How do I password protect an Excel spreadsheet?

Link to YouTube video.

There are many reasons you may want to password protect an Excel spreadsheet, but mainly to stop either unauthorised editing, or unauthorised access.  We’ll show you how to password protect for both eventualities (either preventing someone from editing or entirely blocking access to the file).

Firstly, lets assume you have a spreadsheet, and you want to allow others to access it, but make it so they cannot edit the file unless they have the password.  We do this by using the “Protect Sheet” feature.

Follow the image below to Protect a Sheet:

If your workbook has several sheets (tabs), then you will need to repeat this for each sheet you want to protect.

Note:  The “Protect Workbook” button to the right of the “Protect Sheet” button acts in a different manner, and only protects the “structure” of the workbook (i.e. does not allow sheets to be added or deleted) but still allows editing of the sheets, so for most users this will not be the feature they are looking for.

It is possible to make certain cells “unlocked” whilst the rest of the sheet is locked – take a look at our other blog post “How do I lock cells in Excel?”

But what if you want to deny access completely to an Excel file?  Or make a file read-only?  This requires a different technique.

Firstly, click File > Save As… (or press the F12 function key as a shortcut) and then when you are given the “Save As” dialogue box (you may need to click the “more options” link to get this box to appear), there is a very discreet button labelled “Tools” at the bottom:


After you’ve clicked General Options, you’re given the option to require a password to open a file, or a password to modify, or both at the same time.  If you only use the “Password to modify” option, it means that anyone can open the file, but they cannot make any changes without the password (i.e. it makes the file read-only):

The “Read-only recommended” option gives the user a gentle prompt to open the file as read-only when they open the file, but are given the option to ignore.

I hope this explains the different ways you can password protect an Excel file.  It is worth pointing out at this stage that there are no password recovery facilities in Excel, so make sure you either keep a hidden record of your passwords, or make very sure you can remember them.

If you would like to see password protection in action, then why not also watch our YouTube video on the subject:

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