Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. 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: Checking Lock Status of Cells.

Checking Lock Status of Cells

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 14, 2020)

Excel allows you to easily change whether a cell is formatted as locked or unlocked. This attribute is handled on a cell-by-cell basis, even though the effects of the locking (or unlocking) are not evident until such point as you protect the entire worksheet.

Since locking and unlocking can be done on an individual cell basis, you may wonder if there is a way to display the lock status (locked or unlocked) of all your cells in a worksheet, at one time, without the need to check each cell individually.

The default lock status for cells is locked, so it probably makes more sense to select those cells that are unlocked. One way you can do that is to follow these steps:

  1. Press Ctrl+F. Excel displays the Find tab of Find and Replace dialog box.
  2. Click the Options button to enlarge the dialog box.
  3. Click the Format button at the right side of the Find What box. Excel displays the Find Format dialog box.
  4. Make sure the Protection tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Protection tab of the Find Format dialog box.

  6. Make sure the Locked check box is not selected.
  7. Click OK to close the Find Font dialog box.
  8. Click Find All.

At this point, Excel will do one of two things. If it finds any unlocked cells, the addresses of those cells are listed on the screen. If it doesn't find any unlocked cells, then it informs you that it can't find them.

You can also use conditional formatting to highlight unlocked cells. Follow these steps:

  1. Select all the cells you want to check. (You can select all the cells in the worksheet, if you desire.)
  2. With the Home tab of the ribbon displayed, click the Conditional Formatting option in the Styles group. Excel displays a palette of options related to conditional formatting.
  3. Choose New Rule. Excel displays the New Formatting Rule dialog box.
  4. In the Select a Rule Type area at the top of the dialog box, choose Use a Formula to Determine Which Cells to Format. (See Figure 2.)
  5. Figure 2. The New Formatting Rule dialog box.

  6. In the Format Values Where This Formula Is True box, enter the following formula:
  7.      =CELL("protect",A1)=0
    
  8. Click Format to display the Format Cells dialog box. (See Figure 3.)
  9. Figure 3. The Format Cells dialog box.

  10. Use the controls in the Format Cells dialog box to specify how you want the cells formatted.
  11. Click OK to close the Format Cells dialog box.
  12. Click OK.

Now all the cells in your worksheet that are unlocked will have the formatting you defined in step 7.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (10766) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Checking Lock Status of Cells.

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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