How to Lock Cells in Microsoft Excel

By Carol Finch

Excel worksheets are a useful way to share information, but there may be times when you want to limit the changes that other people can make to your data. Excel 2013 locks cells by default, but you have to enable protection to make them read-only. You can do this for all cells or for selected ones.

Lock All Cells in Excel 2013

Step 1

Click the "Review" tab on the menu bar at the top of your Excel sheet. Click "Protect Sheet."

Step 2

Type a password into the "Password to unprotect sheet" field in the dialog box that opens. Click "OK." Enter the password again to confirm it in the new box that opens and click "OK" to set it.

Step 3

Click on any cell and try to change it. You should see an error message telling you that the document is protected and has read-only status.

Lock Selected Cells in Excel 2013

Step 1

Remove password protection if you have already set it up. To do this, click the "Review" tab on the top menu and then click the "Unprotect sheet" icon. Enter your password when prompted and click "OK."

Step 2

Select the cells you want to unlock. Keep in mind that all cell settings are locked by default, so you'll have to unlock cells that do not need to be read-only before you can add protection to the ones you want to lock. Right-click your selected cells and click "Format cells."

Step 3

Click the "Protection" tab in the new window that opens and uncheck the "Locked" check box. Click "OK."

Step 4

Click the "Review" tab on the menu at the top of the page and select "Protect Sheet." Type your password into the dialog box and click "OK." Confirm your password on the next box and click "OK."

Step 5

Click on a cell that you unlocked and confirm that it can be changed. Click on a cell that you didn't unlock and confirm that it is read-only.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you need to select cells that are not adjacent, select the first cell, hold down the "Ctrl" key and then click on the next cell to add it to your selection.
  • You do not have to enter a password when you protect a sheet, but you should do so. If you don't, any user can remove the protection and change cell data.
  • Make sure to take note of any passwords you use to protect Excel worksheets. If you forget or lose them, you may not be able to edit your own documents.