Excel vs Power BI: The Key Differences

Power BI and Excel have several similarities regarding their functionalities, data presentation, and how we connect data to multiple sources. Compared to Power BI, Excel is a significantly easier tool to use. However, the advantage that Power BI brings is its visualization capabilities. Additionally, it is worth noting that Excel has limited report-sharing capabilities, which is a functionality where Power BI is superior. 

Microsoft’s Power BI is a business analytics tool that can be used for the creation of dashboards and reports that consist of millions of rows of data. Excel, which is also a Microsoft tool, has different built-in capabilities and functionalities for mathematical calculations, iterations, forecasts, and the creation of graphs and tables.

Most Important Distinctions

Visualization and Business Intelligence

The Excel tool is primarily used for spreadsheets and has limited capabilities for data visualization. Although it can be used for graphs and charts, its capacity for complex data analytics and visualization is limited. 

In contrast, Power BI is a tailor-made tool for Business Intelligence and data visualization. Power BI enables its users to create interactive and dynamic control tables, reports, and visualizations. It is purposefully crafted for handling large databases and presenting information in a manner that is visually appealing and easy for users to understand.

Relational Data Model

Excel supports basic relational data modeling between databases. The process of connecting and changing relationships is done manually and is not intuitive for working with complex datasets.

On the other hand, Power BI enables users to easily create relationships between different tables and other data sources through built-in data source connectors. This makes it easy to import and update the data. Additionally, Power BI provides a more advanced approach to creating relationships, making it efficient for managing and analyzing complex data structures that are stored both locally and in the cloud.

Collaboration and Sharing

Anyone who has ever worked with Excel probably knows that its table collaboration and sharing functionality is a big challenge, especially when it comes to working with multiple versions of a single table. Sharing via Excel usually includes sending entire folders that contain multiple files, which can lead to data inconsistencies.

Power BI, however, was explicitly designed for data sharing. It allows users to publish and share reports and control tables easily, provides real-time user collaboration, and offers the ability to embed reports into websites or applications.

Automation of Data Refreshes

Doing a data refresh in Excel might require manual intervention, and automating this process is complex.

Meanwhile, Power BI offers seamless data refresh capabilities, allowing users to schedule automatic data refreshes.

Comparison Table


In this digital age where users across all businesses generate large databases related to work processes, Power BI is an excellent tool for any data-driven organization. It is specifically designed for Business Intelligence and offers advanced functions for data visualization, modeling, and sharing, making it a great choice for all companies that work with big data sets. 

Moreover, Power BI is tailor-made for users who analyze data and want to present it dynamically and interactively, especially when working with large and diverse databases. Still, it is worth mentioning that Excel continues to be the most widespread and widely used spreadsheet tool, but it is quite limited when it comes to more advanced functionalities.