Microsoft Excel logo on a green background

When you’re working on a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel, locking your cells is crucial to protecting data, preventing mistakes, and more. Today, we’ll show you how to do it.

Why Lock Cells in a Spreadsheet?

If you collaborate with others on a workbook, you might want to protect a cell by locking—especially if you want to make any changes or adjustments later. Locked cells can’t be reformatted, altered, or deleted. Locking cells works in conjunction with protecting the workbook. To change data within the cells, they need to be unlocked, and the sheet must be unprotected.

Locking Cells in an Excel Spreadsheet

You can lock individual cells or multiple cells using this method. Here’s how to do it with multiple cells.

In a new or existing Microsoft Excel document, select the cell or cell range you wish to lock. The cells you selected appear slightly shaded, indicating they’re going to be locked.

In a new or existing Microsoft Excel document, select the cell or cell range you wish to lock.

In the “Home” tab on the ribbon, select “Format.”

In the "Home" tab on the ribbon, select "Format" to open the formatting menu.

In the “Format” menu, select “Lock Cell.” Doing so will lock any of the cells you selected.

In the "Format" menu, select "Lock Cell" to lock the cells you previously selected.

An alternative way to lock cells is to select your cells, then right-click them to bring up a menu. In that menu, select “Format Cells.” In the “Format Cells” box, click the “Protection” tab.

In the “Protection” tab, click the checkbox that says “Locked” to enable cell locking. This performs the exact same function as locking cells in the format tab.

After that, your cells are locked. If you ever need to unlock them, perform the steps above in reverse. Once you’ve finished locking your cells, you need to protect your workbook.

Protecting the Sheet

After you lock the cell, you’ll notice that it still lets you change the text or delete content. That’s because, in order for locking cells to work, you must also protect your sheet or workbook. Here’s how. In the Excel ribbon toolbar, click “Review.”

In the ribbon under the “Review” tab, select “Protect Sheet.”

In the “Protect Sheet” menu, you can create a password to protect the sheet and select a number of different parameters. For now, check the box marked “Protect worksheet and contents of locked cells.” Make any other adjustments you wish and click “OK” to protect the sheet.

Among the other options on the list, you can prevent other users from deleting/inserting rows and columns, altering the formatting, or generally messing with the document by clicking on them in the protection menu. Once the sheet is fully protected, no one can access the locked cells without using a password to unlock them first.

If you need to unlock the worksheet later, revisit the Review > Protect Sheet menu and uncheck “Protect worksheet and contents of locked cells.” Now that you know how to lock cells, you can sleep safely knowing your spreadsheets and workbooks won’t be altered without being unlocked first. Happy locking!

RELATED: How to Protect Workbooks, Worksheets, and Cells From Editing in Microsoft Excel

Profile Photo for David Buck David Buck
David Buck is a writer, musician, and former radio/TV guy. His work has appeared on Nerdvana Media, Tedium, The Nintendo Times, Star, EN World, SyFy Wire, Today I Found Out, How-To Geek, YouTube, and across the web. He attempts to play guitar, loves retro video games, and writes science fiction drabbles in his spare time. He lives in Colorado with his family.
Read Full Bio »