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Excel allows users to protect data on various levels, depending on the reason. For example, to avoid data loss, to stop other users from changing formulae, or to maintain a specific format for your data. For collaborative work, Excel also allows users to share an Excel file in “Read-only” mode to restrict editing. Excel will show the following message: “To prevent accidental changes, the author has set this file to open as read-only”.

So, how do you change an Excel file from “Read-only” to edit?

In this article, you’ll learn why an Excel file opens in “Read-only”. You’ll then learn how to remove the “Read-only” mode from an Excel file in multiple ways, including changing from a “Read-only” workbook to an editable Excel file, disabling “Read-only” by unprotecting an Excel workbook or sheet, and how to edit a “Read-only” Excel file by changing its properties.

Why are my Excel spreadsheets opening as read-only?

To remove the “read-only” status from an Excel workbook or sheet, it’s crucial to figure out why it was set in the first place. The 6 main reasons your Excel is showing up as “Read-only” include that it has been “Marked as final”, set to “Open as Read-only Recommended”, password-protected, set to “Read-only” in File Properties, saved in “Protected View”, or the computer antivirus is causing the file to open as “Read-only”.

The Excel file is “Marked as Final”

Excel allows you to save your file as a final draft, i.e. “Marked as Final”, to discourage further editing. When opening a file that has been “Marked as Final”, Excel prompts the message below: “MARKED AS FINAL: An author has marked this workbook as final to discourage editing”.

How To Remove Read Only From Excel Marked as Final
How To Remove Read Only From Excel - Marked as Final

When an Excel file is set to “Open as Read-only Recommended”, users cannot move nor overwrite the file. More than a data protection method, it serves as a warning message, since you will still be able to save a copy of the file to edit.

How To Remove Read Only From Excel Open as Read only Recommended
How To Remove Read Only From Excel - Open as Read-only Recommended

The Excel file is in ‘Read-only’ mode

Similar to the previous scenario, the “Read-only” mode will still allow users to edit. However, the warning message will be different, as shown below. The method to remove this is also different.

How To Remove Read Only From Excel Read only
How To Remove Read Only From Excel - Read-only

The Excel file is “Protected”

Although Excel prompts the same “Read-only” message as in the previous scenario, you can check whether the Excel is protected or not by heading over to the “Review” tab. Here, you should see the “Protect Workbook” button active.

How To Remove Read Only From Excel Protected workbook or sheet
How To Remove Read Only From Excel - Protected workbook or sheet

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The Excel File is in “Protected View”

Opening an Excel file in “Protected View” prompts the following message “PROTECTED VIEW Be careful - files from the Internet can contain viruses. Unless you need to edit, it’s safer to stay in Protected View”. This will stop any file with viruses or malware from affecting your system. Another reason Excel prompts this message is when the filename contains special characters.

How To Remove Read Only From Excel Protected View
How To Remove Read Only From Excel - Protected View

In addition to the scenarios seen so far, some antivirus programs open files as “Read-only” to avoid any potential harm or risk. As this will depend on each type of software, we recommend reading this Microsoft support page to find potential solutions.

Now that you’ve seen the different scenarios that could lead to Excel prompting the warning message for “Read-only”, let’s see how to remove this mode from an Excel file based on each case.

How to remove read-only from an Excel file?

Let’s now explore how to remove “Read-only” from an Excel file, following the same sequence as before. This way, you can simply head to the section which applies to your situation and follow the steps to resolve the issue.

How to remove “Read-only” from an Excel file “Marked as Final”?

If your Excel file is “Marked as Final”, it will restrict you from editing. To remove the “Read-only” mode in this case, follow these steps.

  1. 1. Go to File > Info, on the left-side menu.
How To Remove Read Only From Excel File Info
How To Remove Read Only From Excel - File > Info
  1. 2. Click on “Protect Workbook” and select “Mark as Final” from the drop-down menu.
How To Remove Read Only From Excel Protect Workbook
How To Remove Read Only From Excel - Protect Workbook

You can now continue editing the Excel file as normal without the “Marked as Final” setting.

In this circumstance, you can either open the file to only view or select “Edit Anyway” to make it editable. This is how you can change an Excel file from “Open as Read-only Recommended” to an editable spreadsheet.

  1. 1. Go to File > Save a Copy and then “Tools”, to the left of the “Save” button.
How To Remove Read Only From Excel Save a Copy
How To Remove Read Only From Excel - Save a Copy
  1. 2. Select “General Options” from the drop-down list.
How To Remove Read Only From Excel General Options
How To Remove Read Only From Excel - General Options
  1. 3. Click on the “Read-only recommended” box to disable the setting.
How To Remove Read Only From Excel Read only recommended
How To Remove Read Only From Excel - Read-only recommended

As shown in the image above, the file may be protected with passwords. In this case, we recommend reading our blog article on How to Remove a Password from Excel? (Multiple Methods) to resolve this specific issue.

How to remove “Read-only” from a Read-only Excel file?

The “Read-only” setting can also be set in “File Properties”. To remove “Read-only” from your Excel file properties, simply follow these steps.

  1. 1. Go to the folder where you saved the “Read-only” Excel file.
  2. 2. Right-click on the file and select “Properties”.
How To Remove Read Only From Excel File Properties
How To Remove Read Only From Excel - File Properties
  1. 3. In “Attributes”, tick the “Read-only” option to remove it. Then, click Apply > Ok.
How To Remove Read Only From Excel Apply and Ok
How To Remove Read Only From Excel - Apply and Ok
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How to remove “Read-only” from a protected Excel file?

If your Excel file is in “Read-only” mode because a user protected the file, this is how you can remove this setting.

  1. 1. Open your Excel file and go to Review > Protect Workbook. It will prompt you to enter the password to continue. Enter the password and click “Ok”.
How To Remove Read Only From Excel Review Protect Workbook
How To Remove Read Only From Excel - Review > Protect Workbook

The same applies in case someone protected the sheet - simply click on the “Protect Sheet” button. If you have forgotten or don’t know the password, you will need to remove the password from the Excel file.

How to remove “Protected View” from an Excel file?

Although we recommend keeping the “Protected View” feature to safeguard your computer from malware or viruses, you can specify the situations where you want Excel to open in “Protected View”.

  1. 1. Go to File > Options.
How To Remove Read Only From Excel File Options
How To Remove Read Only From Excel - File > Options
  1. 2. Go to “Trust Center”, on the left-side menu, and select “Trust Center Settings”.
How To Remove Read Only From Excel Trust Center Settings
How To Remove Read Only From Excel - Trust Center Settings
  1. 3. Select “Protected View” from the left-side menu and then tick the options depending on your preferences. We recommend keeping the first three options for basic security levels and removing the last two options, if necessary.
How To Remove Read Only From Excel Protected View 2
How To Remove Read Only From Excel - Protected View

Layer offers a great alternative to Excel collaboration features, especially concerning data protection. Through its granular access, users have full control over what they share, down to cell level, and with whom.

How to manage your Excel data with Layer?

Layer is a collaboration platform for spreadsheets that works on top of your existing Excel files and Google Sheets. Share parts of your spreadsheet, collect and consolidate data, and review changes to make collaboration seamless and more efficient while keeping full control over your data. Using Layer, you can:

  • Manage Access: Give spreadsheet access on a tab or cell level to relevant stakeholders.
  • Collaborate: Automate tasks, set deadlines, and communicate on top of your files.
  • Review & Track: Consolidate input, track changes, and restore previous versions.

Sign up to get started with Layer right now or schedule an onboarding call so we can help you set up and share your spreadsheet flows.

Conclusion

Excel offers users a variety of options to protect their dataset, so it’s crucial to understand the level of protection to remove the protection correctly. Recognizing the type of “Read-only” status in an Excel file will save valuable time in figuring out how to remove it.

You should now know how to remove the read-only mode from an Excel file that is “Marked as Final”, in “Protected View”, set to “Open as Read-only Recommended”, protected, or affected by an antivirus.

If you want to know more about removing protection from your Excel files, read our blog article How to Remove a Password from Excel? (Multiple Methods).

Hady ElHady
Hady is Content Lead at Layer.

Hady has a passion for tech, marketing, and spreadsheets. Besides his Computer Science degree, he has vast experience in developing, launching, and scaling content marketing processes at SaaS startups.

Originally published May 12 2022, Updated May 30 2022