How to Unsort in Excel: Revert Back to Original Sorting

Sorted your Excel data in the wrong order? Yeah, that happens.

Luckily, there are two easy ways to unsort your data in Excel. These include the Undo command and a Helper column next to your data.

While everyone is familiar with Undo, the helper column might be a new concept. Let’s see how it is used and how it can help you unsort your data.

So without further ado, let’s dive right into the details 🤿

You can also practice unsorting in real-time by downloading this workbook here.

How to undo sorting

The most obvious and common way of unsorting data is to use the undo shortcut.

Right after you sort the data in the wrong order, press CTRL + Z. The data will return to its previous version.

Let’s see a brief example of its working below.

Say, we have the following data set containing the names of employees.

Sample data table for Sort in excel

We want to sort these names from A to Z. Mistakenly, we sorted them from Z to A.

Sorted data in same workbook

To remove this sorting, simply press CTRL + Z.

Excel will retrieve data and bring back the original dataset with no sorting. Like this:

Original data retrieved using CTRL + Z

You can now sort it as you want. In our case, from A to Z.

Sort data from A to Z - index column

It’s as simple!

Try it yourself using the sample workbook given above 😉

Unsort with helper column: if you have not sorted yet

Another way of unsorting your data is to use the helper column. A helper column is an additional column that you create as a temporary backup of your data.

For instance, if you are to sort column A, you can create a helper column right next to it and copy the contents in it.

This way – regardless of what sorting or formatting you apply on column A – you will always have the original data by your side.

Let’s see a quick example to view its working 🤡

Say, we have two columns containing information about sweatshirts. The data gives information about their size and color.

Sample data for unsorted data

We want to sort column A from smallest to largest. But we also want to keep our original data intact.

An easy way to do this would be to create a helper column.

  1. Click the column heading B and right-click it.
  2. A drop-down menu appears.
  3. Select Insert from the options.
Entering a blank column for backup file
  1. The helper column appears. You can name it Backup copy or Helper column.
  2. Copy the contents of column A and paste them into column B.
New column appears - data tab
  1. The data appears in column B.

You can now easily sort your data in column A as:

Sort column A from smallest to largest with file name.

Your original data is safe in a temporary column. If you don’t like the sorting, you can always retrieve your original data using it.

Pretty easy, no? 🤩

Unsort with helper column: if you have already sorted

You can unsort your sorted data immediately using the CTRL + Z option.

But what if you open the file after two days? Or do you need to make changes on some device other than the one you originally created the data set on?

That calls for the helper column. It’s the same as using it when your data is unsorted. There’s just a little bit of difference.

Suppose we have a file containing the monthly sales of some companies. And the data has been sorted in smallest to largest order.

Sample data with company serial number

We open the file after a couple of days, and we want to change the data sorting. But the undo shortcut isn’t functional anymore. What do we do now?

We use the helper column to unsort column B.

You cannot reverse back to the original random order of your data using this method.

However, you can use the helper column to sort your data in another way other than the existing one.

Kasper Langmann, Microsoft Office Specialist
  1. Copy the contents of column B and paste them into column C.
Helper column appears same as above method.

You now have a backup of your data.

  1. Select the cells containing the data in column B.
  2. Right-click the selected data.
  3. A drop-down menu appears.
  4. Select Sort from the options and click Sort Largest to Smallest.
Sorting data from largest to smallest

Your data will be sorted from the largest to smallest. All the while, the previous copy of your data will remain intact.

Data sorted from largest to smallest

And it’s done 🎯

It’s really that simple. You can also try it using the sample workbook. 🧐

That’s it – Now what?

In this article, we saw how to unsort in Excel using some easy techniques. We sort data in Excel at all times, and naturally, we make mistakes too.

The best way to rectify small mistakes is using the Undo shortcut. It can be a lifesaver letting you restore the previous version of your spreadsheet.

But unfortunately, undo does not work every time. Especially if you have used VBA, macros, or just open your file after days.

In that case, you can use the helper column to unsort data. It’s use is as simple as shown above 😃

Apart from this, Excel offers other great functions used for daily life tasks. These include IF, SUMIF, VLOOKUP, etc.

You can learn them for free in my 30-minute free email course that teaches these and more. Only at the cost of your email. Sign up today!

Other resources

Did you enjoy reading this article? Then you would love to read more such topics.

Read here: Sort in ExcelFilter in Excel, Excel shortcuts, and more.