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How to Secure an Excel File via Password Before Sharing It

Kison Patel
Kison Patel

Kison Patel is the Founder and CEO of DealRoom, a Chicago-based diligence management software that uses Agile principles to innovate and modernize the finance industry. As a former M&A advisor with over a decade of experience, Kison developed DealRoom after seeing first hand a number of deep-seated, industry-wide structural issues and inefficiencies.

CEO and Founder of M&A Science and FirmRoom

If you are planning on sharing Excel files, an important feature to consider is the ability to secure files with password protection.

Password Protecting an Excel File

There are a few different methods of password protecting an Excel file, depending on the level of protection that you are aiming for.

To protect a file: 

  1. Select file -> info. 
  2. Select the “Protect workbook” box and choose “Encrypt with Password.”
  3. Enter a password in the password box, and then select “Ok.” 
  4. Confirm the password in the “Re-enter password” box, and then select “Ok.”
Password Protecting an Excel File

To require a password to open or modify a workbook: 

  1. Open the sheet or workbook that you would like to protect. 
  2. On the review tab, click “Protect sheet” or “Protect workbook.” 
  3. In the password box, type a password, and in the verify box, type the password again. 
  4. Choose any other protection options that you would like and click “Ok.” 
  5. Click “Save.”
 require a password to open or modify a workbook

Levels of Protection

Levels of protection vary from the file level, the workbook level, and the worksheet level. 

1. File level - This protection measure allows password protection of files so that users are unable to open or modify them.

  1. File encryption - A password requirement in order to open an Excel file.  
  2. Setting a password to open or modify a file - Users are able to open the file without a password, but must enter a password to edit.
  3. Mark as final - Prevents further changes by other users.  
  4. Restrict access - Application of Information Rights Management (IRM) permissions to documents, if allowed by the organization. 
  5. Digital signature - Addition of a digital signature backed by a certificate to provide proof of identity. 

2. Workbook level - This allows the workbook structure to be locked with the use of a password to prevent other users from adding, moving, deleting, hiding, and renaming worksheets. 

3. Worksheet level - This allows specific permissions for users within worksheets in order to ensure that none of the important data in your worksheet are affected. 

Does a Password Secure My Excel Files?

Adding a password to an Excel file provides an additional security measure to protect your work, whether to prevent someone from opening a workbook without a password, granting read-only access to a workbook, or to protect a worksheet so as not to inadvertently delete formulas or data.

It limits access for recipients of the file, while maintaining some control for the sender, as once an Excel file is sent to one recipient, it can end up anywhere.

On the other hand, adding a password does not limit where the file itself is sent, and a password can easily be unencrypted.

Also, it is necessary to make sure that you remember the password, as it cannot be retrieved. Use of a password does not mean that your Excel file is necessarily secure, and Microsoft discourages the distribution of Excel workbooks containing personal information.

Further, worksheet level protection is not a security feature; its purpose is to prevent users from modifying locked cells within the worksheet, not from accessing and reading the data itself. 

How to Secure Your Excel Files via FirmRoom

Excel, as a platform, is not focused on file security, and does not allow the owner to see what happens to the file after it is distributed.

For sharing of non-confidential files, Excel works fine. On the other hand, virtual data rooms, such as FirmRoom, allow for enhanced security and other document sharing features.

Security is the top priority of VDRs, and FirmRoom offers industry-leading security features such as single-sign on, secure cloud infrastructure, and control of access, editing, and downloading of documents using permission settings and audit logs.

FirmRoom eliminates decentralization by allowing designation of one person (or admins) as the owner(s) of documents, and allows only specific access as granted by them. Further, with the smart analytics at FirmRoom, it is possible to track every step of progress, showing the activity of users in real time.

FirmRoom also contain advanced document management features and allow teams to not only store documents and files, but utilize in-text search, built-in document and Excel viewer, and various filters.

Further, it is possible to integrate communication channels such as Slack into FirmRoom for real time communication. 

But, don’t take our word for it: try for yourself and start your 30-day free trial right now!

Keep My Files Safe