How to Unlock an Excel Workbook

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If you have a Microsoft Excel workbook that is protected with a password, you generally need to enter the password to unlock the Excel workbook.
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If you have a Microsoft Excel workbook that is protected with a password, you generally need to enter the password to unlock the Excel workbook. If you don't have the password, you may be able to find a tool to unlock it online, but use caution with such tools. You can also lock or unlock particular worksheets or cells to keep them from being changed accidentally.


Locking and Unlocking Excel Workbooks

It is possible to encrypt and lock a Microsoft Excel file, known as a workbook, so that other people can't access it without a password. If you have such a file, you will be prompted to enter the password when you open it in Excel. If you don't know the password, contact the person who gave it to you and request the password.

To lock a sheet in Excel, click the File tab on the ribbon menu and click Info. Then, click Protect Workbook and Encrypt with Password.


If you are using a Mac version of Excel, it may not be able to handle passwords longer than 15 characters, while Windows versions of the program are generally compatible with these longer passwords. If you intend to use a spreadsheet between both Mac and Windows computers, you should pick a short password that will work on both operating systems.

Locking Individual Cells in Spreadsheets

Rather than lock an entire Excel workbook file, you can also lock a worksheet, the individual sheets represented as tabs in an Excel file, or part of it. That allows you to prevent accidental edits of the cells by other users of your spreadsheet. It does not prevent people from reading the content of the spreadsheet if they are able to obtain a copy.


To lock or unlock individual spreadsheet cells, select them and right-click on one of them. Then, click Format Cells in the pop-up menu that appears. Click the Protection tab and check or uncheck the Locked box. You can also check or uncheck the Hidden box to control whether or not the cells show up when someone opens the spreadsheet. Click OK when you are satisfied with the settings you have chosen.

Locking or Unlocking Entire Sheets

If you want to lock an entire sheet, restricting how users can edit it, click the Review tab on the ribbon menu. Then, click Protect Sheet. Select the options you want to be available to users of your spreadsheet without unprotecting the sheet. If you wish, enter a password that will need to be entered by anyone looking to unprotect the sheet and make additional changes. Enter the password again in the confirmation box and click OK.


When you want to unlock the sheet, click the File tab on the ribbon menu. Then, click Info, click Protect and click Unprotect Sheet. If there is a password, you will be prompted to enter it. If you don't know it, contact the person who sent you the spreadsheet to request it.

In the worst case with a protected sheet, you will usually be able to copy and paste the data into a new Excel spreadsheet which you can then edit, although it may take some work to create formatting options from the original spreadsheet.


Unprotect Excel Sheet Online

You may be able to find tools on the internet that claim they can unlock Excel online when you upload password-protected sheets, but use caution with these sorts of tools. Avoid paying money upfront in case the tool doesn't work, and keep in mind that whoever operates the site with the tool will be able to see what's in your file, including any confidential data.