Protecting and unprotecting sheets is a common action for an Excel user. There is nothing worse than when somebody, who doesn’t know what they’re doing, overtypes essential formulas and cell values. It’s even worse when that person happens to be us; all it takes is one accidental keypress, and suddenly the entire worksheet is filled with errors. In this post, we explore using VBA to protect and unprotect sheets.
Protection is not foolproof but prevents accidental alteration by an unknowing user.
Sheet protection is particularly frustrating as it has to be applied one sheet at a time. If we only need to protect a single sheet, that’s fine. But if we have more than 5 sheets, it is going to take a while. This is why so many people turn to a VBA solution.
The VBA Code Snippets below show how to do most activities related to protecting and unprotecting sheets.
Download the example file: Click the link below to download the example file used for this post:
Adapting the code for your purposes
Unless stated otherwise, every example below is based on one specific worksheet. Each code includes Sheets(“Sheet1”)., this means the action will be applied to that specific sheet. For example, the following protects Sheet1.
But there are lots of ways to reference sheets for protecting or unprotecting. Therefore we can change the syntax to use one of the methods shown below.
Using the active sheet
The active sheet is whichever sheet is currently being used within the Excel window.
Applying a sheet to a variable
If we want to apply protection to a sheet stored as a variable, we could use the following.
Dim ws As Worksheet Set ws = Sheets("Sheet1") ws.Protect
Later in the post, we look at code examples to loop through each sheet and apply protection quickly.
Protect and unprotect: basic examples
Let’s begin with some simple examples to protect and unprotect sheets in Excel.
Protect a sheet without a password
Sub ProtectSheet() 'Protect a worksheet Sheets("Sheet1").Protect End Sub
Unprotect a sheet (no password)
Sub UnProtectSheet() 'Unprotect a worksheet Sheets("Sheet1").Unprotect End Sub
Protecting and unprotecting with a password
Adding a password to give an extra layer of protection is easy enough with VBA. The password in these examples is hardcoded into the macro; this may not be the best for your scenario. It may be better to apply using a string variable, or capturing user passwords with an InputBox.
VBA Protect sheet with password
Sub ProtectSheetWithPassword() 'Protect worksheet with a password Sheets("Sheet1").Protect Password:="myPassword" End Sub
VBA Unprotect sheet with a password
Sub UnProtectSheetWithPassword() 'Unprotect a worksheet with a password Sheets("Sheet1").Unprotect Password:="myPassword" End Sub
NOTE – It is not necessary to unprotect, then re-protect a sheet to change the settings. Instead, just protect again with the new settings.
Using a password based on user input
Using a password that is included in the code may partly defeat the benefit of having a password. Therefore, the codes in this section provide examples of using VBA to protect and unprotect based on user input. In both scenarios, clicking Cancel is equivalent to entering no password.
Protect with a user-input password
Sub ProtectSheetWithPasswordFromUser() 'Protect worksheet with a password Sheets("Sheet1").Protect Password:=InputBox("Enter a protection password:") End Sub
Unprotect with a user-input password
Sub UnProtectSheetWithPasswordFromUser() 'Protect worksheet with a password Sheets("Sheet1").Unprotect _ Password:=InputBox("Enter a protection password:") End Sub
Catching errors when incorrect password entered
If an incorrect password is provided, the following error message displays.
The code below catches the error and provides a custom message.
Sub CatchErrorForWrongPassword() 'Keep going even if error found On Error Resume Next 'Apply the wrong password Sheets("Sheet1").Unprotect Password:="incorrectPassword" 'Check if an error has occured If Err.Number <> 0 Then MsgBox "The Password Provided is incorrect" Exit Sub End If 'Reset to show normal error messages On Error GoTo 0 End Sub
If you forget a password, don’t worry, the protection is easy to remove.
Applying protection to different parts of the worksheet
VBA provides the ability to protect 3 aspects of the worksheet:
- Contents – what you see on the grid
- Objects – the shapes and charts which are on the face of the grid
- Scenarios – the scenarios contained in the What If Analysis section of the Ribbon
By default, the standard protect feature will apply all three types of protection at the same time. However, we can be specific about which elements of the worksheet are protected.
Sub ProtectSheetContents() 'Apply worksheet contents protection only Sheets("Sheet1").Protect Password:="myPassword", _ DrawingObjects:=False, _ Contents:=True, _ Scenarios:=False End Sub
Sub ProtectSheetObjects() 'Apply worksheet objects protection only Sheets("Sheet1").Protect Password:="myPassword", _ DrawingObjects:=True, _ Contents:=False, _ Scenarios:=False End Sub
Sub ProtectSheetScenarios() 'Apply worksheet scenario protection only Sheets("Sheet1").Protect Password:="myPassword", _ DrawingObjects:=False, _ Contents:=False, _ Scenarios:=True End Sub
Protect contents, objects and scenarios
Sub ProtectSheetAll() 'Apply worksheet protection to contents, objects and scenarios Sheets("Sheet1").Protect Password:="myPassword", _ DrawingObjects:=True, _ Contents:=True, _ Scenarios:=True End Sub
Applying protection to multiple sheets
As we have seen, protection is applied one sheet at a time. Therefore, looping is an excellent way to apply settings to a lot of sheets quickly. The examples in this section don’t just apply to Sheet1, as the previous examples have, but include all worksheets or all selected worksheets.
Protect all worksheets in the active workbook
Sub ProtectAllWorksheets() 'Create a variable to hold worksheets Dim ws As Worksheet 'Loop through each worksheet in the active workbook For Each ws In ActiveWorkbook.Worksheets 'Protect each worksheet ws.Protect Password:="myPassword" Next ws End Sub
Protect the selected sheets in the active workbook
Sub ProtectSelectedWorksheets() Dim ws As Worksheet Dim sheetArray As Variant 'Capture the selected sheets Set sheetArray = ActiveWindow.SelectedSheets 'Loop through each worksheet in the active workbook For Each ws In sheetArray On Error Resume Next 'Select the worksheet ws.Select 'Protect each worksheet ws.Protect Password:="myPassword" On Error GoTo 0 Next ws sheetArray.Select End Sub
Unprotect all sheets in active workbook
Sub UnprotectAllWorksheets() 'Create a variable to hold worksheets Dim ws As Worksheet 'Loop through each worksheet in the active workbook For Each ws In ActiveWorkbook.Worksheets 'Unprotect each worksheet ws.Unprotect Password:="myPassword" Next ws End Sub
Checking if a worksheet is protected
The codes in this section check if each type of protection has been applied.
Check if Sheet contents is protected
Sub CheckIfSheetContentsProtected() 'Check if worksheets contents is protected If Sheets("Sheet1").ProtectContents Then MsgBox "Protected Contents" End Sub
Check if Sheet objects are protected
Sub CheckIfSheetObjectsProtected() 'Check if worksheet objects are protected If Sheets("Sheet1").ProtectDrawingObjects Then MsgBox "Protected Objects" End Sub
Check if Sheet scenarios are protected
Sub CheckIfSheetScenariosProtected() 'Check if worksheet scenarios are protected If Sheets("Sheet1").ProtectScenarios Then MsgBox "Protected Scenarios" End Sub
Changing the locked or unlocked status of cells, objects and scenarios
When a sheet is protected, unlocked items can still be edited. The following codes demonstrate how to lock and unlock ranges, cells, charts, shapes and scenarios.
When the sheet is unprotected, the lock setting has no impact. Each object becomes locked on protection.
All the examples in this section set each object/item to lock when protected. To set as unlocked, change the value to False.
Lock a cell
Sub LockACell() 'Changing the options to lock or unlock cells Sheets("Sheet1").Range("A1").Locked = True End Sub
Lock all cells
Sub LockAllCells() 'Changing the options to lock or unlock cells all cells Sheets("Sheet1").Cells.Locked = True End Sub
Lock a chart
Sub LockAChart() 'Changing the options to lock or unlock charts Sheets("Sheet1").ChartObjects("Chart 1").Locked = True End Sub
Lock a shape
Sub LockAShape() 'Changing the option to lock or unlock shapes Sheets("Sheet1").Shapes("Rectangle 1").Locked = True End Sub
Lock a Scenario
Sub LockAScenario() 'Changing the option to lock or unlock a scenario Sheets("Sheet1").Scenarios("scenarioName").Locked = True End Sub
Allowing actions to be performed even when protected
Even when protected, we can allow specific operations, such as inserting rows, formatting cells, sorting, etc. These are the same options as found when manually protecting the sheet.
Allow sheet actions when protected
Sub AllowSheetActionsWhenProtected() 'Allowing certain actions even if the worksheet is protected Sheets("Sheet1").Protect Password:="myPassword", _ DrawingObjects:=False, _ Contents:=True, _ Scenarios:=False, _ AllowFormattingCells:=True, _ AllowFormattingColumns:=True, _ AllowFormattingRows:=True, _ AllowInsertingColumns:=False, _ AllowInsertingRows:=False, _ AllowInsertingHyperlinks:=False, _ AllowDeletingColumns:=True, _ AllowDeletingRows:=True, _ AllowSorting:=False, _ AllowFiltering:=False, _ AllowUsingPivotTables:=False End Sub
Allow selection of any cells
Sub AllowSelectionAnyCells() 'Allowing selection of locked or unlocked cells Sheets("Sheet1").EnableSelection = xlNoRestrictions End Sub
Allow selection of unlocked cells
Sub AllowSelectionUnlockedCells() 'Allowing selection of unlocked cells only Sheets("Sheet1").EnableSelection = xlUnlockedCells End Sub
Don’t allow selection of any cells
Sub NoSelectionAllowed() 'Do not allow selection of any cells Sheets("Sheet1").EnableSelection = xlNoSelection End Sub
Allowing VBA code to make changes, even when protected
Even when protected, we still want our macros to make changes to the sheet. The following VBA code changes the setting to allow macros to make changes to a protected sheet.
Sub AllowVBAChangesOnProtectedSheet() 'Enable changes to worksheet by VBA code, even if protected Sheets("Sheet1").Protect Password:="myPassword", _ UserInterfaceOnly:=True End Sub
Unfortunately, this setting is not saved within the workbook. It needs to be run every time the workbook opens. Therefore, calling the code in the Workbook_Open event of the Workbook module is probably the best option.
Allowing the use of the Group and Ungroup feature
To enable users to make use of the Group and Ungroup feature of protected sheets, we need to allow changes to the user interface and enable outlining.
Sub AllowGroupingAndUngroupOnProtectedSheet() 'Allow user to group and ungroup whilst protected Sheets("Sheet1").Protect Password:="myPassword", _ UserInterfaceOnly:=True Sheets("Sheets1").EnableOutlining = True End Sub
As noted above the UserInterfaceOnly setting is not stored in the workbook; therefore, it needs to be run every time the workbook opens.
Wow! That was a lot of code examples; hopefully, this covers everything you would ever need for using VBA to protect and unprotect sheets.
- Office Scripts – Workbook & worksheet protection
- VBA Code to Password Protect an Excel file
- VBA code to Protect and Unprotect Workbooks
About the author
Hey, I’m Mark, and I run Excel Off The Grid.
My parents tell me that at the age of 7 I declared I was going to become a qualified accountant. I was either psychic or had no imagination, as that is exactly what happened. However, it wasn't until I was 35 that my journey really began.
In 2015, I started a new job, for which I was regularly working after 10pm. As a result, I rarely saw my children during the week. So, I started searching for the secrets to automating Excel. I discovered that by building a small number of simple tools, I could combine them together in different ways to automate nearly all my regular tasks. This meant I could work less hours (and I got pay raises!). Today, I teach these techniques to other professionals in our training program so they too can spend less time at work (and more time with their children and doing the things they love).
Do you need help adapting this post to your needs?
I'm guessing the examples in this post don't exactly match your situation. We all use Excel differently, so it's impossible to write a post that will meet everybody's needs. By taking the time to understand the techniques and principles in this post (and elsewhere on this site), you should be able to adapt it to your needs.
But, if you're still struggling you should:
- Read other blogs, or watch YouTube videos on the same topic. You will benefit much more by discovering your own solutions.
- Ask the 'Excel Ninja' in your office. It's amazing what things other people know.
- Ask a question in a forum like Mr Excel, or the Microsoft Answers Community. Remember, the people on these forums are generally giving their time for free. So take care to craft your question, make sure it's clear and concise. List all the things you've tried, and provide screenshots, code segments and example workbooks.
- Use Excel Rescue, who are my consultancy partner. They help by providing solutions to smaller Excel problems.
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