How to remove read-only protection from an Excel document

If you are trying to make changes to an Excel file and encounter an error message that says the file is marked as read-only, there are several ways to bypass this restriction. Marking a file as read-only is useful when you want to send the file to colleagues or friends and prevent any changes to its contents, but in some cases, it is an obstacle. The procedure for resolving the problem in Microsoft Excel read-only depends on how the file was made read-only, but in all cases it is simple.

What causes an Excel document to be read-only?

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One reason your Excel document is read-only is that it has been marked as final by the editor. In this case, the message “Marked as Final” should appear at the top of the document.

Once a document has been marked as final, it is virtually impossible to make changes to it. In this state, the document cannot be typed, edited, or even viewed. However, you can easily delete it. Simply click the “Edit Anyway” button at the bottom of the message, and you can unprotect it in Excel.

Another situation where you know an Excel document is in read-only mode is when it prompts you to open the document in read-only mode if you don’t want to make changes to it. If you don’t want to make any changes to the document, just click “Yes.” And if you want to edit the document, just click “No” to open it.

There can be several reasons why you can’t access an Excel document, but one of the most common is when the document is marked as “final.”

To solve the problem with reading an Excel document

Disable recommended read-only files in Excel

When a colleague or co-worker sends you a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and a pop-up asks if you want to open it in “read-only” mode, this mode is called “recommended read-only” and is relatively easy to bypass. Here’s how:

  1. Select No when prompted to open an Excel spreadsheet in read-only mode.
  2. Select “File,” then “Save As” and “Browse.”
  3. At the bottom of the Save As menu, click Tools and choose General Options.
  4. Under General, locate and uncheck the Recommended read-only box.
  5. Click OK and finish saving the document.

Now, when you open the file again, write protection is disabled. This method works in all versions of Microsoft Excel from 2003 through 2016 for all spreadsheets of this type. Final versions of the files require a different method.

How do I disable read-only files marked as final in Excel?

When an Excel spreadsheet is marked as final, it should not be modified, which means that commands, input characters, and correction characters are disabled. These files are indicated by the Mark as Final message that appears at the top of the spreadsheet.

To disable this feature, select the “Change Forever” option in the Marked as Final notification bar. This will disable read-only mode and allow you to continue editing.

Unlocking password-protected, read-only Excel files

Sometimes the Excel workbook you are trying to open is password protected. In this case, when you open the workbook, a window will appear with a warning and an option to enter a password. Without a password, you won’t be able to edit the file in question. Here’s a workaround:

  1. When the password dialog box appears, select the “read-only” option that is open.
  2. Go to “File” and select Save As, then “Browse”.
  3. From there, click Tools, and then click General Settings.
  4. Delete the entry in the Password field that you want to change and click OK.
  5. Open a new Excel file instead of the old one.

To completely remove your password, you can download a third-party utility, but it’s not very secure, especially if you’re trying to crack the password of someone other than yourself. Instead, ask the person who sent you the document for the version that can be changed.

Unlocking a locked Excel file on a Mac

Chances are that your Excel document is locked by the attributes of the file itself, not that Excel is read-only. The operating system you’re working on has locked the document so that only its owner can edit it. If this is the case, you must unlock it directly on your computer. If you’re working on a Mac, unlock it by following these steps:

  1. Go to the Finder on your Mac and find the Excel file you want to edit.
  2. Select the file and right-click it or go to the File top menu.
  3. Click Get Information.
  4. Uncheck the “Locked in this box” box.
  5. Open the file again, it should be edited.

Unlocking an Excel file with sharing and permissions on a Mac

If you are trying to unlock a document in read-only mode and can’t, you may not have permission to edit the document. On a Mac, you can create a document so that only the owner, creator, and authorized persons can unlock it. To unlock a file in this scenario, you must update the rights of the original creator to edit that file.

If you submit your own Excel document, you can lock it by changing the permissions of the people you send it to. You lock it through “Sharing and Permissions,” which is at the bottom of the “Get Info” section. This is your name, the names of your coworkers, and anyone else who has access to the file.

Each name in the list has drop-down permission, either read-only or read-write. You can change these permissions here.

Unlocking a locked Excel file on a PC

On a PC, the method for unlocking a read-only file on the computer itself, unlike Excel, is similar to the method used on a Mac. To do this:

  1. In Explorer, locate the appropriate Excel file.
  2. Right-click on the Excel file you want to edit.
  3. Select Properties.
  4. Go to the bottom of the General tab.
  5. Uncheck the Read-Only box.
  6. Click OK to complete the operation.

You can also change the permissions for who can edit the Excel file from your PC, just like you do on a Mac. To do this, go back to the file properties panel and this time go to the Security tab.

Here you can see the groups or user names that have access to the file. Change their access rights by clicking Edit under the list of user names. As long as you own the file, you can change the permissions of any group or username, including making the file read-only.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Right-click the file or folder icon.
  2. Uncheck the Read-Only box in the File Properties dialog box. The attributes are located at the bottom of the General tab.
  3. Click OK.

  1. Right-click on the Excel file in File Explorer and select Properties.
  2. In the new window, find the Attributes section.
  3. Find the Read-Only option and uncheck it if it's present.
  4. Click "Apply" and then "OK."

Excel spreadsheets may be read-only because of their location. If the spreadsheet is in a network folder and you do not have the appropriate network permissions to make changes to that folder, the spreadsheet is read-only. Spreadsheets sent as email attachments and previewed in an email program are also read-only.

  1. Write down the file path and file name.
  2. Hold down the Windows key and press "R" to bring up the Run dialog box.
  3. Type "MMC" and press "Enter" to bring up the Microsoft Management Console.
  4. Choose File -> Add/Remove Snap-in.

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Mark Ginter is a tech blogger with a passion for all things gadgets and gizmos. A self-proclaimed "geek", Mark has been blogging about technology for over 15 years. His blog,, covers a wide range of topics including new product releases, industry news, and tips and tricks for getting the most out of your devices. If you're looking for someone who can keep you up-to-date with all the latest tech news and developments, then be sure to follow him over at Microsoft.