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In how to lock cells in Excel we explored various locking methods that ensure the safety of your spreadsheet at a cell, sheet, and formula level. This helps you avoid the risk of having to edit mistakes manually, thus improving the levels of productivity and efficiency in your organization. But what happens if you want to unlock cells in Excel to edit again?

This article will show you how to edit your Excel data and grant editing privileges to others by offering a step-by-step on how to unlock cells in Excel, unprotect sheets, and edit a locked Excel spreadsheet.

How to unlock cells in Excel?

Firstly, it’s important to note the following things when it comes to unlocking cells in Excel:

  • When a cell is unlocked in Excel, it can still be edited even if the sheet is protected.
  • When you want to unlock cells in Excel, you will need to unprotect the entire sheet first.
  • When you want to unlock cells in Excel, you must protect the sheet after, in order to keep other cells protected.

How to unprotect cells in Excel?

In Excel, the concept of “protection” relates to preventing unwanted changes to a sheet by adding a password. When you protect a sheet in Excel, all cells become automatically protected as well.

Let’s say that in my Excel, no specific cells have been locked, however, I have protected the entire sheet instead.

Use the following steps to learn how to unprotect your cells in Excel by unprotecting the entire sheet:

  1. 1. Go to the “Review” tab in your Excel file. Go to the sheet where you want to unprotect cells. If protected, then the “Unprotect Sheet” status to the far right will appear.
How to unprotect cells in Excel Unprotect sheet button
  1. 2. You can also check the protected status by double-clicking on a cell. If protected, you will get the following message alert:
How to unprotect cells in Excel Check editing
  1. 3. Click on the “Unprotect Sheet” button and you will be prompted to enter the password for that sheet.
How to unprotect cells in Excel Enter password

IMPORTANT: In case you need to unlock cells without a password, whether you forgot or simply don’t know, read the article on how to remove a password from Excel.

  1. 4. If successful, the “Protect Sheet” option should appear again in the “Review” tab.
How to unprotect cells in Excel Protect sheet status
  1. 5. To make sure, double-click on any cell within the sheet and you will no longer receive an alert message.
How to unprotect cells in Excel Unprotected cell

So far, we have explained how to unlock cells in Excel by unprotecting the sheet. But what if you want to keep the sheet protected while only unlocking specific cells? Let’s move on to the next steps to see how this would work.

How to Lock Cells in Excel? (Cells, Sheets & Formulas)

Cells in Excel spreadsheets can be locked to prevent accidental edits. Here's how to lock specific cells, worksheets and formulas in Excel

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How to lock cells in Excel

How to unlock specific cells in Excel?

Let’s say I have previously locked specific cells in my Excel. Now, I want to unlock these to edit them.

Before you can do this, you need to make sure that the spreadsheet is unprotected. Go to the “Review” tab and click on “Unprotect Sheet”. Next, we will show you how to edit a locked Excel spreadsheet by unlocking specific cells.

  1. 1. Select the cell(s) you want to unlock.
How to unprotect specific cells in Excel Select cells
  1. 2. In the “Home” tab, click on the “Format” option to the far right.
How to unprotect specific cells in Excel Click on Format
  1. 3. From the drop-down menu, select “Format Cells”.
How to unprotect specific cells in Excel Select cells 2
  1. 4. In the “Format Cells” window, go to the “Protection” tab and untick the “Locked” option.
How to unprotect specific cells in Excel Untick Locked
  1. 5. Click “OK”.
How to unprotect specific cells in Excel Untick Locked 2
  1. 6. Proceed to “Protect Sheet” so that the other cells maintain their locked status. Go to the “Review” tab.
How to unprotect specific cells in Excel Protect Sheet
  1. 7. Enter the password and keep both “Select locked cells” and “Select unlocked cells” ticked. Then click on “OK”.
How to unprotect specific cells in Excel Enter Password
  1. 8. To check that your selected cell range has been unlocked, simply double-click one of the unlocked cells and it should allow you to edit.
How to unprotect specific cells in Excel Can edit unlocked cell
  1. 9. On the contrary, if you attempt to double-click on the locked cell, you will get the same alert message that we got in Step 2 of the first section.
How to unprotect specific cells in Excel Alert Message
How to Remove a Password From Excel Multiple Methods
How to Remove a Password from Excel? (Multiple Methods)

Passwords prevent your Excel file from unauthorized access. But what if you want to remove it? Here's how to remove a password from an Excel workbook

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How to unlock a sheet in Excel without a password?

Unlocking or unprotecting a cell or sheet in Excel requires knowing the password. In case you don’t know the password, you can try out the three methods outlined in How to remove a password from Excel.

How to protect spreadsheet data with Layer?

Layer adds productivity features to your Google Sheets. Share parts of your spreadsheet, request input, and accept or reject changes to make collaboration seamless and more efficient while keeping full control over your data.

Using Layer, you can:

  • Manage Access: Give spreadsheet access to relevant stakeholders on a tab or cell level.
  • Review & Track: Consolidate input, and easily track changes.
  • Collaborate: Define, assign, and automate tasks and set deadlines.

Sign up for early access and start automating your Google Sheets workflows with Layer!

Conclusion

By the end of this article, you should now understand the basics of unlocking and unprotecting features that Excel offers. We would like to remind you that this may vary depending on your Excel version. If you work with more sensitive or confidential information, you will find the article on How to password protect an Excel file useful. Don’t forget that Microsoft Office 365 plans also include OneDrive, Microsoft’s online platform, which also offers a Personal Vault feature.

Not an Excel user? Protection and locking methods are not restricted to Excel. Take a look at our other articles on how to lock cells in Google Sheets and how to password protect a Google Sheet to find out how to keep your spreadsheet data protected.

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 Jan 19 2022, Updated Sep 23 2022