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How To Password Protect Opening An Excel File

By Chris Newman •  Updated: 12/31/14 •  3 min read
Password Protect Excel File When Opening

Protecting Your Excel Files With A Password

There are often files within an organization that need to be restricted from certain people due to the sensitivity of its contents.  As I have discussed in my article Understanding Excel's Password Security Methodology, Excel's file protection is by far the most secure level of protection (versus Workbook and Worksheet protections) as it uses an AES encryption algorithm.  

I usually do not have a need to protect too many files as I typically manage permissions at the folder level, however, I do store all my website passwords in an Excel workbook (using the My Passwords Excel template).

Excel template for tracking your passwords

I definitely want that particular file as secure as possible, so it is set up with a required password in order to open the Excel file.

Let's walk through the steps to encrypt your Excel workbook with a password. Even though it is fairly easy to do, it’s probably not one of Microsoft’s greatest designs for user-friendliness.

Adding A Password To Open Up Your Excel File

Inside Excel, navigate to the Save As dialog box (File Tab >> Save As >> Browse).  In the Save As dialog box, click the Tools drop-down menu near the bottom of the dialog box.

Add Excel File Password - Save As Menu

Select General Options... from the Tools menu

Add Excel File Password - Tools General Options

Type in your desired password in the Password to Open field. Click OK and you will then need to verify your password by entering it in again.  

Add Excel File Password  - Provide Password

Now your file has a password to prevent intruders from opening up and viewing your Excel file.  Click the Save button to save your file with its protection.

Access Denied, Wrong Password!

After you have saved your password protection settings, your file will prompt for a password from any user who tries to access it.  Make sure you don't make your password generic like your company's name or "finance" as most people will be able to guess that quite easily.  Typically if you can add at least one number or capital letter to the password, that is enough to thwart most people from spending too much time trying to guess the password.

More About Excel’s Password Protection


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Chris Newman

Chris Newman

Chris is a finance professional and Excel MVP recognized by Microsoft since 2016. With his expertise, he founded TheSpreadsheetGuru blog to help fellow Excel users, where he shares his vast creative solutions & expertise. In addition, he has developed over 7 widely-used Excel Add-ins that have been embraced by individuals and companies worldwide.