Remove read-only in Excel files

An Excel file that’s not editable is easy to spot – as soon as you open the spreadsheet or workbook a message pops up to alert you that the file is read-only. Alternatively, you may find that you can’t edit or save the file as per usual. But Excel read-only is easy to remove – just like deactivating read-only in Word. In this guide, we’ll show you how to remove read-only from Excel if a) read-only is recommended for a file, b) the file is read-only and password-protected, c) a sheet or an entire workbook is protected, or d) the document has been marked as final.

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Why an Excel document may be read-only?

When the author of a document has activated read-only in Excel, it’s usually to prevent unauthorized changes to a spreadsheet’s data and content. Say you want to share the final version of a spreadsheet with colleagues or clients or include it in a report or presentation. In that case, it makes sense to activate read-only to prevent accidental or unauthorized changes.

Much like encrypting Excel files, read-only is useful to protect content from unapproved access and to prevent changes to data and complex formulas and links. Alternatively, you may want to prevent changes to an Excel file if you’ve finished editing the file. In that case, you can mark the document as “final”.


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How to remove read only in Excel: read only without password

When read is enabled but not password-protected, it acts as a recommendation. When users open a read-only Excel file, they’ll see the following message: “The author would like you to open ‘Filename’ as read-only unless you need to make changes. Open as read-only?”

To remove Excel read-only, you’ve got the following options:

  1. Click “Yes” to launch the file in read-only mode. You can still remove read-only by clicking on “Save As” > “Tools” > “General Options” and removing the checkmark next to “Read-only recommended”. Click “OK” and save the file as per usual.
  2. Click “No” to launch the file in normal mode and edit and save it as usual. The read-only recommendation will remain active until you remove the checkmark next to “Read-only recommended” in “Save As” > “Tools” > “General Options”.

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How do I remove read-only in Excel when a file is password-protected

It’s easy to recognize a password-protected read-only Excel file because a message will remind you that “‘Filename’ is reserved by…” and you’ll be prompted to enter the correct password.

To unlock a password-protected Excel file from read-only, you’ve got the following options:

  1. You know the password: Enter the correct password and click “OK”. Once you open the file, you can edit and save it. If you want to remove read-only from the Excel document, go to “Save As” > “Tools” > “General Options” and delete the password from the dialog window as well as the checkmark next to “Read-only recommended”.
  2. You don’t know the password: Open the read-only Excel document by clicking on “Read-Only”. Save the file using “Save As” and give it a different name. The newly saved file will no longer be password-protected. However, the read-only recommendation may still be active. You can remove it by deleting the checkmark next to “Read-only recommended” via “Save As” > “Tools” > “General Options”.

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“Protect Sheet” or “Protect Workbook” in Excel has been activated

If an Excel sheet or workbook has been protected, you’ll see the following message pop up when trying to modify the content of the sheet or workbook:

Usually, you’ll need a password to remove sheet or workbook protection. Go to “File” > “Info”. The option “Protect Workbook” will be activated and highlighted in yellow. Via “Unprotect Sheet” you can deactivate the Excel sheet protection once you’ve entered the password.

Excel document is marked as “final”

When an Excel document has been marked as “final”, a notification will pop up as soon as you open the file. This clearly states that processing of the document has been completed. Click on “OK”.

The status bar of the Excel spreadsheet will also display the message “MARKED AS FINAL” highlighted in yellow. Click “Edit Anyway” to edit the table and make the desired changes. You can then save the document as per usual.


Always monitor the integrity of your files. In addition to protecting your Excel and Word files, you can also encrypt PDFs and encrypt ZIP files. The PDF password can be removed just as easily.

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