How to Lock Cells in Excel in 2018 (+ Examples and Screenshots)

Jordan Wahl
Jordan Wahl  |  November 4, 2018

Microsoft Excel is commonly used by many individuals (and businesses) to organize and house important data – data that needs to be accurate and kept safe.

While I’m sure many have their own safeguarding practices in place, it never hurts to take extra measures to ensure that the data is protected.

To do so, you’ll need to lock cells and protect your worksheets. And we’re here to cover it all.

Related: Want to learn more about Microsoft Excel? Learn how to merge cells in Excel, how to add in Excel, and how to subtract in Excel!

 

 How to lock cells in Excel

Before we jump into the how to’s of locking cells in Excel, it’s important to understand why you’d want to lock cells in Excel.

Locking cells is a feature in Excel that helps the owner to protect their data. By locking cells and protecting the worksheet, unauthorized users are unable to move, change, delete or manipulate the data in any way.

With this feature you can choose to lock all cells in a worksheet or specific cells, depending on your need.

Say you’re sharing an important document with your coworkers. You’ve entered all of the correct Excel formulas and you’d like them to add data to specific cells, but want to ensure the formulas aren’t manipulated without your knowing. 

That’s where locking cells comes in. You can unlock the cells that you want your colleagues to have access to edit, all while making sure your formulas aren’t modified.

That being said, let me start walking you through how to lock cells in Excel so you can protect your data.

How to lock all cells in a worksheet

By default, all cells in a new worksheet are locked and ready to be protected, but I’d recommend double-checking to ensure that all cells are locked and your data is protected.

To do this, navigate to the ‘Home’ tab on the top banner and click ‘Format’ on the righthand side. 

how to lock cells in excel format banner
 

Once you’ve clicked ‘Format,’ a drop-down menu will appear and you’ll click ‘Format Cells.’ 

how to lock cells in excel format menu

 

Click the ‘Protection’ tab. The little box next to ‘Locked’ should be blue with a checkmark. If this is the case, your cells are locked and you’re ready to protect the worksheet. Click ‘OK.’

how to lock cells in excel locked cells

  

Next, you’ll navigate to the ‘Review’ tab (on the top banner) and click ‘Protect Sheet.’ 

how to lock cells in excel protect sheet

 

Here you’ll be prompted to enter a password that you’ll later use if you’d like to unprotect a worksheet. 

Enter a password, verify it, and select any actions that you want to allow users. Click ‘OK.’ 

how to lock cells in excel protect password

 

Now your worksheet is locked and ALL cells are uneditable. If you’d like to edit cells once again, you’ll need to unprotect your worksheet, which I’ll cover in a bit.

How to lock specific cells in a worksheet

In the case that you want other users to be able to modify the contents of certain cells but not others, you can lock specific cells.

To lock only specific cells, you’ll need to unlock the cells that you don’t want to be locked.

Start by selecting the cells that you don’t want to be locked. In this case, I want the cells in the ‘May’ column to be able to be edited by other users.

how to lock cells in excel unlocked cells

  

Once you’ve selected the cells that you want to unlock, navigate to ‘Format’ on the ‘Home’ tab and click.

how to lock cells in excel format banner

 

Your drop-down menu should appear and you should click ‘Format Cells.’

how to lock cells in excel format menu

 

Make sure you’re on the ‘Protection’ tab and click the little box next to ‘Locked’ to unlock the highlighted cells. The little box should now be white instead of blue. Click ‘OK.’

how to lock cells in excel unlocking cells

 

Now that you’ve unlocked the cells that you want to be editable, it’s time to protect the rest of the worksheet. 

Do this by navigating to the ‘Review’ tab (on the top banner) and clicking ‘Protect Sheet.’ 

how to lock cells in excel protect sheet

 

You’ll be prompted to enter a password that you’ll later use if you’d like to unprotect a worksheet.

Enter a password, verify it, and select any actions that you want to allow users. Click ‘OK.’

how to lock cells in excel protect password

 

Now your worksheet is protected, but the cells you unlocked are editable. If you’d like to edit other cells or change the locked cells, you’ll need to unprotect your worksheet.

How to unprotect a worksheet

If you’d like to edit cells or change which cells are able to be edited, you’ll need to unprotect your worksheet.

If you try to edit locked cells while the worksheet is locked, an ‘Alert’ will pop up reminding you to unprotect the worksheet with the password you protected it with. 

how to lock cells in excel alert

  

To unprotect your worksheet, navigate to the ‘Review’ tab on the top banner and click ‘Unprotect Sheet.’ 

how to lock cells in excel unprotect sheet

 

 You’ll be prompted to enter your password. Do so and click ‘OK.’

how to lock cells in excel password

 

Your worksheet is now unprotected and all cells are editable once again!

You’re ready to lock cells in Excel

In this article, we’ve covered everything you need to know about locking cells in Excel and protecting your worksheets!

Now grab your computer and dive into Excel to give it a try for yourself!

Did you enjoy this article? Check out how to multiply in Excel and how to make a line graph in Excel

Stay tuned for more articles soon!

 

 

Jordan Wahl
Author

Jordan Wahl

Jordan Wahl is a content marketing specialist who joined G2 Crowd after graduating with her BBA in Marketing from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Originally a small-town girl from Wisconsin, Jordan is fairly new to Chicago and is loving exploring the city. In her free time, you can almost always find her bopping around to her favorite music or laughing at jokes that probably aren't that funny.