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How to Password Protect an Excel File in Just a Minute

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You need to password protect your Excel files to keep your spreadsheets safe. Email inboxes, social media accounts, even our devices themselves—pretty much anything of importance is secured by some kind of password these days.

Moreover, if you’re an Accountant and your spreadsheet falls into the wrong hands, the results could be disastrous. This is why it’s well worth taking the time to give yourself some peace of mind.

If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide on how to add a password to an Excel file, then look no further.


How to Password Protect an Excel File

Whether you want to restrict access to the whole document, or simply prevent certain people from making changes to the file, it only takes a minute or two to set up a password.

As you know, Excel makes it easy to encrypt your spreadsheet by locking it down with a password. It just takes three easy steps:

  1. Open Excel and navigate to File > Info > Protect Workbook > Encrypt with Password.
  2. Enter your desired password and click OK.
  3. Confirm your password.

However, depending on what you’re trying to protect, the exact method you use might change slightly.

Related: The Best Ways to Organize Your Spreadsheets in Excel

If you use a strong password with unique symbols, you should always store a note of it somewhere else as a backup. This is because if you forget it, you will lose access to the Excel file, making recovery much more difficult.

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Encrypting an Excel Document

The most common method of enforcing password protection on an Excel spreadsheet is via encryption. This means that whenever someone opens up the file, they have to enter a password.

If you want to encrypt an Excel document, follow these simple steps:

1. Open your Excel document, and navigate to File > Info > Protect Workbook.

Protect Excel Workbook Options

2. Select Encrypt with Password from the dropdown menu, then enter your desired password in the dialog box that follows.

Encrypt With Password Option In Excel

3. You’ll need to reenter the password afterward. The next time you open the document, you’ll be prompted to enter it to proceed.

password protect excel file

If you’re unable to open the file even after using the right password, make sure to enter again with correct capitalization.

Related: Things You Should Avoid Doing in Excel

Finally, this should go without saying, but make sure you don’t forget that password! Ending up without access to an important spreadsheet can cause some serious headaches.

Allowing for Read-Only Access

Setting up basic encryption is pretty straightforward, but Excel offers a fair bit of flexibility when it comes to password protection.

For instance, what if you want anyone to be able to open the document but require that they enter a password if they want to make edits? That kind of functionality is very easy to implement.

Follow the below-given steps if you want to allow read-only access to your spreadsheet viewers:

1. Open Excel and click through File > Save As > More options.

General Excel Saving Options

2. Now, click the Tools button and select General Options from the dropdown menu.

Excel Read Only Access Option

3. Here, you’ll notice that there are two different fields; Password to open and Password to modify. You can leave the latter blank if you want to restrict editing privileges without restricting access to the document itself. When you’re done, simply click OK.

password protect excel file

The next time you open the document, you should get a slightly different password prompt, as you can see above.

Entering your password takes a few seconds, but it’s well worth it. You can take the time to think about whether you need to secure the entire document or just specific sheets, and you’ll minimize any hassle.


Protecting a Specific Sheet From Editing

If your document includes more than one sheet, you might want to restrict edit privileges to one or more sheets, but not others.

Here’s how you can secure a specific worksheet in Excel:

1. Open Excel and select your document.

2. Head to the Review tab and click Protect Sheet.

password protect excel file

3. Here, you’ll be able to enter your desired password for the current sheet.

password protect excel file

4. After entering a password, click OK.

5. That’s it. Your Excel sheet is now password-protected. You can easily remove the password from a worksheet by right-clicking on its tab and selecting the Unprotect Sheet option.

If you’re a beginner and don’t know how tabs work, we recommend checking out our guide on using worksheet tabs in Microsoft Excel.

Above all, you’ll surely notice that there are also a series of tick boxes that will allow all users access to certain functionality. This can be handy if you want to give them the ability to sort columns, but not make any lasting changes, for instance.

Related: How to Create Professional Looking Excel Spreadsheets

Adding a Password Using VBA

In layman terms, VBA is the coding language used to automate Microsoft Office programs such as Excel, Word, PowerPoint, etc. VBA allows users to personalize their MS Office applications. You can also use VBA to develop macros that automate repetitive tasks.

One last scenario: suppose you want to allow anyone to edit the document itself, but add some extra protection to the code you’ve written. Here’s how to do just that:

password protect excel file

1. Click the Developer tab in Excel and select the Macros option to create a new Macro. You can choose whatever name you want, we’re just using “password” as a placeholder.

password protect excel file

2. For this guide, we are going to use the following code:

Range("A1").Value = "Password Protected"

You’ve to copy the above code as it is and paste it into the following window.

Macro Code In VBA

However, in practice, you’ll just use whatever Macro you’re trying to protect.

3. Now, navigate to Tools > VBAProject Properties in the Visual Basic Editor.

VBAProject Properties In VBA

4. In the Protection tab, you’ll find a checkbox that will allow you to Lock the project for viewing. There are also fields where you can add password protection for access to project properties.

password protect excel file

It’s worth noting that while this kind of protection can be useful, it does have its limitations. Read this guide on how to recover an Excel VBA password if you want to know just how easily the password can be removed, so long as you have the right tools for the job.

Add Password to Excel Files for More Protection

If you rely on an Excel spreadsheet for any reason, it’s well worth considering whether you should add password protection to that too. Additionally, when it comes to an important spreadsheet, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Many workplaces use a shared Excel document to carry out all kinds of tasks. Whether it’s a timesheet or an interactive dashboard, there can be undesirable consequences if the wrong people gain access.

Besides, it’s certain to be much more inconvenient if someone sneaks into your spreadsheet, deletes all your data, and overwrites the file.


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