Enabling Editing Erases Worksheet

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 28, 2020)


Victor received a protected worksheet. When he tries to enable editing, the worksheet is erased to a blank sheet. There are no macros listed in the macro drop-down list, so Victor doesn't believe it is a macro that is doing the erasing. He wonders what he can do to edit and retain the worksheet.

Chances are good that there is some sort of macro at play in the workbook. It is important to realize that not all macros show up in the Macros dialog box; they can also be in other places in the workbook. A good indicator is the format in which the workbook is saved. If it has an XLSM or XLSB (as opposed to XLSX) file extension, then it is capable of holding macros and may very well contain them.

That being said, there are a few things you can try. First, it might be as simple as going back to whoever created the workbook and asking for a copy that is not protected. If going back to the source is not possible, then you could change the macro security settings on your system and try opening the workbook. Start Excel and display the Developer tab of the ribbon. Near the left side of the ribbon, click the Macro Security tool in the Code group. This displays the Trust Center. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Trust Center dialog box.

In the Macro Settings area, click the Disable All Macros without Notification, which is the most stringent security setting you can use in Excel. Click OK to close the dialog box, and then open the workbook. Excel should automatically disable any macros it contains and you may be able to unprotect the worksheet as you desire.

If this still doesn't work, you might try copying the worksheet to a different workbook. Right-click the worksheet tab, choose Move or Copy, and then use the settings in the resulting dialog box to make a copy of the worksheet into a brand new workbook. Close the original workbook, and you will probably be able to work with the copy just fine.

You may also want to try opening the workbook while the Shift key is pressed. This method of opening a workbook disables event handler macros.

If all else fails, open a new workbook beside the original one (so both are visible at once), select all the cells in the original worksheet and press Ctrl+C. Now, select a cell in the new workbook and use Paste Special to Paste Values. You loose formatting and formulas using this technique, but you are able to retain the values to work with in the new workbook.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3134) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365.

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. ...


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What is 8 + 2?

2018-11-01 10:49:01


Thank you - this helped me today. - Tom

2015-09-20 05:52:12

Michael (Micky) Avidan

I had a "small" mistake - holding the SHIFT key DISABLEs only Event-Macros - which is the important issue in our case.
Michael (Micky) Avidan
“Microsoft® Answers" - Wiki author & Forums Moderator
“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel (2009-2016)

2015-09-20 05:40:07

Michael (Micky) Avidan

@@@ To whom it may concern @@@
In order to DISABLE all macros (Event-Macros as well as regular macros) all you need is to open the workbook while the SHIFT key is pressed.
Michael (Micky) Avidan
“Microsoft® Answers" - Wiki author & Forums Moderator
“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel (2009-2016)

2015-09-19 14:11:10

Steve Adams

Assuming the workbook is in one of the Macro enable formats, the user could try doing a File > Save As and select the standard Excel File format (.xlsx).

A warning will appear saying that VB project cannot be saved in macro-free workbooks (such as .xlsx). Click Yes to save the file as a macro-free workbook.

After the Save As... is completed, then the user may be able to unprotect the workbook without erasing the worksheet.

2015-09-19 08:00:26

Col Delane

Why not suggest that the user open the Visual basic Editor and look at the ThisWorbook object and the sheet object for the target sheet to see if there are any macro's therein which may be erasing the sheet's contents?

2015-09-19 06:48:40


Macros can be deleted in a closed Excel file using the 'Macro Mover' addin


Usually, with disabled Events, event triggered macros cannot be run to erase data, after unprotecting sheets.

Execute Application.EnableEvents=False or use addin below:


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