Remove hidden data and personal information by inspecting workbooks

If you plan to share an electronic copy of a Microsoft Excel workbook, it's a good idea to review the workbook for hidden data or personal information that might be stored in the workbook itself or its document properties (metadata). Because this hidden information can reveal details about your organization or about the workbook itself that you might not want to share publicly, you might want to remove it before you share the workbook with other people.

The Document Inspector in Excel can help you find and remove hidden data and personal information in your workbooks.

Note   You can remove hidden data and personal information from workbooks you share with other people. However, if your workbook has been saved as a shared workbook (Review > Share Workbook), you can't remove comments, annotations, document properties, and personal information. To remove this information from a shared workbook, first copy and unshare the workbook.

In this article

Find and remove hidden data and personal information

Types of hidden data and personal information

Information the Document Inspector finds and removes

Information the Document Inspector finds but can't remove

Find and remove hidden data and personal information

You can use the Document Inspector to find and remove hidden data and personal information in workbooks. It's a good idea to use the Document Inspector before you share an electronic copy of your workbook, such as in an email attachment.

  1. Open the workbook you want to inspect for hidden data and personal information.

  2. Click File > Save As, and type a different name in the File name box to save a copy of your original workbook.

    Important   It's a good idea to use the Document Inspector on a copy of your original workbook, because it's not always possible to restore the data the Document Inspector removes.

  3. In the copy of your original workbook, click File > Info.

  4. Under Prepare for Sharing, click Check for Issues, and click Inspect Document.

  5. In the Document Inspector dialog box, check the boxes of the types of hidden content you want to be inspected. For more information about the individual inspectors, see Information the Document Inspector finds and removes

  6. Click Inspect.

  7. Review the results of the inspection in the Document Inspector dialog box.

  8. Click Remove All next to the inspection results for the types of hidden content you want to remove from your document.

    Important   

    • If you remove hidden content from your workbook, you might not be able to restore it by clicking Undo.

    • If you remove hidden rows, columns, or worksheets that contain data, you might change the results of the calculations or formulas in your workbook. If you don't know what information the hidden rows, columns or worksheets contain, close the Document Inspector, unhide the hidden rows, columns, or worksheets, and then review their contents.

    • The inspectors for Comments and Annotations, Document Properties and Personal Information, and Headers and Footers can't be used in a workbook that has been saved as a shared workbook (Review > Share Workbook). This is because shared workbooks use personal information to enable different persons to collaborate on the same workbook. To remove this information from a shared workbook, you can copy the workbook and then unshare it. To unshare a workbook, click Review > Share Workbook and uncheck the Allow changes by more than one user at the same time box.

      Note   Unsharing isn't available in Microsoft Excel Starter 2010. To unshare, you must use the full version of Excel.

    • If you want to remove hidden data and personal information from spreadsheets you save in the OpenDocument Spreadsheet (.ods) format, you need to run the Document Inspector every time you save the spreadsheet in this format.

Top of Page

Types of hidden data and personal information

Several types of hidden data and personal information can be saved in an Excel workbook. This information might not be immediately visible when you view the workbook in Excel, but it might be possible for other people to view or retrieve the information.

Hidden information can include the data Excel adds to a workbook so you can collaborate on it with other people. It can also include information you deliberately designate as hidden.

For example, here are some of the items that can be the source of hidden data and personal information in your workbooks:

  • Comments and ink annotations     If you collaborated with other people to create your workbook, your workbook might contain items such as comments or ink annotations. This information can enable other people to see the names of people who worked on your workbook, comments from reviewers, and changes that were made to your workbook.

  • Document properties and personal information     Document properties, also known as metadata, include details about your workbook such as author, subject, and title. Document properties also include information that is automatically maintained by Office programs, such as the name of the person who most recently saved a workbook, the date when a document was created, and document location (Excel 2013). If you used specific features, your document might also contain additional kinds of personally identifiable information (PII), such as email headers, send-for-review information, routing slips, printer properties (for example, printer path and secure print passcode), and file path information for publishing Web pages.

  • Headers and footers     Workbooks can have information in headers and footers.

  • Hidden rows, columns, and worksheets    Workbooks can have rows, columns, and entire worksheets that are hidden. If you distribute a copy of a workbook that has hidden rows, columns, or worksheets, other people might unhide them to view the data that they contain.

  • Document server properties     Workbooks that are saved to a location on a document management server, such as a Document Workspace site or a library based on Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services, might contain additional document properties or information related to the server location.

  • Custom XML data     Workbooks can have custom XML data that isn't visible in the document itself. The Document Inspector can find and remove this XML data.

  • Invisible content     Workbooks can have objects that aren't visible because they are formatted as invisible.

  • External links    Workbooks can have links to data in other workbooks (external links). The names of the worksheets containing that data are then saved with the workbooks but may not be visible.

  • Embedded files or objects    Workbooks can have embedded files (such as an Office or Text document) or embedded objects (such as a chart or and equation) that may have data that isn't visible.

  • Macros of VBA code    Workbooks can have macros, VBA modules, COM or ActiveX controls, User Forms, or User-Defined Functions (UDFs) that may contain hidden data.

  • Items that may have cached data    Workbooks can have cached data for PivotTables, PivotCharts, slicers, timelines, and Cube formulas that might not be visible.

Top of Page

Information the Document Inspector finds and removes

In Excel, the Document Inspector displays items it detects to help you find and remove hidden data and personal information that's specific to Excel workbooks. The following table lists the types of hidden data and personal information the Document Inspector can find and remove from your workbooks.

Notes   

  • Not all of the Excel features that are listed in the table are supported in Microsoft Excel Starter 2010. For more information about the features available in Excel Starter, see Excel Starter feature support.

  • If your organization has added custom inspector modules to the Document Inspector, you might see additional types of information.

For these items:

The Document Inspector finds and removes:

Comments and Annotations

  • Comments

  • Ink annotations

Note   In Excel Starter 2010, Document Inspector removes only annotations.

Document Properties and Personal Information

  • Document properties, including information from the Summary, Statistics, and Custom tabs of the Document Properties dialog box

  • (Excel 2013) Document location, when clicking Remove All, the existing document location will be cleaned up from the file. The document location won’t be added back to the file while saving until you close Excel 2013 and reopen the file again.

  • Email headers

  • Routing slips

  • Send-for-review information

  • Document server properties

  • Document Management Policy information

  • Content type information

  • User name

  • Printer path information

  • Scenario comments

  • File path for publishing Web pages

  • Comments for defined names and table names

  • Inactive external data connections

Headers and Footers

  • Information in worksheet headers

  • Information in worksheet footers

Hidden Rows and Columns

  • Hidden rows

  • Hidden columns that contain data

    Notes   

    • If there are hidden columns in your workbook that don't contain data and that are located between columns that do contain data, these empty hidden columns will also be detected and removed.

    • If the hidden rows or columns in your workbook contain data, you might change the results of the calculations or formulas in your workbook by removing them. If you don't know what information the hidden rows or columns contain, close the Document Inspector, unhide the hidden rows or columns, and then review their contents.

    • The Document Inspector doesn't detect shapes, charts, controls, Microsoft ActiveX objects and controls, pictures, or SmartArt graphics that might be located in hidden columns.

Hidden Worksheets

  • Hidden worksheets

    Note   If the hidden worksheets in your workbook contain data, you might change the results of the calculations or formulas in your workbook by removing them. If you don't know what information the hidden worksheets contain, close the Document Inspector, unhide the hidden worksheets, and then review their contents.

Custom XML Data

  • Custom XML data that might be stored within a workbook

Invisible Content

  • Objects that aren't visible because they are formatted as invisible

    Note   The Document Inspector doesn't detect objects that are covered by other objects.

Top of Page

Information the Document Inspector finds but can't remove

The Document Inspector detects the following items that might have data that isn't visible in your workbook. It can't remove these items for you because it might cause the workbook to not work properly. You can examine each item that's found and determine if you want to remove it manually or replace it with an item that doesn't have hidden data, such as a static picture.

For these items:

The Document Inspector finds:

External links

Links to data in other workbooks. The names of the worksheets that contain the data are saved with your workbook but it isn't visible there. External links include external references that are used in:

  • Worksheet cells

  • Names

  • Objects, such as text boxes or shapes

  • Chart titles

  • Chart data series

Embedded files or objects

Embedded files (such as an Office or Text document) or embedded objects (such as a chart or an equation) that may have data that isn't visible in your workbook. Here are examples of some object types:

  • Bitmap image objects

  • Microsoft Equation 3.0 objects

  • Microsoft Graph Chart objects

  • Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation objects

  • Microsoft Visio Drawing objects

  • Microsoft Word Document objects

  • OpenDocument Text objects

Macros of VBA code

Macro or VBA items that may have hidden data in your workbook. This includes:

  • Macros, including Excel 4.0 Macro sheets (XLM)

  • VBA modules

  • COM or ActiveX controls

  • User Forms, including Excel 5.0 Forms

  • User-Defined Functions (UDFs)

Items that may have cached data

BI features that may have cached data that's saved with the workbook, possibly containing data that's not visible. The Document Inspector checks for following items that may have PivotCache, SlicerCache, or Cube formula cache:

  • PivotTables and PivotCharts

  • Slicers and timelines

  • Cube formulas

Top of Page

Applies To: Excel 2013, Excel 2010, Excel Starter



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