Protecting Cells in MS Excel

In this tutorial, you will learn how to password protect a cell, multiple cells, a row and multiple rows in MS Excel. So that, the worksheet that you share can be edited for the certain parts while others are protected.

excel protect cells demo

How cell protection works in Excel?

By default, all cells are “Locked” by Excel in a worksheet. You can see that as follows.


Right-click on any cell in the worksheet and click on the “Format Cells” item.

Excel protect menu

In the Format Cells pop up window, press the “Protection” tab as shown below:

Excel protect locked

You may also access the “Format Cells” pop up window by doing the following:

Go to the “Home” in the ribbon and find the “Alignment” group. Click on the small icon for opening the “Format Cell” dialog box.

Excel align group

In the Protection tab, you can see the “Locked” option is already checked.

However, the data in the cells is still editable unless you do the further steps mentioned in the examples below.

Pro tip: The shortcut key for protecting/unprotecting the cells is Alt + T + P + P. If cells/sheet is unprotected then it will ask to enter the password for protecting the worksheet.

If it is protected then the shortcut will open the popup for entering the password for removing protection.

Protecting the whole worksheet example

For protecting the whole sheet:

Go to the Review tab in the ribbon and click on the “Protect Sheet” under the “Changes” group.

Excel protect sheet

Note: As all cells are locked by default (as shown in the above section), so the whole worksheet is locked and one cannot change any cells content.

Unprotect the sheet

After you locked/protected a sheet by entering a password, for making it editable for yourself and others, you need to unprotect it.

For that, go to the:

  • Review Tab in the ribbon
  • Click the “Unprotect Sheet
  • Enter the password that you set for protecting the sheet

Note that, you must remember the password after protecting a worksheet. Once set up, you cannot reset or use the “Forgot Password” facility and data will be lost. So, better keep the password written at some place for future usage.

Protecting a single cell example

For protecting a single cell, follow these steps (mentioned above as well with screenshots).

  • Select all cells.
  • Open the “Format Cell” pop up by right click on any cell and click the “Format Cells” option.
  • Under the “Protection” tab, uncheck the “Locked” checkbox. It makes all cells unlocked.

Excel unlocked

  • Suppose, we want to protect A6 cell only. Right click on it and again open the “Format Cells” pop up window.
  • Tick the “Locked” checkbox and press OK.

Excel locked cell one

  • Now, go to the “Review” tab in the ribbon and in the “Change” group, click “Protect Sheet”.
  • Enter the password as shown in the above section.
  • The A6 cell should be password protected now while all other cells should be editable. If you try editing the A6 cell, this dialog should appear:

Excel locked dialog

Making heading row password protected

It’s generally the header or specific cells with certain headings that you want to protect and does not want other users changing their content.

In order to make the top row that contains headings or titles of the columns protected, follow the above step of unlocking all cells.

Then select the first row and go to “Format Cells” and tick the Locked checkbox.

Finally, go to the Review –> Protect Sheet and set the password there.

Locking and protecting multiple rows and cells

Similarly, if you want to lock and password protect multiple rows or two and more cells, then select those rows and cells (after unlocking all cells/rows).

Only lock the desired rows/cells and go to the “Review” tab and click on the “Protect Sheet” and setup and a password there.