How to make your Excel Workbook Read-Only

There are times when you need to protect your Excel Workbook from unauthorised changes made by other users.  You can deploy the Read-Only option to your Excel Workbook to prevent unauthorised users from making changes, find out how below…

Protecting your Excel workbook

Protecting your Excel workbook is a topic all Excel Business Analysts should aim to understand and it is also a useful technique for securing your personal Excel files.

In today’s society where data and information is a highly valuable commodity, arguably the most valuable commodity, IT security and data protection should really be at the forefront of every Excel analysts mind.

Read-Only Workbooks

A read-only workbook is exactly what is says on the tin.  It forces all users that open the workbook to open using Read-Only mode, this means they will be unable to make any changes to the file unless they are given a password set by you.

The Read-Only method ensures any Excel workbook you publish or one that you email to other people around your business will stay exactly as you intended it to be, unless you specifically allow them the access to change the file.

Turn your Excel Workbook into Read-Only

To turn your Excel workbook into a read-only workbook complete the following simple steps.

With the Excel Workbook open that you want to make Read-Only the first step is to select File > Save As using either the Menu bar at the top of the screen or by pressing the Office button if you are on an older version of Excel.  Alternatively the shortcut command of holding down the ALT key and pressing F2 will take you directly through to the Save As window.

If you are on Excel 2010 onward you will likely see the Save As screen first, if you do select the More Options text to take you through to the Save As Window:

On older versions of Excel, or if you use the shortcut command of ALT+F2 to initiate Save As, you will proceed directly to the Save As Window, at this point select Tools:

After selecting Tools a small menu pops up with four options, select General Options from this list and the General Options Window will show, this will allow you to make the Excel workbook Read-Only (by checking the box as shown below) and also you can set a password that will allow you to Modify the Excel Workbook:

After checking Read-Only and setting a Password to Modify the Excel Workbook click on OK.  A Password confirmation box will pop up where you need to re-enter the password just set.  This is a safety feature to make sure you really know that password and haven’t made any mistypes in the previous step.

Re-enter the password and select OK:

After clicking OK you are taken back to the Save As Window and all that is left to do is click Save, this will save the Workbook with the new Read-Only setting and Modify Password.

Note that for the changes to take effect the Workbook must be closed and re-opened after you have saved it.

When re-opening your Excel Workbook you will be presented with the following box, this is what everyone who opens the file will now see:

This shows the user that the Excel Workbook has been protected and unless you have the password to gain write-access and modify the Workbook the only option is to open the Excel Workbook as Read Only.

Objective achieved!

Remove Read-Only from your Excel Workbook

There may come a time when you want to revert your Excel Workbook back to the original state and remove the Read-Only feature.

This is a simple process of following the same steps as above by going via the Save AS method but this time around you will remove the check box that makes the Excel Workbook Read-Only and also delete any Password that has been set.  As with before you would then Save the Workbook with these new settings and they will be applied the next time the Workbook is opened.

Other Techniques

There are other techniques available to Excel users for securing their Workbooks, why not check a couple of them out:

How to set a workbook password – Excel 2010

Protect Cells and Formulas in Excel


Keep Excelling,

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