you provide the pieces in the form of data and limitations, and Solver finds the best way to put them all together to reach your desired outcome.

This nifty feature is a game-changer for businesses, researchers, and anyone who regularly deals with logistical, financial, or operational challenges. It allows you to explore different scenarios and make informed decisions based on quantitative data. Its applications are vast, from optimizing product mix to minimize costs, to determining the best investment portfolio for a given risk level. If you’ve ever found yourself thinking, “What’s the best way to do this?” Solver is the answer to your conundrum.

Step by Step Tutorial: Using Solver in Microsoft Excel

Before diving into the steps, it’s important to understand what we’re aiming for. Solver helps you find the best solution to a problem by changing variable values within your formulas, based on the constraints you set. For example, if you’re trying to maximize profit under certain budgetary restrictions, Solver will tweak the variables to give you the highest profit possible without breaching your budget.

Step 1: Set up your spreadsheet

First, ensure that your spreadsheet includes all necessary formulas and constraints related to your problem.

In this step, you’re laying the groundwork for Solver to do its magic. This involves inputting your data, setting up formulas that reflect the relationships between different variables, and defining constraints that limit the range of possible solutions. Think of this like setting up the rules of the game – without them, Solver won’t know how to play.

Step 2: Enable Solver Add-in

Go to the ‘File’ tab, select ‘Options’, click on ‘Add-ins’, choose ‘Solver Add-in’, and click ‘Go’. Check the box next to ‘Solver Add-in’ and click ‘OK’.

Not all Excel setups come with Solver ready to use out of the box. By enabling this add-in, you’re equipping Excel with the necessary tools to start optimizing your data. It’s like turning on the engine of a car before hitting the road.

Step 3: Open Solver

Navigate to the ‘Data’ tab on the Excel ribbon and click on ‘Solver’.

By opening Solver, you’re stepping into the control room. This is where all the settings for your optimization problem are housed. Here, you’ll tell Solver exactly what you want it to do.

Step 4: Define Objective

In the Solver Parameters window, select your objective cell, and choose whether you want to maximize, minimize, or set it to a specific value.

Your objective cell is the scoreboard, showing how well you’re doing in achieving your goal – be it profit, cost, time, etc. By setting this up, you’re telling Solver what the end goal of the optimization process is.

Step 5: Set Variable Cells

Specify the cells that Solver can adjust to optimize the objective.

These cells are the levers that Solver will pull and push to find the best solution. They represent the variables in your model – could be anything from production quantities to investment amounts.

Step 6: Add Constraints

Click on ‘Add’ to set constraints for your variable cells, such as a minimum or maximum value.

Constraints are the rules of the game. They limit the solutions to realistic and feasible options. Without constraints, Solver might suggest solutions that are impossible or impractical in real life.

Step 7: Solve the Problem

Once your objective and constraints are set, click ‘Solve’ to find the best solution.

This is where Solver gets down to business. It will crunch the numbers, consider all possible combinations, and deliver you the best result based on your criteria.


Optimize Decision-MakingSolver helps you make better decisions by analyzing all possible scenarios to find the most optimal outcome.
Save TimeInstead of manually calculating and comparing different solutions, Solver does it for you quickly and efficiently.
FlexibilitySolver can be used for a wide range of problems across different industries, from finance to logistics.


ComplexityFor beginners, setting up Solver can be a complex task due to the need for accurate data, proper formulas, and realistic constraints.
Potential for ErrorIf your data or formulas are incorrect, Solver will provide inaccurate results, which could lead to poor decision-making.
Limited by ExcelSolver is constrained by the limitations of Excel, such as processing power and data capacity.

Additional Information

When using Solver in Microsoft Excel, there are a few additional tips and tricks to keep in mind. Firstly, always double-check your formulas and constraints to ensure accuracy. One small error can lead to drastically different outcomes. It’s also worth noting that Solver can handle both linear and nonlinear models, making it versatile for various types of problems.

Another tip is to use the ‘Solver Report’ after running Solver. This report provides details on the solution, the original values, and the constraints, allowing you to analyze the results further. If you’re dealing with a particularly complex problem, you might want to consider using the ‘Evolutionary’ solving method, which can handle more intricate models.

Finally, remember that while Solver is an incredibly powerful tool, it’s not infallible. It’s a tool to aid decision-making, not to replace it. Always use your judgment and expertise to interpret the results Solver provides.


  1. Set up your spreadsheet with all necessary formulas and constraints.
  2. Enable Solver Add-in through Excel options.
  3. Open Solver from the Data tab.
  4. Define your objective.
  5. Set the variable cells that Solver can adjust.
  6. Add constraints to limit Solver’s solutions.
  7. Click Solve to find the best solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Solver in Excel used for?

Solver in Excel is used to find the best solution to a problem that involves multiple variables and constraints. It’s like a tool that helps you optimize decisions based on quantitative data.

Can Solver handle both linear and nonlinear problems?

Yes, Solver is capable of handling both linear and nonlinear problems, making it a versatile tool for various applications.

How do I enable Solver in Excel?

To enable Solver, go to the ‘File’ tab, select ‘Options’, click on ‘Add-ins’, choose ‘Solver Add-in’, click ‘Go’, check the box next to ‘Solver Add-in’, and click ‘OK’.

What should I do if Solver doesn’t find a solution?

If Solver doesn’t find a solution, double-check your data, formulas, and constraints for accuracy. You may also need to adjust your constraints to provide Solver with a feasible solution space.

Is Solver available in all versions of Excel?

Solver is available in most modern versions of Excel. However, it may need to be enabled as an add-in if it’s not appearing in your Data tab.


Solver in Microsoft Excel is a robust tool that, when used correctly, can transform the decision-making process of any individual or organization. It takes the guesswork out of complex problems and provides data-driven solutions that meet your specific needs and constraints.

As with any tool, it requires a level of expertise to use effectively, but the payoff can be significant. Whether you’re a business owner, a financial analyst, or just someone who loves crunching numbers, Solver can be a valuable addition to your analytical arsenal. Keep in mind the steps outlined in this article, and don’t be afraid to explore the possibilities Solver presents.