Excel Read Only: All You Need to Know

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

  • Go to File>> Info>> Protect Workbook>> Always Open Read-Only.

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

  • 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

Use the ‘Open as Read-Only’ feature to make our Excel file read-only.

Method 2 – Use General Options to Make 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

  • Go to Save As>> Browse.

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

  • A dialog box named Save As will open up.
  • Click on Tools>> select General Options from the drop-down.

6- selecting general options under tools section

  • Set a password to open the file.
  • Set another password to modify the file. We have entered 12345 in both fields.
  • Click OK.

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

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

8- re-entering password to proceed

  • 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 read-only, 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

  • Ask for the password to modify.
  • Give the password and click Read Only.

11- giving password to modify and clicking read only option

Use general options to make our Excel file read-only with a password.

Method 3 – Make Excel Workbook Read Only Using Mark as Final Option

  • Go to File>> Info>> Protect Workbook>> Mark as Final.

12- selecting mark as final option from protect workbook section

  • 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

  • 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.
  • Hit OK to proceed.

14- clicking ok in the warning box to proceed further

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

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

Make an Excel workbook read-only by using the “Mark as Final” option.

Method 4 – Open Workbook as Read-Only Using VBA

  • Press ALT + F11 on your keyboard to open Visual Basic.
  • 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
  • Close the Module window.
  • 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

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

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

  • You will see that the file is now open as read-only.
  • We can open a workbook as read-only using the VBA macro.

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

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

  • 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

  • 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

  • A PDF file will be created like the below image.

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

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.

How to Make a Cell Read-Only in Excel

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

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

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

22- unmarking locked option under protection tab

  • Go to the Excel file again, and select the cell which you want to make read-only. It is cell B5.

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

  • Go to the “Format Cells” option again.
  • Mark the box next to the Locked option and click OK.

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

  • 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

  • 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

You can make a cell read-only.

How to 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

  • 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.
  • 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.

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

  • 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

Download Practice Workbook

You can download the practice workbook from here:

The password for the file is- 12345.

<< Go Back to Protect Workbook in Excel | Excel Protect | Learn Excel

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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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