Password protection at the file level is an important step to protecting confidential and proprietary data. Password protecting an Excel workbook at the file level controls access in two ways: It lets a user in, and it lets a user save changes.

To get started, open Office 365 Excel desktop app. You can’t add a password to a file open in the browser, nor can you open it in the browser.

The first step is to assign a password:

  1. From the File menu, choose Save As.
  2. Under the name and type controls, click More options.
  3. In the resulting Save As dialog, click the Tools dropdown (to the left of the Save button) and choose General Options.
  4. In the resulting dialog box you can set two passwords: One to open the workbook and one to modify the workbook. Advanced options let you set encryption options.
  5. Enter one or both passwords and click OK.
  6. Confirm the password(s) and click OK.
  7. Click Save.

If a user doesn’t know the password, they can’t open the file. A user that knows this password has access to all the data and can modify the data once in.

By assigning the second password, you allow users to open the workbook and view the data while withholding permission to modify anything. A user who knows this password can view and modify data and also save changes to the workbook.

 Before you start password protecting all your workbooks, there are three important things to keep in mind:

  1. Anyone with the password to modify the workbook can also remove the password protection.
  2. Use a long, memorable passphrase.
  3. Be sure to note the password in your password manager.

Excel’s password protection is easy to implement and adds a layer of security to confidential workbooks, but don’t rely solely on it to secure sensitive data.

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