Microsoft Excel

Removing Protection from an Excel Workbook

Microsoft Excel lets you easily password protect and encrypt any spreadsheet containing sensitive data. This is an effective way to keep confidential information private. You can also protect the structure of an Excel workbook – to keep users from adding, moving, or deleting worksheets.

Both of these methods provide protection at the workbook level. They protect the contents and structure of your entire Excel file.

In my last article I talked about worksheet protection. Worksheet protection has a narrower focus. You can lock or unlock cells to keep users from changing formulas or headings, then enable worksheet protection to lock your worksheet.

Passwords and security are always popular topics in my Microsoft Excel courses. But… what if you want to remove the password? How do you remove protection from an Excel workbook?

At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s a lot easier to remove protection from an Excel workbook if you know the password. If you’re locked out of an Excel file and you don’t have the password, you could try a utility like Dr. Excel. I don’t have any experience with this tool but, if you need access to a password protected Excel file, it might be worth a look.

Let’s go over the processes for removing protection from your Excel files!

Options in the Protect Workbook Menu

Microsoft has centralized the various workbook (and worksheet) protection options in the File > Info group. Here are all of the options in the Protect Workbook menu.

The Protect Workbook menu

Removing the Password from a Protected Excel Workbook

If an Excel workbook has been encrypted with a password, the Protect Workbook button will say A password is required to open this workbook.

Password protected, encrypted workbook

To remove the password:

  1. Click the Protect Workbook button in the File > Info group.
    A drop-down menu appears.
  2. Click the Encrypt with Password button to reveal the Encrypt Document dialog box.
  3. Drag to select the circles representing your hidden password then press delete.
  4. Click OK.
The Encrypt Document dialog box

After completing the above steps, your file will no longer be password protected (or encrypted).

Microsoft assumes that if you are able to open a password-protected file, you obviously must know the password and will let you remove it without further validation.

Unlock the Structure of a Workbook

If the structure of your workbook has been locked, you’ll see the following message on the Protect Workbook button.

The structure of the workbook has been locked

To unlock the structure of your workbook:

  1. Click the Protect Workbook button in the File > Info group.
    A drop-down menu appears.
  2. Click Protect Workbook Structure.
    The Unprotect Workbook dialog box appears.
  3. Enter your password and press OK.

Note: It’s possible to protect the structure of your workbook without specifying a password. If you don’t enter a password, clicking Protect Workbook Structure once turns the feature on. Clicking it again turns it off.

By Michael Belfry

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