Lock and Unlock Microsoft Excel Cells

Protect your Microsoft Excel cells from being changed by locking them

Microsoft Excel allows you to protect your worksheet from things like being viewed or changed so you can make sure only the people you want to see it can and only the people you want to edit the information can. This way you can make sure that the data in the cells stays the way you meant it to be.

But if you don’t want to lock the whole worksheet there is a way to lock only specific cells that you need to be protected. This way the other cells can be edited by other users if that is something you need to have done. By default, locking a worksheet locks all the cells and you need to unlock that worksheet in order to make changes. But if you need to only lock specific cells or allow edit access to specific users then you can do that as well.

Here is how you lock specific cells in a protected worksheet.

The first thing you need to do is unprotect the worksheet if its protected. You can do this by going to the Review tab and clicking on the Unprotect Sheet button. If it doesn’t say unprotect then the sheet is not protected. If there is a password assigned to the worksheet you will have to know it to unprotect it.

Microsoft Excel Unprotect Sheet


After the worksheet has been unprotected you will need to unlock the cells. To do this click on the top left corner of the worksheet to highlight all the cells. Then go to the Home tab and find the Font group and click on the arrow in the lower right hand corner of the group. This will bring up the Format Cells options box and from there you will need to go to the Protection tab and uncheck the box that says Locked. By doing this it will allow you to choose specific cells that can be locked rather than locking the entire worksheet.

Microsoft Excel Unprotect Sheet


Now you can select the specific cells that want locked and then go to the Format Cells option again. Go to the Protection tab again and this time you will want to select the box that says locked rather than clear it. Next go back to the Review tab and click on Protect Sheet. Then it will bring up a dialog box with some choices on how you can protect the locked cells.

Microsoft Excel Unlock Cells


Next you can run down the list of allowed actions for user and choose the permissions you want them to have access to. If you desire you can also put in a password to be able to unprotect the sheet in case you want to give specific people rights to make changes to the cell access. If you don’t put in a password and the users know how to unprotect the worksheet then they will be able to do so.

Now when someone tries to change the contents of a locked cell they will be shown an error message that says "The cell or chart you’re trying to change is on a protected sheet. TO make a change, unprotect the sheet. You might be requested to enter a password".

Microsoft Excel Protect Sheet Options

If you need to unlock the cells all you need to do is unprotect the sheet from the Review tab. You can leave the cells locked if you like because unlocking the worksheet will bypass the cells being locked. If you want to unlock the cells as well so you can lock some different cells then go back to the Format Cells area from the Home tab and then back to the Protection tab and uncheck the box for Lock Cells. Just make sure you highlight the locked cells first so it applies to the correct ones.

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