Password-protect a spreadsheet

It can be useful to protect an Excel spreadsheet with a password, for example before sending it by e-mail. Password-protected files are also encrypted, so there’s no way of seeing their contents without knowing the password.

You can do the same with Word documents. The process is virtually identical to that described below for Excel.  Access databases can also be password protected, although it’s a little more complicated (look for File | Info | Encrypt with Password).

Here are step-by-step instructions for putting a password on an Excel spreadsheet.

If you have a recent version of Excel, go to File and then Info and then Protect Workbook. If you have an older version, it’s a bit more complicated.

Start by going to File and then Save As (screenshots are from Excel 2016 – other versions will look a bit different, but follow the same sequence):

Now, before you actually save it, go to Tools and General Options (click image to enlarge)

Now make up a good password and write it down somewhere safe (not on the PC unless you use a password manager, such as EnPass). Once you’ve written it down, type it in as the Password to open. You can leave the Password to modify blank:

And re-type it to confirm it:

Once you click on OK, you’re back at the Save As dialog, and you can carry on to save the spreadsheet in the normal way.

That’s it. When anyone (including you) tries to open the spreadsheet, they’ll be asked for the password:

To take off the password, go to Save As again, then Tools and General Options, as before. As the file is already password protected you’ll see this:

And you just remove the password blobs and click OK, then save the file as normal (use the same name to overwriting the old password-protected file if desired).