Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Functioning Check Boxes in a Protected Worksheet.

Functioning Check Boxes in a Protected Worksheet

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated July 14, 2020)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013


Dave developed a worksheet that uses yes/no check boxes, combined with a true/false statement to update another cell. He wants to protect the worksheet, but still be able to update the check boxes, but this doesn't seem to be possible. When he protects the worksheet, the check boxes cannot be changed.

The thing to remember in working with check boxes (from the Controls group on the Developer tab of the ribbon) is that there are two things you need to explicitly unprotect: the check box itself and the cell to which the check box is linked. To unprotect the check box, right-click on it and choose Format Control. Excel displays the Format Control dialog box. On the Protection tab, make sure the Locked check box is cleared.

Check boxes are also linked to specific cells in a worksheet. (See the Control tab of the Format Control dialog box or, if you are using ActiveX controls, the LinkedCell property.) To unprotect the cell to which the check box is linked, select the cell and press Ctrl+Shift+F to display the Format Cells dialog box. On the Protection tab, make sure the Locked check box is cleared.

Now you can protect your workbook as you normally would, and the check boxes should work. The reason that you need to unprotect the cell to which the check box is linked is because the contents of the cell needs to be able to change as the status of the check box is modified. If the cell is not unprotected, then the contents cannot change and so the check box cannot change.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (8112) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Functioning Check Boxes in a Protected Worksheet.

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 two more than 7?

2020-11-19 15:13:45


Do you know of a way to lock a user from moving the check box function when an excel worksheet is in protection mode? I still want the user to have the capability to mark the checkbox, but not have the capability to place it elsewhere on the excel worksheet.

2020-08-30 16:25:21


My work-around to "Protect" the contents of the Linked Cell does involve VBA but it is simple and effective:

Create a Worksheet_SelectionChange (ByVal Target As Range) Event

MY Target cell happens to be A3 so that should be changed to fit your needs

Enter the following code in the Event

If Not Application.Intersect(Range("A3"), Target) Is Nothing Then 'This nomenclature indicates that A3 IS the selected cell
Application.ScreenUpdating = False 'Admittedly, this doesn't hide much but helps somewhat
Range("A4").Select 'Or select another safe landing cell
Application.ScreenUpdating = True
End If

End Sub

This way, as soon as A3 is selected, the active cell automatically moved to the other cell. It does require VBA but if that option is open then it works very well.

2018-05-07 09:37:02

Melody Batesole

How do I keep the tab (protected sheet) from moving to the 'hidden' check box 'link'cells? My tab move to all unlocked cells in order, but then moves to the unlocked link cells before moving to next fill in cell...?

2015-12-17 19:06:20


Thank you, this was a great help.

2015-06-11 14:09:22


I want the opposite of this...I want the entire sheet protected and not editable included the check boxes but it's not working! How do I do that? I don't want anything changed on the doc.

2015-06-04 03:10:04


Yes thanks for the post. I was looking many articles and found solution on this one. I had protected sheet, Protected cell ranges (colum) but the activ x boxes linked to these cell were not editable.
Now I made them using "To unprotect the cell to which the check box is linked, select the cell and press Ctrl+Shift+F to display the Format Cells dialog box. On the Protection tab, make sure the Locked check box is cleared."

2015-01-06 18:25:17

Peter Atherton


to "Sort" correctly staying ..

As mentioned in Allen's article, checkboxes are linked to a cell - not the cells data. I would consider using a column of text.
The letters a & r produce a tick and an x respectively when formatted with the Webdings font. As this is data there's not problem sorting.

2015-01-04 10:01:50


Looking to Utilize Checkboxes (Written By VBS Code) within a "Filtered" spreadsheet. The Checkboxes (checked or unchecked) need to "Sort" correctly staying with the correct row of information that it is connected with. Unfortunately I have been unsuccessful getting the actual checked or unchecked box to follow correctly when utilizing the "Filter Drop Down" on any of the vertical columns. Generally I sort by "DATE" which is a vertical column within the spreadsheet.

Would really like some direction here if this is possible. Please let me know if you need greater clarification.

Thank you - Nathan

2014-09-10 13:37:05


I agree that you need to Unlock the linked cell where changes take place but the checkbox, itself, does not need to be Unlocked. I also make the linked cell <Hidden> to minimize what others can see since the linked cell can't be locked in a Protected Worksheet.

2014-06-18 17:20:28


Great Solution!!! It was very useful!

2013-12-13 11:14:38


Thank you for this! I needed to know that the cell linked to my option boxes needed to be unprotected..this is the first search I found telling me that. Thank you!

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