Easily Lock and Unlock Cells in Microsoft Excel

by Avantix Learning Team | Updated December 31, 2017

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

It’s easy to lock and unlock cells in Excel to prevent users from changing data or formulas. This involves a two-step process. First, unlock the cells where you want to allow users to make changes to the data or formula and then protect the remaining cells in the worksheet.

Recommended article: 10 Excel Data Entry Tricks and Shortcuts Every User Should Know

Unlocking specific cells

The first step in this process is to unlock cells where you want to allow users to make changes to the data or formula:

  1. Select the cells you wish to unlock.
  2. Right-click the selected cell(s) and choose Format Cells or press Control + 1. The Format Cells dialog appears.
  3. Click the Protection tab.
  4. Uncheck Locked.
  5. Click OK. Nothing will appear to occur until you protect the sheet.

Format Cells dialog box in Excel with locked unchecked.

Locking remaining cells by protecting the worksheet

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

  1. Display the worksheet you want to protect.
  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 (it’s usually best to leave the first two checked). Be sure to scroll down to see all of the available options.
  5. Enter a password (you will need to set a password if you don’t want others to be able to unprotect the sheet). Passwords are case sensitive and you should keep a copy of your passwords.
  6. Enter the password again.
  7. Click OK. You will be unable to enter or change data or formulas in the locked cells.

Protect Sheet dialog box.

Unprotecting the sheet

To 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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