How to Unprotect Excel File - 7 Ways Offered

author_icon Ronnie Barnes time_icon Last updated: Dec 02, 2019 06:56 pm tips_icon Excel

Microsoft Excel presents a simple, yet effective way to organize and quantify data. For this reason, it is one of the most widely used programs, useful to everyone from students to businessmen and institutions. This wide range of usage can also mean that some Excel files carry sensitive information, making it necessary to protect this data somehow. Microsoft provided a solution in the form of Excel's in-built password protection feature that allows users to lock either the whole document or specific sheets and cells to keep some information private.

But how do you unprotect an excel workbook if you forgot the password? If this is the predicament you find yourself in, this article will tell you how to unprotect excel file with all possible solutions.

1. What Kinds of Passwords Does Excel Have?

In order to help you unprotect excel document, it is important to understand the various forms of encryption you get with Excel. They include the following:

Opening Password - This is perhaps the most common encryption password used to protect Excel documents. As the name suggests, the password is set to make it harder for someone to open the document.

Modify Password - This type of encryption allows users to view the document, but requires them to enter the password to modify or edit the document in any way. This is why documents with this type of encryption are also known as "Read-Only" documents.

Workbook Structure Password - This type of encryption prevents someone without the password from adding, moving, deleting, renaming or hiding anything on the worksheets. It is worth noting however that this password only protects the structure of the sheet, not the content in the cells.

Sheet Password - This password prevents those without it from changing the worksheet in any way. You can edit a specific section of the sheet but not the entire sheet.

With these different encryption protections in mind, let's see how to unprotect the Excel file.

2. Unprotect Excel Document to Open without Password - 2 Ways

If you don't know the password used to encrypt the document, you may need to recover the password first before you can use it to unprotect the Excel file. Here are 2 methods you can follow to recover Excel password.

2.1 Using 3rd-Party Software

Passper for Excel is a simple to use and highly effective program that can help you unprotect Excel file without password. Some of the features that make Passper the ideal tool to help you recover the password include the following:

  • It can help you recover the password to unprotect Excel document if you can't open the password protected Excel document.

  • It can also help you remove any restrictions on an Excel sheet and workbook, making it editable with 100% removal rate.

  • It uses 4 different password attack methods, each one is designed to help you recover the password under different circumstances, making it one of the most effective password recovery tools regardless of the complexity of the password.

  • It is also very easy to use, a simple three-step process helps you recover the password and unprotect the Excel document.

media sites

Free Downloadfor Win 10/8/7/XP/Vista

Here's how you can use Passper for Excel to recover a password and then use it to unprotect the Excel file to open:

Step 1: Download and install Passper for Excel on to your computer. Launch the program and on the main window, click on "Recover Passwords".

recover password step1

Step 2: Now click on "Add" to browse your computer for the password protected Excel document and open it in Passper for Excel. With the document open in the program, you should see 4 attack modes in the same window. Select the most appropriate attack mode based on how much information you have about the potential password.

choose attack type excel

Step 3: The program will immediately begin the process of recovering the password. When this is done, you should see the recovered password displayed on the screen.

recover password

Simply, open the file in Excel and enter the recovered password to unlock it.

2.2 Unprotect Excel File Online

There are a variety of online tools that you can use to unprotect a protected Excel document. While most of them will work, they may only be useful to you if you have a stable network connection. Plus many of them are not safe since you don't know what they do with the file on their server once you have unlocked the document. But if you want a quick fix, here's how to use an online tool to unlock an Excel file:

Step 1: Go to to access the online tool.

Step 2: You should see "Drop file to upload or click here". Simply drag and drop the protected file on to the designated space or click to search for the file.

unprotect excel file online

Step 3: The online tool will begin the recovery process immediately after the document is added. The recovered password will be displayed on the window once the process is complete.

Use the recovered password to unlock the password protected excel document.

3. How to Unprotect Excel Sheet/Workbook to Modify - 4 Ways

If you can open the Excel document, but there are restrictions keeping you from accessing certain portions of the document, try the following solutions.

3.1 Using the Software

As we have already mentioned before, Passper for Excel can also help you lift these restrictions. Here's how to use it:

Free Downloadfor Win 10/8/7/XP/Vista

Step 1: Open Passper for Excel on your computer and in the main window, select "Remove Restrictions".

remove restrictions step1

Step 2: Click "Add" to import the Excel document with the restrictions into the program.

remove restrictions step2

Step 3: Click "Remove" and Passper for Excel will remove all restrictions, allowing you to edit the document.

remove restrictions step3

Here is one of our purchased user's comment on Passper for Excel:

user feedback

3.2 Via VBA Code

If you would rather not use a program to remove restrictions, you can use VBA code. It is free and can be very effective. Here's how to do it:

Step 1: Open Excel and then hit Alt + F11 on your keyboard to access the macro editor of the program.

Step 2: Now double click on the sheet you would like to unprotect from those listed on the left. The general code of that particular sheet will be displayed on the box to the right.

macro editor

Step 3: Now copy and paste the following code into the general declarations page;

vna code

Step 4: Press F5 on your keyboard to run the code. You can also click on "Run > Run Macro" to execute.

run macro in excel

Step 5: You should then return to the worksheet you want to unprotect and a popup should appear with a password. Click "OK" to unlock the worksheet.

3.3 Changing File Extension

You can also simply unprotect the password protected worksheet by changing its extension to .zip. The following is a step by step guide to help you do that.

Step 1: Begin by making a copy of the protected excel file on your computer.

Step 2: Now right-click on one of the Excel files and select "Rename". This will allow you to change the filename if you want but also change the file extension from .xlsx to .zip. Press "Enter" on your keyboard once you made this change.

change extension

Step 3: Extract the newly created .zip file using archiving software like WinZip. Find the folder named "xml" and open the file that appears in Notepad.

edit sheet file

Step 4: Locate the "sheetProtection" section in the text and delete everything from "SheetProtection" to the closed bracket. Save the document.

delete sheetprotection tag

Step 5: Now open the protected Excel document. If it opens successfully, it means that the password has been removed. If you see an error, however, you may have deleted more of the code than you needed to. Simply repeat the process and see if it works.

3.4 Uploading to Google Sheets

If you are a computer novice and do not want to use any software, uploading your protected Excel file to Google Sheets is a wonderful way for you.

Step 1: Sign in your Google Account. Click on the "New" button at the top-left corner of the page.

Step 2: Choose "File upload" option from the list. It will pop up a window and you can select your protected Excel file and click "Open" to upload it.

upload files to google drive

Step 3: After uploading, double click the Excel file to open it. You will find that the file is opened in Google Sheets and you can edit it now.

Step 4: Now, you can directly edit your Excel sheet on Google or you can download it to your computer.

4. How to Unprotect Excel File with Known Password

If you know the password used to encrypt the document, then follow these simple steps to enter the password and unlock the document:

Step 1: Double-click on the Excel document to open it.

Step 2: A popup will appear on the screen, requesting you to enter the password to unlock the protected document. If you know the password, all you have to do is enter the password in the field provided and click "OK".

password protected excel

Each of the numerous options above can help you unprotect Excel document and Excel Worksheet, and each one is effective in its own way. Let us know which method works best for you.


By Ronnie Barnes to Excel

Posted on May 16, 2019 ( Updated: Dec 02, 2019 )

Ronnie Barnes, a blogger with more than 5-year experience in writing tips about password recovery for Windows and office files.