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Stopping the Deletion of Cells

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: Stopping the Deletion of Cells.

Vilas knows that he can protect a worksheet so that users cannot delete cells. However, he has a need to prevent the deletion of cells without using worksheet protection. (Vilas is not talking about the clearing of cell contents, but the actual deletion of cells so that surrounding cells must move left or move up.) He wonders if there is a way to prevent a user from deleting cells, without protecting the worksheet.

There is no direct way to do this in Excel. It would be nice if Excel provided a way to create an event handler that was called whenever a cell was deleted, but it does not. (The Worksheet_Change event is apparently triggered whenever the contents of a cell are changed, but not when a cell is entirely deleted.) Because of this, using a macro to protect your cells from being deleted is not the way to go.

The best solution we've been able to find involves taking advantage of a quirk in how Excel handles array formulas. For the sake of example, let's assume that you have data in the range A1:L37, and you don't want any cells within this range to be deleted. Follow these general steps:

  1. Select the range of cells just to the right of your block you want to protect. In this case, select cells M1:M37.
  2. Type ="" and press Shift+Ctrl+Enter. You've now created a do-nothing array formula that takes the entire range of M1:M37.
  3. Select the range of cells just beneath the block of cells you want to protect. In this case, select cells A38:L38.
  4. Type ="" and press Shift+Ctrl+Enter. You've now created a do-nothing array formula that takes the entire range of A38:L38.

At this point you cannot delete any cell within the data block (A1:L37), nor can you delete any row 1 through 37 or any column A through L. Whenever you try, Excel displays a message that says "You cannot change part of an array." The only way to delete cells, rows, or columns within the data block is to first get rid of the array formulas that would be affected. In other words, you would need to delete column M or row 38 first.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (10255) 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: Stopping the Deletion of Cells.

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Comments for this tip:

Teresa    22 Sep 2016, 16:44
I applied this array and now all users are hampered by the fact they cannot SORT data. They can filter it but not sort it.
Is there a way to allow sorting w/out removing the array that prevents deletion of rows/columns/cells?
Or another method to prevent deletion of rows/columns/cells without protecting the document?

SOne    24 May 2016, 02:23
This seems like a useful workaround, if sheet protection is undesireable and you have the available space.

Are there any similar workarounds or methods to prevent clearing a cell or range of cells, when sheet protection is disabled?

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