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In this tutorial, we show you how to unprotect a protected sheet in Excel so you can edit it fully.

How to Unprotect a Protected Sheet in Excel

excel tips unprotect sheet May 17, 2021

How to Protect & Unprotect Protected Sheet Excel

Use Protection

Protection is always a good thing. Nowadays, most people take protection seriously. Protection from getting sick (I'm looking at you, COVID), protection from fraud, from... overwriting your Microsoft Excel file?

Yes, that's right! No mask, hand sanitizer, nor vaccine in the world will protect your Excel workbook structure from the annoying fingers of your co-workers.

Nearly all of our Excel files are protected to some degree. While ours are protected to improve usability and/or reduce user errors, a password protected worksheet is used for different reasons.

Perhaps your spreadsheet is a private document and requires a certain clearance. You can password protect your Excel file or even Google Sheet so that it will prohibit viewing and editing for those who don’t have credentials.

TLDR; yes, a protected worksheet does exist, and has been existing for quite some time now.

In this article, we're gonna be talking about how we can create eh password protected sheet, so we can secure out Excel sheet as well as how we can unprotect an Excel sheet manually with and or without password. Don't fret because the methods used in the article are going to super simple. No need to open that Visual Basic Editor, nor remember your VBA code course. Let's get started on how we can protect and unprotect our Excel Sheet!

Protecting Your Sheets! (The Easy Way)

Did you know we have a video on how to lock cells and create a protected excel worksheet? Find that video right here so you too can know to put worksheet password protection in place.

Excel allows you to turn your sheets into a protected sheet or a protected worksheet. The difference of the two is that if you protect just the sheet, the protection is just for the sheet or sheets that you turn the protection on. For a protected workbook, the protection applies to the whole file including hidden sheets. Let's see how we can do that.

In your Excel workbook, if you select all cells, right click and open up the Excel Format Cells pop up dialog box, we can see that in the Protection Tab that all cells are set to locked by default.

This means that when we turn on sheet or workbook protection, your Excel workbook will lock down all the cells in the entire file by default. If you wanted to leave some cells unprotected, you can do that by unticking the Locked checkbox for the ones you want to leave open.

Now to turn on protection. Let's head over to the Review Tab.

In the Protect Group of the Review tab, we have the Protect Sheet and Protect Workbook buttons. Pressing the Protect Sheet button opens up a dialog box that asks for the password if you want to password protect your sheet, it automatically ticks the "Protect Worksheet and contents of all locked cells" option and down below, we have the different permissions you can grant to other users of the file.

If we click on the Protect Workbook button, it simply asks for our password and if we want to protect the workbook structure or Windows. In a few easy steps, you now have a password protected Excel document!

Now let's see how we can unprotect Excel spreadsheets when we have that senior moment and find ourselves with a lost password.

A Protected Spreadsheet is a Double-Edged Sword

For the rebellious teenager, too much protection can be a bad thing, and in some cases, it can also be the case for your Excel Sheets. Like the Dark Knight that protects Gotham City, our password protected Excel worksheet can live long enough to be the villain if we totally forget how to unlock said password protected Excel file. In this part of the article, we're going to be talking about how we can unprotect an Excel sheet.

Even Your Protection Needs Protecting

Password protection is important for your Excel Worksheet. Microsoft Excel gives you the option to create protected workbooks that are fine without passwords. but depending on the journey that your Excel Worksheet will undertake, protecting your sheets without a password gives you as much protection as some weird essential oil remedy.

Passwords are the literal digital keys to almost everything on your computer. You wouldn't exactly leave your car keys hanging on your windshield wipers would you? Same goes for passwords. Ideally, you'd want to keep your password in a secure place like your brain.

Unfortunately, we live in a less-than-ideal world so we know it's only a matter of time until your password is replaced by the next meme you see on the internet so make sure that your password is stored in a secure place safe from prying eyes. When thinking of a password, make sure you put a usable password in place as it helps you remember better to avoid locking yourself out of your own password protected worksheet.

In a way, you can say that there is a such a thing as a protected password. Excel does not store passwords where you or Microsoft can search for them. Without password, hackers will see your sheet is as secure as for Knox. This also applies to other Office programs that allow you to protect files, that's why it's always a good idea to store your passwords in a safe place.

Some other companies offer software to unlock files or give a cracked password. For legal reasons, we cannot recommend these programs.

Unprotect An Excel Sheet (The Easy Way)

Without password, and Excel Workbook is pretty easy to unprotect. All you have to do is go back to your Review Tab and in the Protection Group, simply select either Unprotect Sheet or Protect Workbook.

If you put password protection, it will ask for the password in the pop up dialog box.

And there you have it! If you know the password, then you're all set!

Unprotect An Excel Sheet (The Hard Way)

In this tutorial, we will walk you through accessing a protected Excel sheet with a lost password.

In the example protected sheet, if you try to modify any cell outside the B2: D6 range, you will receive the following error message:

For a worksheet without password, the unlocking part might be a tad bit difficult. we will show you a trick to get around that in case you lost yours that will make you feel like you're the Hackerman himself. There is a known VBA code that you can simply plug in the VBA Code in your Visual Basic Editor and call it a day to unlock your password protected sheet. This method won't be too hard. No VBA code required!

Just a huge reminder to only unlock your own Excel document! Trying to open an Excel spreadsheet that isn't yours could get you in serious trouble. More so a password protected spreadsheet.

By default, the operating system hides the file extension. That's the assortment of letters usually prefixed with a period. We will need to show the Excel spreadsheets' extension, xlsx and open the Control Panel.

Note: The steps to unlock a password protected Excel spreadsheet may differ slightly depending on your OS version, in this example, we’re using Windows 7.


Click on Folder Options.

A pop up dialog box will appear. Open the View tab and remove the checkmark next to the Hide Extensions For Known File Types selection. Then, press the OK button.

Go to the source where the Excel file you want to remove the protection from is located, and you will notice that the xlsx file appears next to the file name.

Change the file extension from an xlsx file to a zip file, converting it to a zip file. To do so, right-click on the file and choose Rename from the shortcut menu.

Don't change the filename, but change the extension by scanning xlsx, typing zip and then hitting the Enter key.

A confirmation message will appear. Press the Yes button.

Now the file will change shape to become as follows.

Double-click on the file. Your existing decompressor program like WinRAR will open the file because it is now a zip file after changing the extension.

Open the Xl folder:

Then the worksheets folder.

All worksheets in the file will appear. Drag the worksheet you want to protect, drop it next to the Excel file, and do not close the WinRAR program.

You will get the following result.

Note that the sheet1 file has an XML file extension, which means that this file contains code written in XML. We will open this file and modify it to remove the protection of the worksheet.

Right-click on the sheet1 Excel file, then go to Open with and from the submenu choose Notepad.

The file will be opened, and you can see your Excel workbook.. just written in code. The code written in XML will appear, which is a set of tags that start with the> tag and end with the <.

Search for the tag that begins with the word sheet “protection”, select the tag entirely, and press the Delete key on your keyboard to remove this tag from the code, as shown below.


Save the changes by opening the File menu and clicking on Save, then close the file.

We will return the sheet1 file after modifying it to its original location within the WinRAR program. To do so, drag the file and drop it into the WinRAR program.

The following box will appear. Press the OK button.

Close WinRAR and delete the sheet1 file next to the Excel file as we don't need it now.

Return the file extension to and xlsx file. To do so, right-click on the file and choose Rename from the shortcut menu, then delete zip and type xlsx.

Now open the Excel workbook. You will notice that it is no longer protected with a password and you can modify it as you like. You can do this to recover your Excel files to save you from having to redo your heard-earned spreadsheet. What's better than sweating bullets trying to remember the password to your Spreadsheet? Get your templates from Simple Sheets! We have over a hundred pre-built Excel Spreadsheets. All our Excel files contain locked cell and are protected so you can leave the worrying to us.

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