Drill-Down Excel Pivot Table

Discover how to drill-down into a pivot table! Let’s take a look and see how to use Quick Explore in Excel.

Is it enough to display some corporate specifics (KPIs)? The answer is not that simple as we might think. If we make the report to a CEO than the answer is yes. They are capable of making the right decision based on a few key performance indicators. If we are analysts than our task is to pay attention to every little detail. Is there a tool that can help us to see behind the summed up data? The answer is yes. In today’s article we’ll introduce you to the drill-down feature that’s capable to see under the hood.

Drill-Down to show the details

Pivot tables are our good friends especially when we talk about data analysis. Let’s see how the structure of a table builds up. Every single value can contain one or more records.

Explanation: Let’s see an example of this. If we talk about a passport ID than one ID can belong to one person. This is called a 1:1 type connection. If we talk about a birth-date than the 1:N type connection is relevant. We can easily see that more people can born on the same day.

After this little sidetrack let’s go back to the initial data set. On the figure below we can see a sales table. At first glance there’s not many things can be known about the value in the cell C6 (East / Office Supplies). Use the drill-down feature to find out all the details!

drill-down excel pivot table initial data set 01

How to extract information from a Pivot table?

We should use the drill-down method to create a dashboard in Excel. In the example below we have summed up the data by regions and categories. We would like to display all the connecting records of the cell C6.

First highlight one of the cells of the Pivot table containing data. After this right click the highlighted cell. Finally choose the “Show Details” option from the appearing list.

drill-down show details 02

Pro Tip: Instead of the Show Details command there’s a lot faster solution to achieve the drill-down. Highlight the cell value that we’d like to detail. Click on it twice and it is done!

A new worksheet will be automatically inserted, with a list of ‘Office Supplies’ records.

extracted records from pivot table 03

Use Pivot table slicers carefully!

Be very careful when using slicers!

If we connect slicers namely filters to the Pivot table we can be up for some surprises. The using of the drill-down function together with slicers can lead to false results in the versions of Excel before 2016!

But they’re worth to use in Excel’s newer versions. Especially when we’d like to filter even more the data of the table before drill-down.

To insert a new slicer click on the Insert tab and choose the Slicer icon.

ribbon insert slicer 04

In the case below on the picture the slicer contains all categories. If we would like to resolve the Grand Total in the E5 cell than all elements will be on the list.

slicer filter overview 05

Would you like to display a single category before drill-down? Click on the category name.

drill-down one category 06

If we double click the B5 cell than exclusively the records of the highlighted category will be displayed.

Keep eyes on the source data

There’s not many more frustrating case when we work with data that is not connected to the original source or to the Pivot table. What happens when the data of the Pivot table changed?

Let’s see the nightmare of all analysists: data is not refreshing! And this can occur rather easy when we use external data source.

We cannot underline enough times that with the use of the drill-down feature we only get a static list. This is no longer connected with the original Pivot table!

Recommendation: Read our previous article if you would like to know more about external data source!

Drill-down PowerPivot Data Model

In this section we’ll show you how to build a small data model using tables and PowerPivot. Just a few clicks and you’ll get an overview about the Quick Explore feature too.

Build the data model

Quick Explore is a perfect solution in Excel if you want to drill-down into the details. It’s good to know: Excel 2013 and above is required for this functionality.

We have sales related data tables on the Tables worksheet.

data model overview 07

Let’s create relationships between tables first. Select the range. Add the selected table from the Worksheet to the Data Model.

add range to the data model

Use the Manage option in PowerPivot. It is a rock-solid add-in for data analysis in Excel. We’ll create a Data Model with relationships between the sales tables:

drill-down pivot tables relationships

Now create a Pivot Table from the source tables. On the PowerPivot window click the PivotTable icon. The structure will be summarized and grouped into a new Worksheet.

create pivot table

Drill-down Using the Quick Explore function

On the new worksheet click on a cell containing data! Now the Quick Explore icon appears.

use quick explore function

Click on the icon. The Explore box will appear. The pop-up window shows all the tables from the Pivot Table. You can choose from the available options to drill down into the data.

drill-down excel pivot tables

Click on the Quick Explore icon. The Explore pop-up window appears. This box shows all the sales tables from our Pivot Table.

Select one field from the available options to drill-down into the details. In this example we want to extract the related product names of cell C8. The value is $25630 for the customers of BlueTechnology in the Midwest region. Choose this option from the Explore window.

rearrange pivot tables using drill-down

Excel will rebuild the Pivot table and transform it. Check the top-left corner and the filters. The pivot table is now restructured and provides the details about the selected cell. Should you reset the layout? Use the Ctrl + Z command to back your original table structure.


It is useful for everyone to oversee more than just the surface. It is possible in cases that we have to drill-down to the bottom of the data tables and examine the details. In this process our help is the drill-down method. In case of large data tables use this function courageously because there’s a lot to discover with a little research.

See you all next week!