Excel Tip – How to Protect Specific Cells

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Excel Tip - How to Protect Specific Cells

This question came from a student during an Excel course.

I share a workbook with my co-workers. I have some very complex functions in this workbook. From time to time, I find that my functions no longer work as intended because someone has tried to change them. I don’t want to protect the entire worksheet or workbook because my co-workers do need to be able to change some cells. Is there any way to prevent people from changing my functions?

Answer – Protect Specific Cells

Yes, you have several options. You can use Visual Basic for Applications to create your own functions. You can also hide the functions so that users see your results but not the functions. Your simplest path, however, is to probably protect specific cells. Users will be able to view, but not edit the protected cells in your worksheet.


Step 1 – Select the Unprotected Cells

The first step in the process of protecting cells in a worksheet is to select the areas you want people to be able to edit. You can select individual cells or entire columns.

(Quick Tip: To select non-contiguous areas, select the first area and press the CTRL key while selecting other areas).

Step 2 – Unlock the Selected Cells

Right-click the selected cells, then click Format Cells.

protect cells excel - format cells

When the Format Cells dialog box pops up, select the Protection tab.

Remove the check mark next to Locked.

protect cells excel unlock cells

Step 3 – Protect the Worksheet

Now that you’ve unlocked the cells you do not want to protect, you are going to protect your worksheet. This will, in effect, protect everything except for the cells you selected in the previous step.

Click the Review tab on your ribbon.

In the Changes group, select Protect Sheet.

protect cells worksheet excel

When the Protect Sheet dialog box pops up, type your password (optional), then click the OK button. You will be prompted to enter your password again.

excel protect sheet dialog box

Note:  If you do not create a password before clicking the OK button, users will be able to turn the protection off by simply clicking a button.


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About the Author

Jackie Kiadii and her team of subject matter expert (SME) trainers provide Microsoft software training that delivers measurable results – increasing productivity, reducing inefficiency, and improving the bottom line. Topics include: Project, Access, Excel, Excel VBA, PowerPoint, Word, Outlook and Publisher. Upcoming Excel courses are on our calendar, click here.

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