Charting Specifications and Limits for Excel 2003, 2007 and 2010

Limitations for Excel Charts

Have you ever wondered how many data series you can actually add to an Excel chart?  Well there are limits.  Recently an Excel Client was having problems creating a chart with more than 34 categories?  I suggested that her chart problems were not a limit of Excel, but perhaps user error.  So I looked into what the actual Excel Limits are for Charts and Graphs.

Here are the Excel chart limits for Excel 2003, Excel 2007 and Excel 2010 compared side by side:image

Notice that there is are limits to the number of data points or ultimately data categories in Excel 2010 as long as your computer has enough memory.  However, in Excel 2003 and Excel 2007, you are limited to 32,000 data points for 2-D charts.

So I tested it out.  I created a set of data with dates from January 1, 1900 and added one to the next date and then created a data column that increases by one just so we can see it on the chart more easily.  Here is what the data looks like and I copied it down to row 32009image

I highlighted the entire range and got this error in Excel 2003:SNAGHTML5374f04

So I changed the range to just under 32,000 data points and the chart appeared as such:


Okay, so the Excel Error stated that if you want more than 32,000 data points, use 2 or more series, so I did that and it works.  So I kept adding series of 32,000 data points and it even works for 10 series of 32,000 data points:


That is 320,000 data points in one chart.  Wait a minute??  I thought the Excel Limits for 2007 were 256,000 data points?

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Strange, but maybe the limits are not as hard and fast as described between 2007 and 2010.  Perhaps this help document wasn’t proofed or my version of Excel 2007 was changed in a recent update?  Do you know?

Okay, so then I thought if it is more like Excel 2010, then perhaps I am only limited to by my computer’s memory.  So I created a chart with 32,000 data points for 255 columns (data series).   It took about 5 minutes for Excel to create this chart, but it worked!!!

As you can see in my copy of Excel 2007, the data series is number 255 and the range for this data series is IV2:IV32001.  That is 8.16 MILLION data points on one chart.  Excel is AMAZING!image

Since this chart only had 255 data series, I tried to do more than 255 data series in an Excel Chart and it did give me that error:


So you can have millions of data points, but only 255 data series even if your computer has the memory to handle it.

Here are links to Excel Charting Specifications and Limits:




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More than 255 Series?

So let me know, would you ever need more than 255 data series and Excel Chart?

Would you ever need more than 256,000 data points in a Graph?

Can the human eye detect any of these differences?

Please leave me a comment.



  1. Yes want more than 255 data series. Imagine graphing machine movement, supposed to always be the same (lots of lines on top of each other), but then at cycle 400 something went wrong, and then it continued on with more cycles. Per cycle there are only 34 data points. It’d be easy to see that in a chart,the cycle with a deviation, if I could make that chart. Yes I can find it in the data other ways, but the visual representation is nice. Maybe there is different type of graph that would work.

    • Hi Brian,

      I would recommend using multiple charts and overlaying one on top of the other.

      Then make the top chart’s plot area transparent so you can see the chart below. It will make it look like it is one chart if you size both of the charts the same in Excel.

      Hope this helps. let me know how it turns out.


  2. Hi Steve,

    I routinely need more than 32000 data points. Usually I am recording several data points from machinery (such as time and sensor data) If I leave the recording overnight, sampling at 1-second intervals, that is about 50k samples. Since the artifact I am looking for occurs during a 1-second interval, I look through the graph for a single spike, then I check the associated time. It would be good to have a graph of 256k data points.

    I am not sure how you meant to overlay the graphs with transparency. I tend to stretch graphs very wide to find the data I am looking for. This would be difficult with multiple charts, you think?


  3. “So let me know, would you ever need more than 255 data series and Excel Chart?”

    Ever tried to do a scatter plot? There you go buddy.


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