How to Make Your Excel Workbook Read Only | Tips & Tricks

At times you may want to restrict other users from making changes to an workbook. This might come in handy, especially when you’ve prepared a report that is subject to evaluation and don’t want the figures to be manipulated.

Deploying the Read-Only option to your workbook can help to lock it from unauthorized editing. To achieve that, you’ll need to create a password for that particular workbook. Protecting an Excel workbook with a password can work in two ways:

  • It can prevent unauthorized access to a workbook
  • It can also restrict users from modifying the contents of a spreadsheet (makes it read only)

In this post we’ll focus more on the latter. You can protect an Excel workbook with a password to make it read only. This means users will be able to open the workbook and view the data but won’t be able to make any changes to the spreadsheet.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to add a password to make your Excel workbook read only.

1. Open the workbook and click the “File” option. Select the “Save As” option from the menu and click it.


2. The “Save As” dialogue will pop up. Navigate to the bottom of the box and find the “Tools” option just next to the “Save” button. Click on “Tools” and a dropdown menu will open. Select and click “General options” in the dropdown menu.


3. Doing so will open up the “General Options” dialogue box. This is where you’ll create a password for your workbook. Enter your desired password in the “Password to modify” as illustrated below. Check the box for “Read-Only recommended,”  then click “OK.”


4. You’ll be prompted to confirm the password. Enter the same password, then click OK to complete the process. Lastly, click the “Save” button. Now every time a user attempts to open the workbook, a pop-up notification box will appear with the following message.

Make your Excel Workbook Read-Only

Clicking the “Read-Only” button will open the document but in Read-Only mode. Only those you share the “password to modify” with will be able to make changes to the workbook.

What if you want to lift the read-only restriction and grant everyone editing privileges?  Removing the Read-Only feature is an easy process and can be done with just a click of a button. All you’ll need to do is go through the same process again and uncheck the box that makes your Excel workbook Read-Only.

Once you’ve unchecked the box, remove the password that you had set and click “Save” to apply the new changes. The next time you open the workbook, it will not open in Read-Only mode, nor will it display the Read-Only restriction box.

Setting a password to open an Excel workbook is easy and self-explanatory. Nevertheless, it can give a great deal of control over who can access and/or edit a workbook. This can go a long way in maintaining data integrity.

Keep in mind that the password protection feature doesn’t render the workbook impenetrable. While it may prevent users from making changes to the spreadsheet, anyone with a password cracking software can get through. That being said, you should not solely rely on it to secure sensitive data.

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Image credit: Microsoft excel menu on laptop screen close-up by PixieMe / Shutterstock

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