How to password-protect an Excel file

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 serves not only the average person, but also businesses, government institutions, and millions of other folks worldwide. 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.

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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 complicated.

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From now on, any time you try to open that file, Excel will prompt you to input your newly chosen password. Note that 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 essential files, it might be worth considering adding extra layers of security to your system. The easiest way to protect a large number of records is to encrypt them. Luckily, encryption programs are not hard to find. Windows 10 Professional users have a built-in encryption utility called Bitlocker. Still, 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. Using this option will not secure the data behind a password, however, so it doesn’t 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: If you’re trying to restrict Excel files in a business environment, this setting might be a good option. Organizations typically use this to protect docs against unauthorized access within their ranks. Where IT has created security templates that essentially lock Excel files to only certain people or ranks, the Restrict Access setting enforces their settings. The mode is handy in larger organizations where some people require access to the data, but not everyone needs to waltz in and out at random.

Add a Digital Signature: Adding a digital signature verifies the file as the real, original version. The distinction is useful when sending files to other people or organizations. A signature also ensures that docs you receive are unaltered. It also helps files from being spied on when you send them digitally.

Password protection is a handy first step when protecting your Excel spreadsheets. But in some cases, it won’t be enough to guarantee the security of your data. If you need to dive further into file security, our crash course guide to encryption will also protect your files. Plus, another on how to get started with hiding files in Windows 10.

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