Setting password for an Excel Workbook prevent others from accessing the data on your Excel files. File level protection prevents someone from opening or modifying it.

You can encrypt Excel file with a password so none can open it. There are 3 different ways to password protect an Excel file (here I am using Office 365 Excel):

  • Using Excel Password Protect Feature
  • Using Windows File Encryption
  • Using 7-Zip

Keep in mind, if you lose or forget you password, there is no option to retrieve it.

1. Using Excel Password Protect Feature

With the technology innovation today, this inbuilt protection feature is considered the most effective and impossible to break. Microsoft now uses AES-256 encryption which allows you to protect all products under the Microsoft office suite.

Here is how to use the Excel password protect feature:

  • Launch Microsoft Excel, and open the specific document you want to secure with a password
  • Click the File menu, and select the Info category
Microsoft excel info features highlighting protect workbook
Excel file info
  • Click Protect Workbook and select the Encrypt with Password option from the drop-down menu.
Microsoft excel protect workbook available protection features highlighting encrypt with password feature
Excel Encrypt
  • The application will then prompt for a password. Be very careful to read the instructions below the pop-up box and note the password in a password manager. Then click OK.
Microsoft Excel encrypt with password window with prompt for password.
Password Input

There you go! Whenever there is a need to access that Excel file, the application will present a password entry form.

To remove the Excel password, go to "Protect Workbook" and click "Encrypt with password" on the dropdown menu, then delete the password which appears there, and click OK.

Additional In-built Security Option

Microsoft has also built in some other features for the protection of your document from different alterations. It is essential to be aware of these features as well to properly protect your documents. Under the Protect Workbook option, the other protection features are listed in the drop-down menu as follows:

Microsoft excel protect workbook available protection features
Additional Protection
  • Mark as Final: This feature will render the Excel document complete and disallows any further edits or alterations. Although this action will not offer full security or protect your information but makes the document practically Read-only. However, since this feature does not require a password, the document can still be edited. To activate this feature, click the option, then press ‘OK’ in the pop-up box that follows.
  • Protect Current Sheet: This option practically protects the currently selected worksheet with a password, allowing you to select which section or part of the sheet is read-only or editable. So other users can only see or read information but cannot edit the sheet. To activate this feature, click the option, enter the preferred password and select parts and sections of the sheet to be locked, then press ‘OK’.
  • Protect Workbook Structure: This feature, like the Protect Current Sheet, protects all data and information in the Excel document from alterations with a password. To activate this feature, click the option and enter a preferred password, then press ‘OK’.
  • Restrict Access: This feature is mostly used by businesses and organizational structures. This feature allows you to choose the category of persons allowed to access, edit, copy and even print the document. To activate this feature. Click the option and follow the instructions to complete the set-up.
  • Add a Digital Signature: This feature allows a user certainty that during the transfer or sharing of the file, the file remains genuine. The feature allows the document to carry a digital signature which might only be open to only the sender and recipient. To activate this feature. Click the option and follow the instructions to complete the set-up.

2. Using Windows File Encryption

The Windows Encrypting File System (EFS) is also another helpful option to password protect Excel files. The EFS, as it is also known, is a Windows integrated package for encrypting files and it works on a file-by-file basis.

Here is how to use the Windows File encryption to set password for Excel:

  • Right-click on the Excel document file, then select Properties.
Excel file option menu
Properties Option
  • At the bottom-right of the properties window, is an option labelled Advanced. Click Advanced.
windows properties of excel file
Advanced Properties
  • In the Advanced attributes window, check the Encrypt contents to secure data option and click Ok. Then click Apply.
advanced attributes for excel file to showing options to encrypt file
Encrypt Settings
  • Click Details to set users who can access the Excel document.
Windows encryption details window showing users who can access files
Users Access
  • A caution explainer box will then pop up, recommending that the folder which contains the document file should also be encrypted to avoid accessibility to editing copies made by Excel each time you make an edit. Hence, you are expected to make a decision fitting your preference.
  • Click ‘OK’ to complete encryption. Then, EFS will prompt you to backup the encryption key for reference.

3. Using 7-Zip

7-Zip is a third-party archiver application that can be used for file and folder encryption. This encryption tool possesses strong AES-256 encryption in 7z and ZIP formats and also has a self-extracting capability for 7z format.

Here is how to use the 7-Zip tool to password protect an Excel file:

  • Download the 7-Zip tool and install the setup.
  • Right-click on the document file to be encrypted, and select 7-Zip.
Excel file properties showing the 7-zip file feature
7-Zip Option
  • From the drop-down menu, select Add to archive.
File properties showing the 7-zip options for excel file.
  • In the Add to Archive window, input the preferred password in the Encryption section at the bottom-right side of the window. Then click OK.
7-Zip add to archive windows showing file details and prompt for encryption details.
Add to archive window

Perfect! Henceforth upon every attempt to access the file, you will be prompted to enter the password.

Conclusion

Finally that we are sure that your Excel is protected and your information is safe. It is important to note that to keep records or to back up your encryption password is as important as putting a password itself; If not even more important.

To keep records of your passwords could be as simple a jotting down in a note, using a password manager and backing up your encryption password. Do well to leave a comment on how helpful this guide has been and any difficulties encountered while following the process.