Download the Cheat Sheet 👉 HERE and follow along.

Forgetting the password to your Excel sheet can be a real hassle. Don’t worry, though. You can remove a password from an Excel sheet without using any third-party software. All you need is a ZIP program like WinZip, WinRAR or 7-zip.

Follow these simple steps on how to unprotect Excel sheets without a password.

Unprotecting Your Excel Sheet

1. Create a Backup Copy

First, make a copy of your Excel file.

  • Open the Windows File Explorer.
  • Right-click on the file, select “Copy”.
  • Paste it somewhere safe.

This prevents data loss if something goes wrong.

2. Change the File Extension

Rename the copied file from “.xlsx” to “.zip.” Here’s how:

  • Right-click on the copied file.
  • Select “Rename” from the context menu.
  • Change the file extension from “.xlsx” to “.zip“.
  • Press “Enter.”
  • If you see a warning about changing the file type, click “Yes” to proceed.

💡 If you don’t see the file extension:

  • Open File Explorer.
  • Click on the “View” tab at the top.
  • Hover over “Show” in the drop-down menu.
  • Click on “File name extensions.”
  • Ensure there’s a check mark next to “File name extensions” to show the file extensions.

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3. Open the ZIP File

  • Open the ZIP file using a program like WinRAR or 7-Zip.

4. Find the Worksheets Folder

  • Inside the ZIP file, double-click the “xl” folder.
  • Next, double-click the “worksheets” folder.
  • You will see XML files for each worksheet in your Excel file.

5. Identify the Protected Sheet

If you already know which sheet has the protection you want to remove, you can skip this step.

Otherwise, follow these instructions to identify the protected sheet:

  • Double-click on the XML file to open it.
  • If this does not open the file, right-click on the XML file and select “Open with.”
  • Choose “Notepad” or another text editor. (If “Notepad” is not listed, you may need to click “Choose another app” and select it from there.)
  • Once the file is open, search for the word “protect” by using the shortcut Ctrl + F.

The file that contains this word is the one you need to edit.

6. Remove the Protection Tag

Once you have identified the correct XML file (in our example, it is “sheet1”), follow these steps to unprotect the Excel sheet.

  • Drag the XML file to your desktop. You can use the shortcut Win + Home to minimize all other open windows.
Unprotect Excel sheet
  • Right-click on the XML file and select “Open with.”
  • Choose “Notepad” or another text editor. (If “Notepad” is not listed, you may need to click “Choose another app” and select it from there.)
  • Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + F to find the line that says “sheetProtection”.
  • Select the entire line: from the opening bracket (“<“) until the closing bracket (“>“).
Remove protection tag to unprotect Excel sheet
  • Delete the selected line.
  • Save the file using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + S.

7. Replace the Old XML File

  • Delete the original XML file from the ZIP archive.
  • Then, drag the modified XML file back into the ZIP archive.

8. Change the File Extension Back

  • Close the Zip-file
  • Open File Explorer and rename the file from “.zip” back to “.xlsx“.
  • Confirm the change when prompted.

9. Open Your Excel File

Open the Excel file. Your previously protected sheet should now be unprotected, allowing you to edit it.

Important Tips to Unprotect Excel

  • Always create a backup before you start.
  • Follow each step carefully to avoid corrupting your file.
  • After unprotecting the sheet, set a new password you can remember.

Download the Cheat Sheet

Grab our free one-page quick reference guide. It includes the step-by-step instructions for how to unprotect Excel sheets.

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Leila Gharani

I'm a 6x Microsoft MVP with over 15 years of experience implementing and professionals on Management Information Systems of different sizes and nature.

My background is Masters in Economics, Economist, Consultant, Oracle HFM Accounting Systems Expert, SAP BW Project Manager. My passion is teaching, experimenting and sharing. I am also addicted to learning and enjoy taking online courses on a variety of topics.