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Protect Your Excel Files from Prying Eyes with a Password

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  • Posted on 20th Jul, 2022 16:51 PM
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Password protect Excel files to keep sensitive data private and secure. You can lock others out of the Excel spreadsheet or prevent them from modifying the Excel file.

What to Know

  • Document-Open password: Select File > Info > Protect Password > Protect Workbook > Encrypt with Password.
  • Next: Enter strong password > select OK > reenter password > select OK. Password now required to open.
  • Modify: Select File > Save As > Browse > Tools > General Options > Password to modify > enter password.

This article explains how to secure a document with a password in Excel 2019, 2016, 2013, Excel for Microsoft 365, and Excel for Mac.

How to Set a Document-Open Password in Excel

To configure your workbook so no one can open it without a password, apply a document-open password in the Info area of Excel.

  1. With the workbook open, select File > Info > Protect Password. Select the Protect Workbook drop-down menu, then select Encrypt with Password.

  2. Enter a strong password in the pop-up window and select OK.

    Remember the password is case sensitive, so you can vary capital and lower case letter to make the password even more secure.

  3. Reenter the password, typing it exactly as you did it in the first window. Then, select OK.

    Having to enter the password twice ensures that if you mistype it either time, you won't end up locking the sheet with the wrong password.

  4. Once you're done, you'll see the Protect Workbook option change color, with a status indicating that a password is required to open the workbook.

    Your workbook is now protected from anyone opening it if they don't know the password. 

  5. When anyone tries to open the worksheet, they see a pop-up window asking for the password.

    If they enter the password incorrectly, Excel lets them attempt to enter it a second time. If they fail to enter the correct password again, the worksheet won't open. This is the best method to secure your Excel files.

To remove the workbook password protection, repeat the process above but clear the password field and select OK.

How to Add a Modify Password to Your Excel Workbook

Another approach to protecting an Excel worksheet is to apply a password to prevent people from making changes to it after it is open. It becomes read-only for anyone without the password.

  1. With your worksheet open, select File > Save As. Then, select Browse to open the file browse window.

  2. In the Save As window, select Tools and choose General Options in the drop-down menu.

  3. In the General Options window, type a password into the Password to modify field.

    You can also enter a password into the Password to open field, which would require a password to open the workbook at all. This works just like the Info password protection described above.

  4. You are prompted to reenter the password beneath Reenter password to modify to make sure you didn't type it incorrectly. Select OK to close the confirmation window and Save.

    To remove modify password protection, just follow the same procedure as above, but clear the password field and select OK.

  5. When anyone opens this workbook, they are prompted to enter the correct password to modify the workbook, or they can select Read-Only to open the workbook in read-only mode.

    Using read-only worksheet protection is a smart way to share important information with people while preventing them from changing or modifying a sheet that you worked hard to develop. This is useful for sending reports with complex calculations and formulas.

How to Protect Password Structure During Review

If you frequently review draft workbooks that people create, password protecting the workbook when it's in the review phase is a good way to prevent changes during a quality review.

This doesn't prevent content changes, but it does prevent people from adding, removing, renaming, or creating new sheets. It protects the structure of the workbook itself, rather than the contents.

  1. With the workbook open, select Review > Protect Workbook.

  2. Type a password and then select OK. You are prompted to enter the password again.

  3. Once enabled, when anyone opens this workbook and right-clicks the sheet, all the options to modify the sheet or add new sheets are disabled.

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