How to password protect an Excel file

Secure your Excel documents with a password by following these quick steps

office 2016 and for windows 10 coming later this year excel ui 900x530
Microsoft

If you use a computer, you probably have some Microsoft Excel documents on your Mac or PC that you wouldn’t want other people to find and read.

After all, Excel is used by the average person, businesses, government institutions, and millions of other folks all over the world. Whether you’re creating graphs, converting PDFs, or just inputting rows and rows of data, the best way to keep that information safe is to learn how to password protect an Excel file.

Adding a password

Step 1: In Excel, open the document you want to secure with a password.

Step 2: Click File, followed by Info.

Step 3: Next, click the Protect Workbook button. From the drop-down menu, select Encrypt with Password.

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Step 4: Excel will then prompt you to type in a password. Pick one that’s complicated and unique and note it down in your password manager.

It is paramount that you remember it, or have access to a copy of it in a secure location, because if you forget it, you will lose access to the Excel file and recovering it will be very difficult.

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

From now on, any time you try to open that file, Excel will prompt you to input your newly chosen password.

Note: This password only protects that individual document, not every Excel document on your PC. If you want all Excel files to have similar protection, you’ll need to password protect each file individually, or look at more advanced protections.

If you want to see whether an Excel file has password protection or not, check out the Info tab for the document and look at the Protect Workbook section. It will tell you whether a password is required to open it or not.

Now that you’ve password protected your most important files, it might be worth considering adding extra layers of security to your system. The easiest way to protect a large number of files is to encrypt them. Luckily, encryption programs are not hard to find. Windows 10 Professional users have a built-in encryption utility called Bitlocker, but if you want to download a free version with lots of customization options for many types of data, you can try Crypto Expert 8 or VeraCrypt open source downloads.

Additional security options

Excel Protect Current Sheet Option

Excel also allows you to apply more customized security options to your file if necessary. It’s important to know what these other options do so you can create the right security for your project. Under Protect Document, you’ll find several additional features that may prove useful:

Mark as Final: This will mark the file as completed, which lets other people know that they shouldn’t make any changes. This will not secure the file behind a password, however, so it doesn’t really offer any security.

Protect Current Sheet: This will guard the currently selected worksheet with a password so that people can’t make any changes. It’s a handy option if there’s only one sheet in the workbook that you want to protect, and you don’t mind if people can see the info — you just don’t want them messing with anything. You will notice that there’s also an option to do this with “Workbook Structure,” which protects data throughout the workbook from changes unless people have the password.

Restrict Access: This is an interesting option used by organizations where IT has created security templates that essentially lock Excel files to only certain people or ranks. It’s handy in larger organizations where some people should be able to access the file, but not everyone.

Add a Digital Signature: This simply verifies the file as the real version, which is useful when sending it to other people or organizations, and to make sure it hasn’t been altered. It also helps files from being spied on when you send them digitally.

Want to learn more? Here’s our crash course guide to encryption, and another on how to get started with hiding files in Windows 10.

Emerging Tech

The next clash of Silicon Valley titans will take place in space

By attempting o bring internet access to every last person on Earth, tech giants have a new mission. It's also one that will put them into competition with one another -- only this time in space.
Home Theater

Here's how to turn off subtitles on Netflix, no matter the device

Subtitles are great if you want or need them, but they can be a major headache if you’ve somehow turned them on by accident and can’t figure out how to get rid of them. Don't worry, it's not as complicated as it seems.
Gaming

How to share your best gaming moments with friends on the PS4

Check out Digital Trends' quick guide to everything you need to know to save your outstanding PlayStation 4 gameplay moments, share them online, and transfer them to your computer.
Movies & TV

Did I really watch that? Here's how to delete your Netflix viewing history

Everybody has some skeletons in their streaming closet, but you don't have to live with them if you don't want to. Learning how to delete your Netflix viewing history is easy, and we're here to help.
Deals

Amazon strikes $100 off the price of Microsoft Surface Go tablets

If you've been eyeing Microsoft's Surface Go for its compact size and portability, now may be a great time to buy the tablet. Amazon has a $100 discount on the Surface Go, bringing the price of this slate down to just under $400.
Emerging Tech

How emotion-tracking A.I. will change computing as we know it

Affectiva is just one of the startups working to create emotion-tracking A.I. that can work out how you're feeling. Here's why this could change the face of computing as we know it.
Photography

Sweet 16: Wacom’s Cintiq 16 pen display makes retouching photos a breeze

Wacom’s Cintiq pen displays are usually reserved for the pros (or wealthy enthusiasts), but the new Cintiq 16 brings screen and stylus editing to an approachable price. Does it cut too much to get there?
Computing

Mueller report releases on CD, forces Congress to find PCs with disc drives

The Mueller report was released this week to Congress via CDs and congressional members had to find PCs with working disc drives to access the 400-page document. The redacted report was also released to the public on a website.
Gaming

Kick off your streaming career with our complete guide to Twitch broadcasting

Streaming games on Twitch for the first time can be daunting to say the least, but with a few simple steps, it's remarkably easy to do. Here's how to do so using a PC, Mac, Xbox One, or PlayStation 4 console.
Computing

Google Chrome will get a Reader Mode for distraction-free desktop browsing

If Google's testing of Reader Mode on the Chrome Canary desktop browser is successful, soon all Chrome users will gain access to this feature. Reader Mode strips away irrelevant content on a webpage for distraction-free browsing.
Computing

Former student uses USB Killer device to fry $58,000 worth of college’s PCs

A former student used a USB Killer device to short circuit more than $58,000 of computers at a private New York college earlier this year. The student pled guilty to the charges and sentencing is scheduled to begin in August.
Computing

AMD Ryzen CPU prices get slashed ahead of Ryzen 3000 release

AMD's Ryzen CPUs have had their prices slashed as we edge towards the release of their third generation. Whether you're a gamer or someone who needs multi-threaded performance, there's a deal for everyone with some heavy discounts to take…
Computing

The number pad on HP’s Chromebook 15 makes spreadsheet work a breeze

HP's Chromebook 15 comes with a 15.6-inch display, a metal keyboard deck with full-size keys, and a dedicated number pad, making it the second Chromebook model, following Acer's Chromebook 715, to be suited for spreadsheet work.
Computing

Worried about your online privacy? We tested the best VPN services

Browsing the web can be less secure than most users would hope. If that concerns you, a virtual private network — aka a VPN — is a decent solution. Check out a few of the best VPN services on the market.