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: Preventing Someone from Recreating a Protected Worksheet.

Preventing Someone from Recreating a Protected Worksheet

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 25, 2013)

1

Jack creates worksheets that he forwards to others in his group so they can input information, and then return the worksheet to him. He protects the worksheets, but has gotten burned a few times by users who have used copy and paste to recreate the worksheet in its entirety. Checking everything to make sure the returned worksheets are the originals is very time consuming, so Jack is looking for a way to remove the ability to copy and paste the worksheets.

Disabling copying and pasting is theoretically easy enough to do. All you need to do is use a short macro, like the following, in the ThisWorkbook object:

Private Sub Worksheet_Deactivate()
    If ActiveSheet.ProtectContents = True Then
        Application.CutCopyMode = False
    End If
End Sub

Using this macro essentially clears the Clipboard every time someone deactivates the worksheet by selecting another worksheet or another application.

Of course, this offers only the most rudimentary of protection. A determined user can still copy the worksheet by using Edit | Move or Copy Sheet, or they could disable macros when starting the workbook, and thereby disable your Clipboard-clearing routine.

Perhaps a better way is to look at how business is done in the organization. If you don't want people to copy the worksheet, tell them up front, and make sure they know that you won't accept any duplicates. There are very easy ways to check to see if what you get back is a duplicate. Here are a few of them:

  • Put a formula in a cell, then hide the cell contents during your protection process. If you get the worksheet back and unprotect the worksheet, and the formula is not there, the worksheet is a copy.
  • Protect the worksheet by using a password. If you cannot later unprotect the worksheet with the same password, you know that someone else copied the worksheet and used their own password.
  • Have your worksheet use hidden formulas to access data on a hidden worksheet. If the user copies the worksheet, the hidden worksheet isn't copied to the new workbook, so the formulas won't give the correct answers.
  • Insert a macro module in the workbook, and then protect the module. The module doesn't need to do anything, but if the workbook you get back doesn't have the protected module or is a simple XLSX file, it is a copy.
  • Add something into the custom properties area of the workbook. If the custom property is not in the workbook you get back, chances are good that the workbook is not the original.

Another thing to try is to set the cell protection property to Hidden before password protecting your worksheet. Users can see the results of what is in the cells, but they cannot see the formulas. If they copy and paste the contents elsewhere, the formulas won't be transferred, only the results. This is very easy to spot in the returned workbook.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (12653) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Preventing Someone from Recreating 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 7 + 8?

2013-05-26 16:20:59

Alec Whatmough

Another option is to stop users getting around the code mentioned above is to insert a sheet with text stating that the workbook must be opened with Macros enabled. Hide sheet tabs (or hide the sheets that a user needs) and add passworded workbook protection. Now add Workbook_Open code to select a different sheet (the one you want users to access)as well as anything else you want (e.g. show sheet tabs).
Now, unless the user has password-cracking abilities, opening the workbook with macros disabled won't help them at all.
The fianl step is a Before_Close routine to select the notice sheet and hide the others


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