Excel Read Only (All You Need to Know)

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In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about Read-Only mode in Excel. Throughout this article, we will discuss 5 effective ways to make an Excel workbook Read-only. We can make the whole Excel file or some specific cell read-only.

When working with Microsoft Excel, we often have to make the workbook read-only to maintain data integrity. There are a number of simple methods available in Excel for performing this task. In order to make files read-only, we can choose from a variety of options.

Hope this article will help you to find out the ways of making an Excel file Read-only. So let’s get started!

1- overview image of Excel read only

Download Practice Workbook

You can download the practice workbook from here:

The password for the file is- 12345.

What Is Read-Only in Excel?

In Excel, Read-Only refers to a file or worksheet that may be opened and viewed but not changed or updated. Typically, when a workbook is opened in read-only mode, it is either password-protected or marked as read-only by the file system or user.

How to Make an Excel File Read Only

There are several ways to make an Excel file in read-only mode. To demonstrate all the possible ways, we have taken a dataset named SalesRecordOf2021 where there are 7 rows and 3 columns.

1. Use ‘Open as Read-Only’ Feature to Make Excel File Read Only

We can mark our Excel workbook as a Read-Only file. Thus, when someone else attempts to open the Excel file, it will primarily protect the workbook from editing.

  • First, go to File>> Info>> Protect Workbook>> Always Open Read-Only.

2- selecting Always Open Read-Only option from protect workbook section

  • This will shift the Excel workbook to Read-Only mode and if someone else will try to open the Excel file, it will show the following dialog box.
  • Click Yes to proceed with the Read-Only mode whereas selecting No will enable editing the workbook.

3- selecting yes no from read only dialog box to make an Excel file read only

Thus we can use the ‘Open as Read-Only’ feature to make our Excel file read-only.

2. Use General Options to Make Excel File Read Only

There is another option in Excel by which we can set passwords to make the Excel file read-only.

  • Click on the File tab.

4- selecting file tab to use general options to make Excel file read-only with password

  • Next, go to Save As>> Browse.

5- choosing browse option to use general options to make Excel file read-only with password

  • As a result, a dialog box named Save As will open up.
  • Now, click on Tools>> select General Options from the drop-down.

6- selecting general options under tools section

  • Now set a password to open the file.
  • After that, set another password to modify the file. We have entered 12345 in both fields.
  • Next, click OK.

7- entering passwords in the general options dialog box to make Excel file read-only

  • Then, re-enter the password to proceed and click OK.

8- re-entering password to proceed

  • Now, re-type the password to modify the file and click OK.

9- re-type the password to modify the file

  • The Excel file is now in read-only mode, so if we close the workbook and open it again, it will ask for the password.
  • Give the password to open the file.

10- giving password to open the Excel file

  • Next, it will ask for the password to modify.
  • Give the password and click Read Only.

11- giving password to modify and clicking read only option

Thus we can use general options to make our Excel file read-only with a password.

3. Make Excel Workbook Read Only Using Mark as Final Option

We can make an Excel worksheet read-only from alteration by identifying a version as a final copy. So, when someone opens the Excel file, they will get a warning message saying that it’s the final version and they shouldn’t make any changes to it. Follow the below steps:

  • First, go to File>> Info>> Protect Workbook>> Mark as Final.

12- selecting mark as final option from protect workbook section

  • Then, a small dialog box will appear. Just hit OK.

13- clicking ok after selecting mark as final option to make an Excel workbook read-only

  • As a result, Excel will automatically mark the Excel workbook as a final version.
  • Excel will display the following warning box if someone else attempts to open the workbook.
  • Just hit OK to proceed.

14- clicking ok in the warning box to proceed further

  • If you want to continue editing the worksheet, just click Edit Anyway.
  • Excel will then allow you to edit the workbook.

15- clicking edit anyway to continue editing the read-only worksheet

Thus we can make an Excel workbook read-only by using the “Mark as Final” option.

4. Open Workbook as Read-Only Using VBA

We can open an Excel workbook as read-only using the VBA macro. To know the whole procedure follow the below steps:

  • First, press ALT + F11 on your keyboard to open Visual Basic.
  • Then click Insert and select Module.
  • Insert the following code in the code editor.
Sub File_Open_Through_Dialog_Box()
Dim File_Explorer As Office.FileDialog
Dim selection_item As String
Set File_Explorer = Application.FileDialog(msoFileDialogFilePicker)
With File_Explorer
.Filters.Add "Excel File type", "*.xlsx?", 1
.Title = "Choose your file"
.AllowMultiSelect = False
.InitialFileName = "C:\Desktop"
If .Show = True Then
selection_item = .SelectedItems(1)
End If
Set book = Workbooks.Open(Filename:=selection_item, ReadOnly:=True)
End With
End Sub
  • Then close the Module window.
  • After that, go to View tab > Macros>> click on View Macros.

15.5- selecting view macros option to open workbook as read-only

  • After clicking View Macros, select the macro File_Open_Through_Dialog_Box and click Run.

16- selecting macro name

  • As a result, a dialog box will appear.
  • Select the file that we intend to open as a read-only and click Open.

16.5- selecting the specific file to open as read-only in Excel

  • After that, you will see that the file is now open as read-only.
  • Thus we can open a workbook as read-only using the VBA macro.

17- Excel file opened as read-only after running the VBA macro

Read More: [Solved]: All Excel Files Opening as Read Only

5. Convert an Excel File to a PDF to Make It Read Only

You can also protect an Excel spreadsheet by converting it into a PDF. In many cases, PDF files are more difficult to edit. As a result, we can prevent others from accessing our Excel dataset. Here are the steps you need to follow in order to convert an Excel spreadsheet to a PDF:

  • First, go to File>> Export>> select Create PDF/XPS.

18- selecting Create PDF or XPS from Export option to convert an Excel file to a PDF

  • Then give a file name and select Save as type to PDF.
  • Click Publish.

19- saving file as PDF to make an Excel file read-only

  • As a result, a PDF file will be created like the below image.

20- created new pdf file to make an Excel file read-only

As a result, users won’t be able to easily alter the file, and managing data will be more difficult. Thus we can convert an Excel spreadsheet to a PDF to make it read-only.

Read More: Make Excel Read Only With Password

How to Make a Cell Read-Only in Excel

In this method, we will lock the cells we want to make read-only then we will go to the “Protect Sheet” option to enable the protection. To demonstrate the steps, we have taken a dataset named SalesRecordOf2022 where there are 7 rows and 3 columns. Now follow the below steps:

  • Select all cells of the worksheet by clicking on the top left corner or pressing ‘Ctrl + A’.
  • Then right-click on your mouse and select Format Cells.

21-  selecting format cells to make a cell read-only in Excel

  • Now go to Protection>> unmark the box next to the Locked option>> then click OK.

22- unmarking locked option under protection tab

  • Now, go to the Excel file again, and select the cell which you want to make read-only. In our case, it is cell B5.

22.5- selecting the specific cell to make it read-only in Excel

  • Then go to the “Format Cells” option again.
  • And now mark the box next to the Locked option and click OK.

23-marking locked option under protection tab after selecting the specific cell

  • Now, go to the Review tab>> Protect drop-down list>>select Protect Sheet.
  • Enter the password and enable “Protect worksheet and contents of locked cells”.
  • Click OK.

24- entering password and enabling Protect worksheet and contents of locked cells

  • Re-enter the password to confirm and click OK.

25- confirming password to make specific cells read-only in Excel

  • As a result, if you want to make any changes in cell B5, Excel will show you the warning message like in the image below.

26- showed warning message in case of trying to edit anything in cell B5

Thus you can make a cell read-only.

How to Remove Read-Only From an Excel File

In this part, we will discuss how you can remove ‘Read-only’ from an Excel file.

1. Use of Edit Workbook Option

  • When a file is marked as final, a pop-up will appear.
  • To remove read-only, just click Edit Anyway.
  • Excel will then allow you to edit the workbook.

27- clicking edit anyway to remove the read-only from Excel worksheet

2. Remove ‘Read-Only’ Property from a Read-Only Excel file

You can remove ‘Read-only‘ from Excel file properties by following these steps:

  • Select the Excel ‘Read-only‘ file.
  • Right-click on the file and select Properties.

28- selecting properties option after right-clicking the read-only file

  • Tick the ‘Read-only‘ option from Attributes.
  • Then, click Apply>> OK.

29- selecting read-only option from Attributes to remove read-only property from a read-only Excel file

You can now open the file again and it will not have the “Read-Only” restriction.

Read More: Make a Cell in Excel Read Only

Benefits of Setting a File as Read Only

Setting a file to read-only has various advantages, including:

  • You can protect data privacy and accuracy by setting a file as read-only.
  • The read-only mode can prevent accidental modifications to a file.
  • It also can help to prevent unwanted people from opening a file.
  • The read-only mode can help to ensure that a file is always in a consistent state.
  • We need a read-only version for presentations or demonstrations so that the data and formatting remain unchanged, preventing accidental modifications during the presentation.

Drawbacks of Setting a File as Read Only

There are also some drawbacks to setting a file as read-only, including:

  • It can be hard to modify a file that is set to be read-only.
  • When a file is set to ‘read-only’, it can be hard to share it.
  • It can be hard to work together on a file that can only be read.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is my Excel file opening as Read-Only?

There are several reasons why a file may open as Read-Only. It could be due to file permissions set by the operating system, the file being marked as Read-Only, or the file being password-protected. Additionally, if the file is shared or being accessed from a network location, it may open in Read-Only mode to prevent conflicts.

2. How do I change a disk from read-only?

To change a disk from read-only to read-write, you can modify disk properties (windows). To do that:

  • Open File Explorer (Windows Explorer) by pressing Windows Key + E.
  • Right-click on the disk or drive you want to modify and select “Properties” from the context
  • In the Properties window, navigate to the “General” tab.
  • If the “Read-only” box is checked, uncheck it.
  • Click “Apply” and then “OK” to save the changes.

3. What is read only file system error?

Most of the time, you get the “Read-only file system” error when you try to change or write to a file system or storage device that is set to “read-only.” This error warning means that the operating system or the file system itself won’t let you write to the file system or object in question.

Key Takeaways from the Article

  • Throughout this article, we have discussed the different methods for making a workbook read-only.
  • First, we have discussed what it is a read-only mode.
  • Then we have discussed 5 different ways of making a file read-only.
  • We have also explained how to open a workbook using VBA macro.
  • Showed a step-by-step procedure of all methods.
  • Also showed how to make a cell read-only.
  • Explained two easy ways of removing read-only from a file.
  • Discussed some benefits and drawbacks of setting a file read-only.
  • Provide solutions to frequently asked questions by readers.

Excel Read Only: Knowledge Hub


This article covers every possible way to make an Excel workbook read-only with some easy ways. Don’t forget to download the practice file. We hope this was helpful. Please let us know in the comment section if you have any queries or suggestions. Please visit our website, ExcelDemy, a one-stop Excel solution provider, to explore more.

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Nujat Tasnim
Nujat Tasnim

Nujat Tasnim, BSc in Computer Science and Engineering from American International University-Bangladesh, has a year-long tenure with ExcelDemy. Initially a Content Developer at SOFTEKO, she transitioned to the Software Team as Junior Software Quality Assurance Engineer. Currently serving as a Junior SQA Engineer at SOFTEKO, she excels in SDLC, STLC, and requirement analysis and possesses profound insights into OOP-related software development processes. Nujat is also proficient in design software like Photoshop and Illustrator, contributing diverse skills to her... Read Full Bio

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