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Password Protect an Excel Worksheet to Restrict Viewing

A participant in one of my Excel courses recently asked if there is a way to password protect an Excel worksheet to keep other users from viewing it.

There are many reasons you may need to restrict access to a worksheet. Some of the information in your Excel file might be confidential or you might want to limit access to sensitive data like salaries or costs.

At any rate, rather than locking down the entire workbook, it might make more sense to restrict access to a specific sheet tab.

How to Protect an Excel Worksheet to Keep It from Being Viewed

If you want to lock down an Excel sheet, your best bet is to hide the sheet tab then enable Protect Workbook.

Hiding an Excel sheet is an effective way to keep it from prying eyes. Most users won’t even know the hidden worksheet is there which means they’re unlikely to make changes to your data.

The Protect Workbook feature ensures that even if users realize that an Excel sheet has been hidden, they won’t be able to unhide that tab. Once the structure of your workbook is password protected, it’s not possible to add, remove, or unhide worksheets.

Let’s take a closer look at this two step process.

How to Hide an Excel Sheet from Prying Eyes

To hide an Excel sheet that contains sensitive data, simply right-click the sheet tab and click Hide.

In the example (below) I right-clicked the Salaries sheet tab and was about to click Hide from the shortcut menu.

Hide Excel worksheet

Here’s the thing.

Hiding an Excel sheet isn’t enough. Unless you protect the workbook structure, a curious user can simply unhide the worksheet and edit your data with reckless abandon!

How to Unhide an Excel Sheet

To unhide an Excel sheet, do the following.

  1. Right-click a visible worksheet tab and click Unhide from the shortcut menu.
    The Unhide dialog box appears.
  2. Select one or more worksheets from the list then click OK.

In the example (below), Salaries is the only hidden worksheet and it can easily be unhidden.

Unhide Excel worksheet

How to Password Protect the Workbook Structure

After hiding an Excel sheet, you need to enable password protection to lock down the structure of your workbook.

It’s an easy process.

  1. Click Protect Workbook in the Review > Protect group.
    The Protect Structure and Windows dialog box appears.
  2. Enter a password then click OK.
    The Confirm Password dialog box appears.
  3. Re-enter the password and click OK.
The Protect Structure and Windows dialog box

Once workbook protection is enabled, the Hide / Unhide commands will no longer be available.

Strictly speaking, you don’t have to supply a password in the Protect Structure and Windows dialog box but if you don’t, another user could simply disable Protect Workbook, right-click an existing sheet tab then unhide any sheets containing confidential or sensitive data.

To disable workbook protection, click Protect Workbook again, enter your password, and click OK.

Additional Ways to Secure an Excel File with Passwords

In some cases, passwords are a necessary part of protecting the integrity of your Excel files.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also be interested in removing protection from an Excel workbook.

By Michael Belfry

Working as a full-time training consultant, Michael provides Microsoft Office courses to government and private sector clients across Canada.