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Unlocking a Worksheet with an Unknown Password

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Unlocking a Worksheet with an Unknown Password.

Dennis has a travel expense worksheet that he has inherited; it has been passed down within his organization for years. Some of the cells in the worksheet need to be unlocked so that Dennis can correct the outdated formulas they contain. There is the problem, though: The worksheet is locked, and changing the formulas is not permitted because of the protection. Dennis wants to know how he can unprotect the worksheet so he can make the necessary changes.

Depending on the way that the worksheet was protected, you may be able to simply copy the worksheet contents to a new worksheet. Follow these steps:

  1. Create a new, blank worksheet. This can be in the current workbook or in a new workbook.
  2. Display the original worksheet that is protected. The first cell in the worksheet (A1) should be selected.
  3. Press Shift+Ctrl+End. Excel should select all the used cells in the worksheet. (If it doesn't, hold down the Shift key and press the arrow keys until you have selected all the worksheet cells.)
  4. Press Ctrl+C. This copies the selected cells to the Clipboard.
  5. Display the new, blank worksheet you created in step 1. Cell A1 should be selected.
  6. Press Ctrl+V. Excel pastes the contents of the Clipboard to the new worksheet.

The new worksheet can be changed in any way you need. If the old worksheet has links to other worksheets, you may need to copy those separately or establish those links manually. You will also need to adjust row heights and column widths, as necessary, to match the old worksheet.

If the above doesn't work, for some reason, you will need to actually try to crack the worksheet password. There are macros available, on the Internet, that will remove or identify any internal passwords, such as those used to protect a worksheet. If you do a search for "Excel password cracker" or something similar, you will find lots of candidates. The problem is that you'll also get lots of search results for programs that remove workbook passwords—something you don't need for this particular purpose.

Let me save you some trouble, however. There is a perfectly good internal password remover that is available at this page:


The page explains the macro (which is rather long) and even provides a download you can use, if desired.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2776) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Unlocking a Worksheet with an Unknown Password.

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Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!


Comments for this tip:

William Gendri    28 Sep 2015, 04:05
Thank you so much , for the information. the remove password works like a charm !
Hans    25 Sep 2015, 01:05
What can I say other than THANK YOU.
also to McGimpsey who kindly provides this Excel Add-In.
I can't understand why WOT (Web-of-Trust) bans the site at McGimpsey.
Colleen    15 Sep 2015, 12:28
I had a complicated Excel file come to me that needed some formatting changes and text updates. It was password protected, and I couldn't even select all the cells to be able to copy and paste. Fortunately, you came to my rescue!! Your macro worked perfectly. Saved me from hours of recreating the spreadsheet! Thank you.
Michael    28 Aug 2015, 06:11
The provided link worked like promoted (even on MAC) and just saved me a lot of copy and past work! Thank you Allen for the post and McGimpsey for the macro.

Off to do some actual work now ;)
mrstable    18 Jul 2015, 10:09
Help needed pls. I Hit Alt+F11 to view the Visual Basic Editor, I Hit Insert but no option was clickable including the module. so I can't hav access to where i wil paste the code. help pls...
Petros    14 May 2015, 05:04
The VBA code won't work if the sheets are protected in Excel 2013 or 2016 preview

Karicula    13 May 2015, 17:56
That was amazing - the VBA code worked perfectly the very first time to remove the password and took about 2 seconds.

Dave Tufte    07 Jan 2015, 16:45
I'm seconding Donald's post from December 23 about allInternalPasswords no longer working.

I'm running Excel 2013 in Windows 8.1.

I am getting this error even when all macros are enabled.

It's a pity. I teach a spreadsheet engineering class for MBAs. Most of the students end up as the Excel jock where they work, and this macro has been part of the toolkit I pass on to them for many years.
Gaya Prasad    05 Jan 2015, 05:53
Hi Dear,
 How protect formula that not show ant not copy formula
Donald    23 Dec 2014, 13:15
My apologies. I figured out my mistake in my execution of the macro. It worked GREAT!! Thanks!
Donald    23 Dec 2014, 13:07
I downloaded the workbook. Opened up the file in the new workbook. Went to add ins and then selected the macro. I received the following message. "Cannot run the macro "allinternalpasswords.xls!Allinternalpasswords. The macro may not be available in this workbook or all macros may be disabled." What do you suggest?
dave    15 Dec 2014, 10:44
When I CUT & PASTE from one worksheet to another the new, pasted version is numbers only, not formulae. This would be of no help in the present case of attempting to unlock formulae.

To copy formulae,on the original spread sheet I press CTRL~. (Tilde [~] is to the left of the number 1 at the top of the keyboard. Do CTRL~, not CTRL-SHIFT~.) This reveals formulae. COPY this spreadsheet. In the new workbook, PASTE SPECIAL/TEXT. That preserves the forumulae.
venkat    15 Dec 2014, 00:49
Thanks lot, it works nice. Grate job done.
Petros    27 Nov 2014, 05:02
Farhan Naseem Siddiqui    27 Nov 2014, 01:59
Wow you are superb... ! Greatyyy
Sarbabhowma.mondal    03 Jul 2014, 05:34
how to unlock excel password properly?
Matt Cotton    30 Sep 2013, 10:42
It could have been a LITTLE less confusing:
Follow the link above, check.
Download the workbook, check.
Open the workbook you want to unprotect, check.
Go to "addins" and click on "remove passwords", check.
Click "okay" through the pop up boxes.
Presto, all protection and passwords are removed, and it even tells you what (the derived) passwords are.
Makien    07 May 2013, 06:16
worked perfectly

Many Thanks
Julie Gervais    07 Apr 2013, 12:26
Thank you for a macro that was simple to use and worked the first time. I had tried several other programs that did not deliver as promised. There was a protected hidden sheet in a personal workbook I use and I needed to remove it from the workbook. This was the most simple method and I wish I had found it the first time I tried to remove the protected sheet. I simply copy and pasted the macro into my workbook, removed unnecessary script and voila! it worked.
Patrick    24 Oct 2012, 12:30
I had to use the hack and it worked. This is what happened. Running Office 2010. Have many spreadsheets opened. Opened a spreadsheet from customer (created in older version) with macros and protection, updated it and saved it. Closed out, the first sheet open after the protected one inherited the protection. Not the first time this has happened, nor does it happen all the time. I'll have to see if I can recreate it and post exactly when it happens. This was the fourth time, and the first time I found your site with the hack which worked. Thank you
Karen Crouch    16 Oct 2012, 10:41
when you go into the new sheet you could also do Paste Special to paste the column widths so you don't need to manually go and change them all.
Unfortunately there is now row height paste :-(

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