The Power BI Can’t Display the Visual Error is one of the most frustrating, and most common errors in Power BI. The cause of the error can vary based on the formula and data model being used. We’ll walk through the steps you can take to correct the error and display the visual appropriately.
When an error shows up that Power BI can’t display the visual, it’s typically an indication that something has changed in the report. Either a DAX formula, a Power Query step, incoming data, or in some cases a visual could be deprecated or no longer supported.
Each one of these possible causes of the error will require a different approach to fix it.
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What Causes a Power BI Can’t Display the Visual Error?
The most common cause of a can’t display the visual error in Power BI is a change in the underlying data model. Power BI works by executing a series of data transformation steps in a specific order. Each step references the prior one in Power Query. DAX formulas use the specific table and field names from Power Query to perform calculations. If one of the steps changes or is renamed, a calculation will no longer be possible resulting in a Can’t display the visual error.
The following list lists the most common causes of the error in order of most common to less common.
- Data type changes in Power Query
- Additional Applied Steps in Power Query such as column name changes
- Changes in DAX Formulas
- Incompatible field combinations for a visual
- Changes to Relationships
- Changes to incoming data schemas
- Deprecated visuals and features
We’ll walk through the different causes to help you identify the cause of the error.
Do note that there are other fringe scenarios that will cause visualization errors in Power BI, but one of these items should be able to fix a vast majority of issues that people come across.
What to do when a Power BI Visual no Longer Displays?
When a visualization error occurs in Power BI, the first thing that most people do is delete the visual and attempt to rebuild it. Do not delete the visual! Visuals can take a decent amount of time to setup and configure. Deleting them is unlikely to fix the underlying problem and you will also have to re-create the visual.
These are the steps we recommend when coming across a Power BI can’t display the visual error.
Step 1. – Don’t Panic! Even if the picture below looks like you when you see a Power BI error, keep calm!
Step 2. – Think through any recent changes that you have made to your Power BI Dashboard. These changes could be related to updating a DAX formula, adding a step to Power Query, or refreshing an incoming dataset.
If your visual was working correctly previously, it’s likely that a change somewhere else in the report caused them to break.
Recent changes to formulas or Power Query steps can provide clues. Likely a recent change will be related to the cause of the error.
Step 3. – For reports with many broken visuals, Save As to keep a copy of the original report before making any big changes. While it’s frustrating to troubleshoot a change, it’s even more frustrating to break a report further when trying to fix one.
Let’s look at some specific reasons that a visualization may result in an error.
Check for Data Type Changes in Power Query
Launch the Power Query Editor in Power BI. Each column of the data in Power BI has an assigned data type. For Power BI to be able to calculate correctly, these fields have to be assigned the correct data type. The system will only know how to add numeric columns together and is only able to parse or concatenate text strings.
If a data type in Power Query was changed, it will cause an error if Power BI was previously adding a column of numbers together and is now trying to add a column of text fields together.
To fix data type errors in Power Query, Right Click on a Column name and select the new data type. You can hold down SHIFT while selecting columns to update multiple columns at the same time.
This error will often occur when updating incoming data, or changing the source from one Excel file to another. Power BI does its best to auto-detect data types but does not always get it right. Go back early into the Power Query applied steps and make changes to ensure that it is able to execute all steps from beginning to end.
Check for Changes to Applied Steps in Power Query
Look at the recent Applied Steps on the right side. The list of data transformation steps are applied in sequential order from top to bottom. For Power BI to appropriately display a visual, it needs to be able to reference the same table names and column names. If a table name or column change from when a visual or formula were first created it will be unable to identify the issue, resulting in an error.
Check Power Query both for new steps, and steps that have been moved out of order. You should be able to click on the last step in the query to view the results. If Power Query is unable to complete a step it will typically result in an expression error.
It’s useful to understand how Power BI executes the order of operations between Power Query and DAX formulas. Power Query transformations are loaded in prior to DAX calculations. This means that Power Query changes can cause formula errors later in the report.
Check for Changes in DAX Formulas
If a DAX formula changes to an invalid calculation it will cause a Power BI visual to result in a Can’t Display the Visual error. The error is not with the visual, but in the ability to calculate the contents of it.
Look at each of the DAX formulas being calculated in the visual. If there is an identifiable error with the formula, Power BI will put a warning sign next to it on list of fields and measures.
Clicking into the measure will in some cases give you clues as to what is causing the calculation error. Other times the formula may not highlight in colors meaning that it cannot find the correct field or the syntax is invalid.
If you are using nested DAX calculations, such as referencing one measure inside of another, check that the nested measure is valid.
Note: Try copying and pasting a visual and deleting each measure individually to see if you can identify the problem. Alternatively, you could try adding the measures and fields to a new visual one by one.
Check Relationships and bad Field Combinations on a Visual
If relationships change between tables in Power BI, it can cause a visual to error out or can even cause incorrect calculations to appear. Click on the Model View tab to view relationships that have been established between different tables in a dataset.
A second item to check is for bad field combinations. Sometimes calculations are incompatible with each other for a number of reasons. A common cause is that no relationship is detected between the data, so Power BI doesn’t know how to consolidate it together.
Try adding fields one at a time, and if you add one that does not give you the expected results check the relationships.
If you’re having trouble with Power BI relationships, you could also try to merge tables together which will provide a single flat table that could be easier to work with. This is not recommended for large datasets though and may not be practical for all use cases.
Check Incoming Connections to Power BI
If you open a report and haven’t made any changes to it recently, but the visuals are all broken, try to Refresh the dataset. You can refresh data in Power BI Desktop by clicking Refresh on the Power BI Ribbon. When you start a refresh, it will import data, run through all Power Query steps, and then populate visuals with DAX calculations.
Work backwards from your report, Check that all steps in the Power Query Editor are appropriately executing. If not, work backwards on those steps and ensure that data is coming in from the source correctly.
Because Power BI can ingest over 200 sources of data, the exact solution will vary based on the report. However, as long as the data is populating and consistent with the previous schema, column names, data types etc. It should pass through to populate visualizations.
Check for Deprecated Features in Power BI
Power BI is updated at an aggressive pace by Microsoft. New features are added on a monthly cadence. Features are not discontinued as often, but it does happen. Typically, you can search Google for deprecated items, or you can follow the Power BI Blog. The blog lets you sign up for updates whenever they’re posted so you can stay on top of upcoming changes to the Power BI platform.
Errors can also occur with custom visuals. Power BI App Source has a great community of custom visualizations that can extend the usefulness of Power BI.
However, we generally don’t recommend using many of them due to the unknown nature of support. Larger vendors can be assumed to maintain support for their visuals over time, but smaller ones may be developer side projects that have no guarantee of long term support.
Power BI Can’t Display the Visual Errors can be very frustrating to deal with, but there is often a simple cause in most reports. Work backwards from the point that the error occurred and look for changes in data type, data model, column names, and field names.
Small subtle changes can cause reports to break.
If all of your visuals are not populating, make sure that data is flowing into Power BI correctly and there were no changes at the source.
When building a new visual, not all fields are compatible with each other and Power BI will often need a relationship defined to figure out who to put two separate pieces of data together on a single visualization.