How to Make Your Excel Workbook Read Only

Microsoft Excel

Although cloud-based solutions and budget apps are trying to steal Excel’s thunder, it still remains the king of accounting, charting and data organization. With 750 million people worldwide and 89 percent of businesses taking daily advantage of MS Excel, many forget to utilize its formidable security feature: adding passwords and making it read-only.

Enhanced Protection

The aforementioned security layer makes your Excel workbooks resist unauthorized tampering. Since MS Office 2016, 256-bit AES protection has been integrated, upgrading from the old 128-bit encryption, which makes modern Excel comparable to dedicated password managers.

Protecting an Excel workbook with a password can work in two ways:

  • Prevent unauthorized access to a workbook
  • Restrict users from modifying the contents of a spreadsheet (makes it read only)

In both instances, 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. This is vitally important if you are running a small to medium-sized business and want to ensure the integrity of your financial data.

Save an Excel Workbook as Read Only

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

1. Once you have opened the workbook you need safeguarded, click the “File” option, then click on the “Save As” option from the menu.

Save As

2. The “Save As” dialogue box 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 drop-down menu will open. Select and click “General options” in the drop-down menu.

Save Type

3. Doing so will open 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” box as illustrated below. If you have a password manager already installed, you can use it to generate a strong password for you and store it in the vault. Otherwise, you can use this guide on how to generate hard-to-crack passwords. With the password secured, check the box for “Read-Only recommended,” then click “OK.”

General Options

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.


5. 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.

How to Disable the Read-Only Feature on Your 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.

Take Advantage of General File Encryption

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.

Now that you know how to make your Excel workbook Read-Only, the next things you can learn are using the Concatenate function and how to split cells in Excel. We also have a couple of Word tutorials for you—learn how to display one page at a time and how to add offline videos to Word documents.


Rahul Nambiampurath Rahul Nambiampurath

Rahul Nambiampurath started his career as an accountant but has now transitioned into working full-time in the tech space. He is an ardent fan of decentralized and open source technologies. When he's not writing, he's usually busy making wine, tinkering with his android device, or hiking some mountains.

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