How to lock cells in Microsoft Excel, so you need a password to change or erase data



  • To lock your cells in Microsoft Excel, you just need to head into the program’s “Protection” tab.
  • Locking a cell in Excel will make it so viewers can’t change the data inside of that cell, which is useful if you’re sharing a spreadsheet with precise data.
  • Once you lock a cell, you’ll be asked to set a password. Excel will ask you for this password if you try to unlock the cell.
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Locking particular cells in Microsoft Excel can be a slightly tricky process, but once you’ve figured it out, it can be extremely valuable. 

Not only does it allow you to share an Excel sheet and all its corresponding data without worry over whether someone will change it all, it can also help make sure you or somebody else doesn’t accidentally erase values or headings you need to have. 

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How to lock cells in Excel

1. Select your whole sheet, done most easily by pressing Crtl + A on your PC keyboard, or Command + A on a Mac.

2. In the “Home” tab, click on the arrow under “Alignment” to open the “Format Cells” pop-up window.

3. Click on the “Protection” tab.

4. Uncheck the box next to “Locked”. Most Excel documents will come with this checked by default. You need to uncheck this, then click “OK” at the bottom of the pop-up.

How to lock cells in Excel

5. Now select the specific cells you want to lock.

6. Click on the arrow under “Alignment” and again click on “Protection” in the “Format Cells” pop-up.

7. Click the box next to “Locked.” Then click “OK” at the bottom of the pop-up.

How to lock cells in Excel

8. From the top row of the toolbar click on the “Review” tab to change toolbar groupings available.

9. Click on “Protect Sheet” in the “Protect” tab.

How to lock cells in Excel

10. Once you’ve clicked on “Protect Sheet,” the “Protect Sheet” pop-up will appear and allow you to decide what will be restricted in the sheet.

11. If you want to allow the person you send the sheet to have the ability to format, change, and move all the data, except the cells you want to lock, check every box except for the top one (which says “Select Locked Cells”). You can scroll down and see if there are any operations you don’t want to allow them to make.

12. You’ll be asked to enter a password. Make sure you remember it, since you won’t be able to unlock the cells without entering the password. Then click “OK” at the bottom.

How to lock cells in Excel

13. You’ll be asked to enter the password again to confirm. Once you’ve done so, the cells you selected earlier will be locked, but the others will be editable. 

14. To make all cells editable again, click on “Unprotect Sheet” — which is in the “Protect” tab under “Review” — and re-enter your password. The cells will now be unlocked.

How to lock cells in Excel

Related coverage from How To Do Everything: Tech:

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  • How to edit a drop-down list in Excel, depending on how you created it

  • How to alphabetize data in an Excel spreadsheet by column or row, and by using shortcuts

  • How to combine two columns in Microsoft Excel without losing data

  • How to freeze a row in Excel so it remains visible when you scroll, to better compare data on different parts of a spreadsheet 

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