How to Remove a Password in Excel (With Tips for Protection)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 20, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Excel is valuable spreadsheet software that allows you to manipulate various data types. Data can be sensitive or private, so you may receive a password-protected Excel spreadsheet from a colleague or employer. Understanding how to remove passwords in Excel can help you access protected spreadsheets and share them with others. In this article, we discuss how to remove Excel passwords on Windows and macOS, examine why you need passwords in Excel, explore how to remove forgotten passwords, outline how to add passwords to your Excel file, detail how to change passwords, and provide tips for protecting your spreadsheets.

How to a remove a password in Excel

Here's an overview of how to remove a password in Excel on different operating systems:

Windows

The Windows OS is a popular system on various computers gadgets, and it offers accessibility to interact with other computer systems. To remove Excel passwords in Windows, open the password-encrypted Excel file. Then, you can follow these steps:

  1. Enter your password to open the file and click “OK.”

  2. Click on “File” in the toolbar to release a drop-down menu and click on “Info” to open up the info page.

  3. Click on “Protect workbook” on the info page and select “Encrypt with password.”

  4. Delete the password in the window that appears and leave the window blank.

  5. Click “OK” to reset your password.

macOS

The macOS is popular among computer users, although it's only available for users of mac. You can remove a password from an Excel file on mac by opening the password-encrypted Excel file. Then, you can follow these steps:

  1. Type in your password in the window that pops up, and click “OK.”

  2. Click on “File” in the toolbar to release a drop-down menu and select “Passwords.”

  3. Delete the two passwords that appear in the window and click on “OK.”

  4. Complete the password reset and unencrypt your Excel file.

Related: Advanced Excel Skills: Definitions and Examples

Why do you need passwords in Excel?

Excel is a great office tool used for working on sensitive data, such as a company's financials, a school's result management spreadsheet, or other internal corporate data. Passwords can help protect your spreadsheets, protecting such data from going to the wrong hands.

Passwords are also popular in Excel if the aim is to share the file with an audience as a read-only file. Only specific individuals gain access to the password to make necessary edits to the spreadsheet. This can help preserve the integrity of your spreadsheet. Still, passwords can also hinder information sharing, so it's important to know how to remove them when no longer helpful.

Related: Computer Literacy in the Workplace: What You Need to Know

Removing forgotten passwords from an Excel file

If you forget the password to the worksheet or workbook, you can follow the following steps to unlock the Excel files:

  1. Make a copy of the Excel file you want to unlock.

  2. Rename the copy of your file and change the file extension from “.xlsx” to “.zip.”

  3. Click on the renamed file and select the “Extract all” button.

  4. Select your desired file path from the pop-up window to determine the file extract location.

  5. Click on “Extract” to extract your files to the location selected earlier.

  6. Open the extracted folder and open the folder named “XL.”

  7. Find the “Worksheets” folder and open it. This folder contains all individual worksheets from your spreadsheet, usually named with the format “sheet1.xml,” “sheet2.xml,” or “sheet3.xml.”

  8. Select the first worksheet by right-clicking on it.

  9. Click on “Open with” and select “Notepad.” The notepad opens up and displays the lines of code for the file.

  10. Find the line of code that begins with “<.”

  11. Find the end of the line of code ending with “>.”

  12. Delete all text in the code starting from “<” to “>.”

  13. Save this modified XML file by clicking “File” in the toolbar and selecting the “Save” button.

  14. Repeat steps 7 through 13 for as many worksheets as available.

  15. Drag each modified XML worksheet file and drop over the .zip file to overwrite the original XML files.

  16. Rename the “.zip” file and change the extension back to “.xlsx.”

  17. Open the file and access your Excel spreadsheet without needing a password.

Related: A List of Intermediate Skills in Excel to Include in Your Resume

Methods for adding passwords to an Excel file

Adding passwords to an Excel file is an optimal way of securing your sensitive data. Here's an overview of how to add passwords to Excel files:

Windows

You can add an Excel password on Windows by opening the Excel file you want to add a password to on your system. Click on the “File” button located in the toolbar, and a drop-down menu appears. Then, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click on “Info” in the drop-down menu for the info page.

  2. Click on the “Protect workbook” box on the info page to open up a menu.

  3. Select the “Encrypt with password” option on the menu, opening a text box window.

  4. Enter your password in the text box provided and click “OK.”

  5. Enter the password a second time into the text box and click “OK.”

macOS

You can add a password to your mac by opening the Excel file on your system. Then, click the “File” button in the upper left corner of your mac screen and select the “Passwords” button for a pop-up window with a text box. Then, you can follow these steps:

  1. Type the password in the window that pops up to access the file.

  2. Type in a second password, which is for the use of editing files.

  3. Click the “OK” button.

  4. Re-enter the two passwords in the text box.

  5. Click “OK” to save and set your password.

Related: 5 Basic Excel Skills and How to Include Them in Your Resume

Methods for changing passwords in Excel

Here's an overview of how to change passwords in different operating systems:

Windows

You can change your Excel password on Windows by opening the password-encrypted Excel file. Enter your password to open the file and click “OK.” Then, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click on “File” in the toolbar to release a drop-down menu.

  2. Click on “Info” to open up the info page and select “Encrypt workbook” on the info page to release a drop-down menu.

  3. Select "Encrypt with password" and delete the password in the window that appears.

  4. Click “OK” to remove the previously saved password and type in the new password in the text box. Click “OK” to complete the password change.

macOS

You can change the password of an Excel file on mac by opening the password-encrypted Excel file. Then, type in your password in the window that pops up and select “OK.” Next, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click on “File” in the toolbar to release the drop-down menu, and click on “Passwords” in the drop-down menu.

  2. Delete the two passwords that appear in the window, leaving the text boxes blank.

  3. Click on “OK” to delete the passwords from your Excel Worksheet.

  4. Type in the password to edit the worksheet and the password to open the Excel file.

  5. Click on “OK” to save your changes and complete the password change.

Tips for protecting your Excel files

Here are some tips you can consider to protect your Excel file:

Use a password you can remember

When choosing passwords, ensure you select the one you can always remember. This is because Excel doesn't have an easy password recovery option if lost. Alternatively, you can write down the password and store it in a secure location only accessible to you. It's noteworthy that Excel passwords have a 15-character limit.

Consider other protection measures

To protect worksheets that you're using constantly, entering a password every time you want to use it can be cumbersome. Here are a few alternative ways to protect your Excel worksheet:

Mark as final

This method of protecting your worksheet marks the file as being complete. It only shows that no further modifications to the file are necessary rather than prohibiting edits. This option doesn't encrypt data with a password or other locking mechanism, providing no serious protection for Excel files.

Consider adding digital signatures

A digital signature is an authentication system that allows you to include a code that functions as a signature. By creating a unique digital signature, you can ensure that only you have control and access to your Excel files. You can create this digital signature by doing the following:

  1. Click on the cell you want to add the signature.

  2. Go to the toolbar and click on the “Insert” button.

  3. Click the “Signature Line” button for the window pop up with a text box.

  4. Input the signature information such as the signer's name, email, and date.

  5. Click on “OK.”

  6. Double click on the signature line when finished with the document and input the signer's name.

Restrict access with information rights management

Information rights management (IRM) helps you prevent unauthorized people from printing, forwarding, or copying sensitive information. The permissions for the worksheet are in the workbook, and only an IRM server can verify them. IRM allows you to set limitations per person, file, or group. For example, in a workbook you create, you can give someone permission to read but not change it. You can then permit another person to edit the workbook. Deciding to apply a three-day limit to both people's access to the Excel file is also appropriate.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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