Password protect a worksheet or workbook elements in Excel

To prevent a user from accidentally or deliberately changing, moving, or deleting important data from a worksheet or workbook, you can protect a worksheet or workbook, with or without a password. You can also protect a workbook element, such as part of a worksheet or even a single cell. This topic helps you protect a worksheet or workbook element. You can remove protection from a worksheet as needed.

Important    If you want to set or change protection on the whole workbook, see Password protect a workbook. Protecting your whole workbook file by using a password adds additional security from users who have malicious intent.

In this article

Overview of worksheet or workbook element protection

Protect worksheet elements

Protect workbook elements

Protect elements in a shared workbook

Remove protection from a worksheet

Overview of worksheet or workbook element protection

When you share a workbook with other users, you may want to protect data in specific worksheet or workbook elements to help prevent it from being changed. You can also specify a password that users must enter to modify specific, protected worksheet and workbook elements. In addition, you can prevent users from changing the structure of a worksheet. You must have the password to unprotect the worksheet or elements.

Protecting worksheet elements

By default, when you protect a worksheet, all the cells on the worksheet are locked, and users cannot make any changes to a locked cell. For example, they cannot insert, modify, delete, or format data in a locked cell. However, you can specify which elements users will be able to change when you protect the worksheet.

Hiding, locking, and protecting workbook and worksheet elements is not intended to help secure or protect any confidential information that you keep in a workbook. It only helps obscure data or formulas that might confuse other users and prevents them from viewing or making changes to that data.

Excel does not encrypt data that is hidden or locked in a workbook. To help keep confidential data confidential, you may want to limit access to workbooks that contain such information by storing them in a location that is available only to authorized users.

Before you protect a worksheet, you can unlock the ranges that you want users to be able to change or enter data in. You can unlock cells for all users or for specific users.

For information on how to unlock cells and ranges in a protected worksheet, see the article Lock or unlock specific areas of a protected worksheet.

Using a password to control access to protected elements

When you protect a worksheet or workbook by locking its elements, adding a password to edit the unlocked elements is optional. In this context, the password is only intended to allow access to certain users while helping to prevent changes by other users. This level of password protection does not guarantee that all sensitive data in your workbook is secure. For an additional layer of security, you should secure a workbook itself with a password to help safeguard it from unauthorized access.

When you protect worksheet or workbook elements by using a password, it is very important that you remember that password. Without it, you cannot unprotect the workbook or worksheet.

Important    

Use strong passwords that combine uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Weak passwords don't mix these elements. Strong password: Y6dh!et5. Weak password: House27. Passwords should be 8 or more characters in length. A pass phrase that uses 14 or more characters is better.

It is critical that you remember your password. If you forget your password, Microsoft cannot retrieve it. Store the passwords that you write down in a secure place away from the information that they help protect.

Protecting the structure and windows of a workbook

You can lock the structure of a workbook, which prevents users from adding or deleting worksheets or from displaying hidden worksheets. You can also prevent users from changing the size or position of worksheet windows. Workbook structure and window protection applies to the whole workbook.

Top of Page

Protect worksheet elements

  1. Select the worksheet that you want to protect.

  2. To unlock any cells or ranges that you want other users to be able to change, do the following:

    1. Select each cell or range that you want to unlock.

    2. On the Home tab, in the Cells group, click Format, and then click Format Cells.
      Excel  Ribbon Image

    3. On the Protection tab, clear the Locked check box, and then click OK.

  3. To hide any formulas that you do not want to be visible, do the following:

    1. In the worksheet, select the cells that contain the formulas that you want to hide.

    2. On the Home tab, in the Cells group, click Format, and then click Format Cells.

    3. On the Protection tab, select the Hidden check box, and then click OK.

  4. To unlock any graphic objects (such as pictures, clip art, shapes, or Smart Art graphics) that you want users to be able to change, do the following:

    1. Hold down CTRL and then click each graphic object that you want to unlock.
      This displays the Picture Tools or Drawing Tools, adding the Format tab.

      Tip    You can also use the Go To command to quickly select all the graphic objects in a worksheet. On the Home tab, in the Editing group, click Find & Select, and then click Go To. Click Special, and then click Objects.

    2. On the Format tab, in the Size group, click the Dialog Box Launcher Button image next to Size.

    3. On the Properties tab, clear the Locked check box, and then click OK.

      Note    You do not need to unlock buttons or controls for users to be able to click and use them. You can unlock embedded charts, text boxes, and other objects created with the drawing tools that you want users to be able to modify.

  5. On the Review tab, in the Changes group, click Protect Sheet.
    The Changes group on the Review tab

  6. In the Allow all users of this worksheet to list, select the elements that you want users to be able to change.

    More information about the elements that you can select

    Worksheet elements

    Clear this check box

    To prevent users from

    Select locked cells

    Moving the pointer to cells for which the Locked check box is selected on the Protection tab of the Format Cells dialog box. By default, users are allowed to select locked cells.

    Select unlocked cells

    Moving the pointer to cells for which the Locked check box is cleared on the Protection tab of the Format Cells dialog box. By default, users can select unlocked cells, and they can press the TAB key to move between the unlocked cells on a protected worksheet.

    Format cells

    Changing any of the options in the Format Cells or Conditional Formatting dialog boxes. If you applied conditional formats before you protected the worksheet, the formatting continues to change when a user enters a value that satisfies a different condition.

    Format columns

    Using any of the column formatting commands, including changing column width or hiding columns (Home tab, Cells group, Format button).

    Format rows

    Using any of the row formatting commands, including changing row height or hiding rows (Home tab, Cells group, Format button).

    Insert columns

    Inserting columns.

    Insert rows

    Inserting rows.

    Insert hyperlinks

    Inserting new hyperlinks, even in unlocked cells.

    Delete columns

    Deleting columns.

    Note   If Delete columns is protected and Insert columns is not also protected, a user can insert columns that he or she cannot delete.

    Delete rows

    Deleting rows.

    Note   If Delete rows is protected and Insert rows is not also protected, a user can insert rows that he or she cannot delete.

    Sort

    Using any commands to sort data (Data tab, Sort & Filter group).

    Note   Users can't sort ranges that contain locked cells on a protected worksheet, regardless of this setting.

    Use AutoFilter

    Using the drop-down arrows to change the filter on ranges when AutoFilters are applied.

    Note   Users cannot apply or remove AutoFilters on a protected worksheet, regardless of this setting.

    Use PivotTable reports

    Formatting, changing the layout, refreshing, or otherwise modifying PivotTable reports, or creating new reports.

    Edit objects

    Doing the any of the following:

    1. Making changes to graphic objects including maps, embedded charts, shapes, text boxes, and controls that you did not unlock before you protected the worksheet. For example, if a worksheet has a button that runs a macro, you can click the button to run the macro, but you cannot delete the button.

    2. Making any changes, such as formatting, to an embedded chart. The chart continues to be updated when you change its source data.

    3. Adding or editing comments.

    Edit scenarios

    Viewing scenarios that you have hidden, making changes to scenarios that you have prevented changes to, and deleting these scenarios. Users can change the values in the changing cells, if the cells are not protected, and add new scenarios.

    Chart sheet elements

    Select this check box

    To prevent users from

    Contents

    Making changes to items that are part of the chart, such as data series, axes, and legends. The chart continues to reflect changes made to its source data.

    Objects

    Making changes to graphic objects —including shapes, text boxes, and controls —unless you unlock the objects before you protect the chart sheet.

  7. In the Password to unprotect sheet box, type a password for the sheet, click OK, and then retype the password to confirm it.

Top of Page

Protect workbook elements

  1. On the Review tab, in the Changes group, click Protect Workbook.

    The Changes group on the Review tab

  2. Under Protect workbook for, do one or more of the following:

    • To protect the structure of a workbook, select the Structure check box.

    • To keep workbook windows in the same size and position every time the workbook is opened, select the Windows check box.

      More information about the elements that you can select

      Workbook elements

      Select this check box

      To prevent users from

      Structure

      • Viewing worksheets that you have hidden.

      • Moving, deleting, hiding, or changing the names of worksheets.

      • Inserting new worksheets or chart sheets.

        Note    Users will be able to insert an embedded chart in an existing worksheet.

      • Moving or copying worksheets to another workbook.

      • In PivotTable reports, displaying the source data for a cell in the data area, or displaying page field pages on separate worksheets.

      • For scenarios, creating a scenario summary report.

      • In the Analysis ToolPak, using the analysis tools that place results on a new worksheet.

      Windows

      • Changing the size and position of the windows for the workbook when the workbook is opened.

      • Moving, resizing, or closing the windows.

        Note    Users will be able to hide and unhide windows.

      Note    If you run a macro that includes an operation that can't be performed in a protected workbook, a message appears and the macro stops running.

  3. To prevent other users from removing workbook protection, in the Password (optional) box, type a password, click OK, and then retype the password to confirm it.

    Note    The password is optional. If you do not supply a password, then any user can unprotect the workbook and change the protected elements. Make sure that you choose a password that you can remember, because if you lose the password, you cannot gain access to the protected elements in the workbook.

Top of Page

Protect elements in a shared workbook

If the workbook is already shared, and you want to assign a password to protect the sharing, you must first unshare the workbook by doing the following:

  1. Have all other users save and close the shared workbook to avoid losing their work.

  2. Open the workbook.

  3. To keep a copy of the change history information that is lost when you unshare a workbook, do the following:

    1. On the Review tab, in the Changes group, click Track Changes, and then click Highlight Changes.
      The Changes group on the Review tab

    2. In the When list, select All.Clear the Who and Where check boxes.

    3. Select the List changes on a new sheet check box, and then click OK.

    4. Do one or both of the following:

    5. To print the History worksheet, click Print Print button.

    6. To copy the history to another workbook, select the cells that you want to copy, click Copy Button image on the Home tab in the Clipboard group, switch to another workbook, click where you want to place the copied data, and then click Paste Button image on the Home tab in the Clipboard group.

      Note    You may also want to save or print the current version of the workbook, because this history data might not apply to later versions of the workbook. For example, cell locations, including row numbers, in the copied history may no longer be current.

  4. In the shared workbook, on the Review tab, in the Changes group, click Protect and Share Workbook.

  5. On the Editing tab, make sure that you are the only person listed in the Who has this workbook open now list.

  6. Clear the Allow changes by more than one user at the same time. This also allows workbook merging check box.

    Note    If this check box is not available, then you must unprotect the workbook before clearing the check box. Do the following:

    1. Click OK to close the Share Workbook dialog box.

    2. On the Review tab, in the Changes group, click Unprotect Shared Workbook.

    3. If you are prompted, enter the password, and then click OK.

    4. On the Review tab, in the Changes group, click Share Workbook.

    5. On the Editing tab, clear the Allow changes by more than one user at the same time. This also allows workbook merging check box. When you are prompted about the effects on other users, click Yes.

  7. If needed, give specific users access to ranges, protect worksheets, protect workbook elements, and set passwords for viewing and editing. Do the following:

    1. On the Review tab, in the Changes group, click Share Workbook.

    2. Select the Sharing with track changes check box.

    3. To require that other users supply a password to turn off the change history, or to remove the workbook from shared use, in the Password (optional) box, type a password, click OK, and then retype the password to confirm it. If prompted, save the workbook.

Top of Page

Remove protection from a worksheet

If the protection in your workbook uses a password, you must know the password to remove the protection. See Recover a password to open a workbook or worksheet for more information.

  1. On the Review tab, in the Changes group, click Unprotect Sheet.

    The Changes group on the Review tab

    Note    The Protect Sheet option changes to Unprotect Sheet when a worksheet is protected.

  2. If prompted, type the password to unprotect the worksheet.

Top of Page

Applies To: Excel 2010



Was this information helpful?

Yes No

How can we improve it?

255 characters remaining

To protect your privacy, please do not include contact information in your feedback. Review our privacy policy.

Thank you for your feedback!

Support resources

Change language