How to Unlock An Excel Spreadsheet Instantly

People around the world use Microsoft Excel for different purposes, sometimes there is a need to set password protection for sensitive data. Password encryption allows prevention of unauthorized viewing, modification and deletion. It is nothing new to forget password, if you have done the same mistake and have been locked out of your file then keep on reading we will discuss some of the most used methods on how to unlock Excel spreadsheet and we have also recommended our personal favorite tool for unlocking purpose.

Option 1: Unlock Excel When You Know Password

If you know the password but not sure how to unlock Excel spreadsheet, then follow this step by step procedure to remove protection:

Steps for Excel 2010 and 2013, 2016, 2019

Step 1: Click "File" on the toolbar and then select "Open".

Step 2: Navigate and open the locked file.

unprotect excel 2016

Step 3: Select "Review" tab on the top ribbon and click "Unprotect Sheet".

Step 4: Enter password, file will be unlocked.

Steps for Excel 2003

Step 1: Click "File" on the toolbar and then select "Open".

Step 2: Navigate and open the locked file.

unprotect excel 2003

Step 3: Now select "Tools" drop-down menu and then select "Protection".

Step 4: Now, choose "Unprotect Worksheet", password will be prompted, simply enter it.

This method will unlock cells in Excel if you know the password, if you want to unlock the file without knowing the password then follow later solutions.

Option 2: Unlock Excel File When You Don't Know The Password

Solution 1: Unlock Excel File with PassFab for Excel (Strongly Recommended)

As one of the best Excel unlocking tools available, PassFab for Excel can unprotect your file by deciphering the password using Brute force attacks. Most interestingly it offers 3 different types of brute force attacks which can optimize your process with some parameters, this tool works for almost every version of Microsoft Excel file and supports for faster decryption. This is how you can use this program to unlock Excel file:

Step 1: Open the program. You will see below interface, choose "Recover Excel Open Password" if you want to unlock open pasword.

select file

Step 2. Now click "+" to import Excel spreadsheet whose password you want to recover.

select file

Step 3: There are 3 types of attack available, Brute force, Brute force with mask, Brute force with dictionary. Choose the attack type and set parameters accordingly.

Note: Dictionary Attack can be used when you already have a dictionary file, Brute force with Mask attack let you crack the password with whatever you remember, Brute force attack will try all the combinations to unlock the password.

dictionary attack

Step 4: Click "Recover" button, this will initiate brute force attack, it may take time according to password length and complexity.

recovering password

Step 5: Your password will be unlocked once the attack is complete and a window will pop up having the password.

password found

Tips: You can also use "Remove Excel Restriction Password" to unlock Excel spreadsheet modify password. Check out how to do that in this guide.

Solution 2. Unlock Excel Spreadsheet with ZIP Software

This method is very simple, all you need to do is remove a certain flag by opening and editing your Excel file through any ZIP compression software like 7-Zip and WinRAR. Follow the below instructions if you want to know how to unlock cells in Excel:

Important: You can't use this method if there's an open password in the Excel file. In that case, try to recover it using PassFab for Excel in solution1.

Step 1: Download and install ZIP supported compression program like 7-Zip, WinZIP or PKZIP.

Step 2: Open the Excel file using 7-Zip, you can do that by right clicking the file and opening it with 7-Zip program, you will see several files and folders.

open with 7zip

Step 3: Now find "xl" folder and then open "worksheets", then right click on your locked spreadsheet and select "Edit", this will open the file in notepad or any other editor you have installed.

edit excel

Step 4: Find and remove this tag completely and close the editor: <sheetProtection... />.

delete tag

Step 5: 7-Zip will prompt to replace the existing XML file, select "Yes" to save modified version of Excel file.

Step 6: Now open the Excel file, your password will be removed.

Solution 3: Unlock Excel Spreadsheet via VBA Code

This method unlocks your Excel file by executing a chunk of VBA code, the only downside to this solution is that it doesn’t work with latest versions of Microsoft Excel.

Important: You can't use this method if there's an open password in the Excel file. In that case, you can recover Excel open password via PassFab for Excel in solution1.

Step 1: Open your protected worksheet in Microsoft Excel like any normal file.

open vb

Step 2: Hold down "ALT+F11", it will open Microsoft Visual Basic for Application window interface.

open vb

Step 3: Click "Insert > Module" and then paste the below code in the Module Window, this code will be used to unlock the Excel file.

Sub PasswordRecovery()
Dim i As Integer, j As Integer, k As Integer
Dim l As Integer, m As Integer, n As Integer
Dim i1 As Integer, i2 As Integer, i3 As Integer
Dim i4 As Integer, i5 As Integer, i6 As Integer
On Error Resume Next
For i = 65 To 66: For j = 65 To 66: For k = 65 To 66
For l = 65 To 66: For m = 65 To 66: For i1 = 65 To 66
For i2 = 65 To 66: For i3 = 65 To 66: For i4 = 65 To 66
For i5 = 65 To 66: For i6 = 65 To 66: For n = 32 To 126
ActiveSheet.Unprotect Chr(i) & Chr(j) & Chr(k) & _
Chr(l) & Chr(m) & Chr(i1) & Chr(i2) & Chr(i3) & _
Chr(i4) & Chr(i5) & Chr(i6) & Chr(n)
If ActiveSheet.ProtectContents = False Then
MsgBox "One usable password is " & Chr(i) & Chr(j) & _
Chr(k) & Chr(l) & Chr(m) & Chr(i1) & Chr(i2) & _
Chr(i3) & Chr(i4) & Chr(i5) & Chr(i6) & Chr(n)
Exit Sub
End If
Next: Next: Next: Next: Next: Next
Next: Next: Next: Next: Next: Next
End Sub
unlocked password

Step 4: Once pasted, click "F5" to execute this code, prompt screen will appear. Then click "OK" to close it and your password will be canceled shortly.

Solution 4: Unlock Excel Protection Using Free Online Excel Password Unlocker

This method involves use of online service to unlock password for your Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheet, it comes with own pros and cons. One of the main benefit of using this solution is that you will need very less time to open password with brute force attack because cloud will do all the computation.

There are number of online Excel password unlocking service available, you can use as you desire. However, the obvious disadvantage is that it can't recover Excel open password

Step 1: Visit http://password-find.com and click "Unprotect Your File" button.

online recovery open file

Step 2: Upload your Excel file and click next, your file will be unlocked shortly.

online recovery next

Wrap It Up

These were some of the best methods you can use to unlock your Excel workbooks and spreadsheets, we introduced simple tricks like using ZIP and VBA code, we have also explained how you can use an online service for password decryption and at last we have recommended our personal favorite offline Excel password recovery tool to bypass forgotten password on your Microsoft Office Excel file.

Updated on / Posted by Shirley Howard to Excel Tips / Follow @Shirley Howard

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