Removing Protection from a Protected Workbook

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated June 7, 2022)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016


Sam password protected an Excel workbook. He no longer wants that protection and he has tried the obvious (to him) options to remove that protection. When he closes the workbook, however, Excel still requires a password to open the workbook again. Sam wonders how to completely remove the protection from a workbook he previously protected.

There are two caveats to note here, before looking at ways to address the issue. First, Sam is talking about removing workbook protection, not about adjusting worksheet protection. Second, Sam already has the password to the workbook and can get into it—he simply wants to save the workbook so that the password is not needed again. (It isn't his desire to open a workbook file for which he doesn't have the password.)

First, you should remove any in-workbook protection. You do that by first displaying the Review tab of the ribbon. What you then do depends on your version of Excel.

  • If you are using Excel 2007, in the Changes group you should see an Unprotect Document tool. (If you, instead, see a Protect Document tool, your workbook is currently unprotected.
  • If you are using a later version of Excel, in the Protection group you will see a Workbook tool or a Protect Workbook tool. If that tool looks "selected," then there is in-workbook protection at play.

Click the tool, and either the workbook is immediately unprotected (if there was no password associated with the protection) or you'll see the Unprotect Workbook dialog box. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Unprotect Workbook dialog box.

If prompted, enter the password and click on OK.

Next, you need to remove any workbook-level protection. There are several ways you can do this. One way is to follow these steps:

  1. In Excel 2007 click the Office button or, in later versions of Excel, display the File tab of the ribbon.
  2. At the left side of the dialog box, click Prepare (Excel 2007) or Info (later versions).
  3. If you are using Excel 2010 or later, click the Protect Workbook button. Excel displays a drop-down list of options.
  4. Click Encrypt Document (Excel 2007) or Encrypt with Password (later verions). Excel displays the Encrypt Document dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  5. Figure 2. The Encrypt Document dialog box.

  6. Remove whatever is in the dialog box.
  7. Click OK.
  8. Use and save your Workbook as normal.

The above steps only remove the password required to open the workbook. It is very possible there is another password associated with the workbook. Removing that password brings us to the third approach; it involves saving your workbook anew. Follow these steps:

  1. Click F12. Excel displays the Save As dialog box.
  2. Just to the left of the Save button, click Tools. Excel displays a drop-down list of options.
  3. Click General Options. Excel displays the General Options dialog box. (See Figure 3.)
  4. Figure 3. The General Options dialog box.

  5. Delete any password evident in the Password to Open box.
  6. Delete any password evident in the Password to Modify box.
  7. Clear the Read-Only Recommended check box.
  8. Click on OK. Excel closes the General Options dialog box.
  9. Click Save. Excel asks you if you want to replace the existing file.
  10. Click Yes. The workbook is saved without any passwords.

If you still encounter problems opening the file, it is possible (though not probable) that the workbook is somehow protected within Windows itself. This most often is the case if the file is stored on a network drive to which your administrator has applied security permissions.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (73) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


Using the COLUMN Function

Need to know the column number for use in a formula? The worksheet function you want is the COLUMN function, described in ...

Discover More

Adding an Optional Break

The no-width optional break is primarily used for Asian languages in Word. It can have value for English-speakers, as ...

Discover More

Forcing a Worksheet to be Protected Again

Excel allows you to protect your worksheets so they can only be changed as you want to have happen. If you unprotect a ...

Discover More

Professional Development Guidance! Four world-class developers offer start-to-finish guidance for building powerful, robust, and secure applications with Excel. The authors show how to consistently make the right design decisions and make the most of Excel's powerful features. Check out Professional Excel Development today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Saving a Workbook Using Passwords

If you want to protect your workbook so that others cannot open or change the information it contains, an easy way to ...

Discover More

Limiting Who Can Delete Data

Excel allows you to protect your worksheet data in several different ways. Unfortunately, it doesn't allow you to protect ...

Discover More

Cannot Add Worksheets to a Workbook

If you cannot add a worksheet to your workbook, it could be because the workbook is protected. This tip shows how to ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 8 - 2?

2021-06-21 12:23:25


Thank you! This was super helpful and well documented.

2020-08-20 16:35:00

Todd S

You are a badman, I love it.

Thank you for this tidbit.

All I can say is wow, I could do this with LibreOffice but it is the 6.4.4 version instead of the 7.0.3 version (latest).

Again, thank you.


2018-08-06 09:28:06


All user if you have lost your password and you find solution how to Recover Excel Password.
Use eSoftTools Excel Password Recovery Tool this is best tool for Recover password.
I also use this software it’s easy to use and fast Recover Excel Password without harm excel data.
It’s also work on Word file and Access data to recover password. Software works on all excel file versions upto 2016.

2017-02-20 10:31:24


I like the new tip page layout, but I'd like to see less wasted space in the newsletter (email notification). It causes unnecessary vertical scrolling to read the entire newsletter. Thanks.

2017-02-20 05:02:12


Yes, the new look is very good and much clearer. Thanks for that!

2017-02-18 09:58:24


I'll check in to it, Micky...


2017-02-18 05:49:39

Michael (Micky) Avidan


Trying to add a picture to a comment - fails.

I get this error:

Thanks for trying to add a comment to this Tips.Net article. The following errors occurred:
No valid file found for the Figure 1 image.

Michael (Micky) Avidan
“Microsoft® Answers" - Wiki author & Forums Moderator
“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel (2009-2017)

2017-02-18 05:46:06

Michael (Micky) Avidan


Big "Chapeau !" for the new look of the tip window especially for the capability to add pictures (which, by all means, clarifies the essence)

Michael (Micky) Avidan
“Microsoft® Answers" - Wiki author & Forums Moderator
“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel (2009-2017)

This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.