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: Protecting Your Conditional Formatting Rules.

Protecting Your Conditional Formatting Rules

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 6, 2015)


Larry wrote about a problem he was encountering with protecting a worksheet he developed. He has cells that contain both formulas and conditional formatting. He can protect both of them in a worksheet, but if someone selects a cell and copies it to another worksheet, the conditional formatting is visible.

When you copy a protected cell from one sheet to another, if the formulas in the source cell were hidden in the protection process, then the results of the formulas are pasted, unprotected, into the target cells. This is probably no big deal, as you wanted the formulas—not the results—protected.

Excel is not as protective about conditional formats, however. The conditional formats of the cells that you paste, since they are in an unprotected worksheet, can be viewed and modified, as desired. This can be a problem if the conditional formats contain formulas that you want to also keep private.

The only way around this problem is to disable the ability to copy anything from your protected worksheet. You do this through the use of a macro, added to the worksheet object, that would disable copying.

Private Sub Worksheet_Deactivate()
    Application.CutCopyMode = False
End Sub

This macro works because anytime the worksheet is deactivated (meaning, the target worksheet is selected), then CutCopyMode is set to False. This results in the "marching ants" that appeared around the source cells when the user pressed Ctrl+C being removed, and pasting therefore no longer possible. Copying and pasting on the same worksheet is still fine; just not to a different (unprotected) worksheet.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3301) 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: Protecting Your Conditional Formatting Rules.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is five more than 3?

2014-08-28 05:57:59


I'm pasted in Code window and click run but not working.

2011-11-21 11:35:00


My OS security settings are such that I am always asked if I want to allow activation of macros when I open a spreadsheet containing them. Would answering "no" negate this conditional formatting protection method?

Answer to gerdami's question: To prevent automated submissions and spam.

2011-11-19 05:59:21


Excellent tip that will give headaches to the user if he is not told about.
I will never use it but I like the explanation on how it works. Thanks.

Question: "why what is 2+3?" is always 5 ?

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