Protect Your Data by Locking and/or Hiding Formulas in Microsoft Excel

by Avantix Learning Team | Updated November 24, 2019

Applies to: Microsoft® Excel® 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019 and 365 (Windows)

There are many situations in which you may want to hide formulas in worksheets. Perhaps you don’t want a client to see the markup added to the final total or a commission calculation or you simply don’t want others to see your formulas. This strategy can be used in earlier versions of Excel as well.

Users have the ability to view formulas in the Formula Bar in Excel when they click on a cell or to use the Show Formulas button on the Formulas tab in the Ribbon (you can also press Control + ~):

Show Formulas button on the Ribbon in Excel.

You can paste values over formulas but you will then lose the formulas. A great option is to hide formulas using a two-step process – use the Format Cells dialog to hide formulas in cells and then protect the sheet.

Recommended articles: Hiding Notes in Excel (Inserting, Editing, Showing, Hiding and Deleting Comments) or How to Hide Excel Worksheets

Selecting the hidden and locked options

Choosing the Hidden option for selected cells is the first step in this strategy:

  1. Select the cells with the formulas you wish to hide.
  2. Right-click the selected cell(s) and choose Format Cells or press Ctrl + 1. The Format Cells dialog appears.
  3. Click the Protection tab.
  4. Check Hidden. If you want to protect the cell(s) as well, ensure Locked is checked.
  5. Click OK. Nothing will appear to occur until you protect the sheet.

Format Cells dialog box with Hidden checkbox.

Protecting the sheet

The second step in this strategy is to protect the sheet using the Review tab in the Ribbon:

  1. Display the sheet with the formulas that have the Hidden option checked through Format Cells.
  2. Click the Review tab in the Ribbon.
  3. In the Changes group, click Protect Sheet. A dialog box appears.
  4. Check or uncheck the desired options (you would usually leave the first two checked).
  5. Enter a password (you will need to set a password or anyone will be able to unprotect the sheet). Passwords are case sensitive and you should keep a copy of your passwords somewhere else.
  6. Enter the password again.
  7. Click OK. All formulas you have marked as Hidden will no longer appear in the Formula Bar.

Protect Sheet dialog box.

Unprotecting the sheet

To unhide formulas and unprotect the sheet:

  1. Display the desired sheet.
  2. Click Unprotect Sheet on the Review tab in the Ribbon.
  3. Enter the appropriate password.
  4. Click OK.

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Related Microsoft Excel Training Courses

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Article Name
How to Hide Excel Formulas from Other Users
It's not difficult to hide formulas in Excel worksheets. Perhaps you don’t want a client to see the markup added to the final total or a commission calculation or you simply don't want others to see your formulas. Simply select the cells with the formulas you want to hide ...
Publisher Name
Avantix Learning

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