Workbooks Opening as Read-Only

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated February 25, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Loren recently purchased a new computer and now Excel insists that he open most of his old workbooks in read-only mode. That becomes a problem when saving in that it forces Loren to save as "Copy of" instead of updating the previous file. He wonders if there is a way to fix this.

Given that you have this problem with files transferred from your old computer to the new one, there are two primary things you should check. First, you need to get out of Excel and, in Windows, locate your old workbooks. Right-click on each of them, in turn, and choose Properties from the resulting Context menu. Windows then displays the Properties dialog box for the file. At the bottom of the information on the General tab of the dialog box you can see if Windows has marked the file as Read-Only. Clear the check box, if necessary, and then click the OK button.

If that doesn't do it for you, then check to see if the workbooks are using the XLS format, which is the file format for very old workbooks. If this is the case, then your new version of Excel on the new PC may be set to "distrust" the old-format XLS files. Check to see if this is the case by following these steps:

  1. Display the Excel Options dialog box. (In Excel 2007 click the Office button and then click Excel Options. In Excel 2010 and later versions display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Click Trust Center at the left of the dialog box.
  3. Click the Trust Center Settings button. Excel displays the Trust Center.
  4. At the left side of the dialog box click File Block Options. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. Setting the file blocking options.

  6. If there are check marks beside the Excel 97-2003 file types, clear these.
  7. Click OK to close the Trust Center dialog box.
  8. Click OK to close the Excel Options dialog box.

If the check boxes in step 5 were already clear, then you may want to check the trusted locations that can be specified in the Trust Center. (Before closing the Trust Center in step 6, click Trusted Locations at the left side and make sure that the folder in which the workbooks are located is listed.)

There are additional reasons that a workbook might always open as read-only, but those are unlikely to be reasons in Loren's case. If, however, you would like to read about those other reasons, you may find this blog post informative:

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (13022) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

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 five minus 0?

2023-02-25 09:56:08

J. Woolley

@Rick Emmertson
"Due to Windows security settings, files that you get from the internet might not work correctly, unless you unblock them, or store them in a Trusted Location."

2023-02-25 08:07:35

Rick Emmertson

My MS 365, Excel will open a .xlsx file emailed to me by a customer. Above the workbook, it has a yellow box, with a message, "PROTECTED VIEW Be careful---files from the internet can contain viruses. Unless you need to edit, it's safer to stay in Protected View." followed by a click box labeled "Enable Editing" Is there a way to check for malware before enabling editing? (see Figure 1 below)

Figure 1. 

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