I believe this is the most complete guide if you forgot Excel password because I have gathered all the mentioned solutions online, including those from the Microsoft Community and Reddit. Before we discuss anything further, I would like to let you know what types of Excel passwords there are, so you can find the solutions that match your case.
Types of Excel Passwords
Password for Opening— Created by the feature ‘Encrypt with Password’. It is a password required when you’re attempting to open the Excel file. If you don’t enter the correct password, you won’t be able to see any content in the file.
Worksheet Password — Created by the feature ‘Protect Current Sheet’. It is a password required when you want to make some changes to the sheets, such as editing, printing, deleting, etc. You can see the content in the sheets, but you cannot modify them.
Workbook Password — Created by the feature ‘Protect Workbook Structure’. It is a password required when you are trying to add or delete any sheet. It protects the workbook’s structure and allows you to view and edit the content in the sheets.
You may have all these types of passwords or only 1 or 2 types set for an Excel file. How do you recover them if you forget the passwords?
Unfortunately, after searching all over the internet, I have to tell you that it is impossible to recover Excel worksheet and workbook passwords. They can be removed within a short moment. If it is a password is required to open your Excel file, then there are methods to recover it, but you can’t remove it without knowing it.
Below are the methods that I have tested successfully or that I think might be helpful to you. I tested them on my personal computer using Microsoft Excel 2019.
- Forgot Excel Workbook Password?
- Forgot Excel Worksheet Password?
- Forgot the Password to Open Excel Files?
For those who use other versions, like Microsoft Excel 2016/2013/2010, or even earlier versions, I cannot promise they will definitely work, but I recommend that you have a try.
- Make sure that you use a copy version of your password-protected Excel file in order to avoid any unexpected problems during the process.
- Only try the methods introduced in this article on your own Excel files to avoid any legal issues.
Forgot Excel Workbook Password?
As mentioned above, if you forget your Excel workbook password, you can only remove it to modify the structure of your workbook. To remove the password, you can try method 2, method 3, method 4 and method 8 in the next sections which also work to remove the Excel worksheet password.
Besides, you can also break the limits of workbook passwords by simply copying and pasting the sheets to a new Excel file. However, if the Excel worksheets are also locked by a password, you need to remove the password of the sheets first by the methods introduced in the following sections. Otherwise, when you try to copy the cells, you will see the pop-up below.
Forgot Excel Worksheet Password?
Same as an Excel workbook password, you can only remove the worksheet password if you forget it. There are 8 different methods and I will introduce all of them here.
Method 1. Copying and Pasting the worksheets
This method is very simple. In most cases, it should be working. You just need to copy all the content in the password-protected sheets and paste them to new sheets of the same Excel file or to a new Excel file. Don’t forget to save them as a new Excel file. Remember to check if there is anything wrong with the copied one.
In which scenarios does it fail? It relates to how the password was configured. You might have forgotten it. Simply put, when setting the password, you have two choices: ‘Select locked cells’ and ‘Select unlocked cells.’ By default, both options are selected to permit cell selection. If you deselect them, copying cells in the protected sheet becomes impossible.
Method 2. Using Google Sheet
Google Sheets is very helpful when you forget the passwords of both worksheets and workbooks. The process of password removal is also very simple.
Just open a Google spreadsheet, click File > Import > Upload, browse your target Excel file and upload it, and finally click Import data. Now you get a copy version of the password-protected Excel file and you will be able to make any changes. Google Drive will automatically save the new spreadsheet. Remember to rename the file.
Method 3. Using Free Online Tools
There are many online tools claiming that they can unlock password-protected Excel files, but they don’t work if you forget the password because they will ask you to enter the password during the process. Sound useless, right? Fortunately, there are tools that genuinely work to remove Excel passwords from worksheets and workbooks without requiring you to input the forgotten passwords.
One of the tools is LostMyPass. You just need to upload your Excel file to their server. They will do the rest for you. The entire process is very fast, and it only takes a few seconds. However, if you have confidential data that you cannot risk uploading to others’ servers, then you may try the other methods in this article.
Method 4. Exporting as CSV
This method works for both password-protected workbooks and worksheets. However, remember to save the original Excel file elsewhere and use a copied version to try it, as there may be a risk of potential data loss (see the prompt in the screenshot below).
In addition, if your Excel file contains multiple worksheets, then you have to save the sheets one by one. Otherwise, you will see a pop-up like below.
To implement, you just need to open the locked Excel file, click File > Export > Change File Type, choose CSV under Other Files Types, click Save As, and rename the file.
Now you can open the new .csv file and edit the worksheet.
Method 5. Changing Extension of the Excel File
This method is relatively complicated, and it only works to remove the password of an Excel worksheet; workbooks are not supported.
Here is the step-by-step guide:
- Change the extension of your Excel file to .zip.
- Uncompress the zip file.
- From the extracted files, open the folder named xl and then the worksheets folder. You will see one or multiple xml files with the same name as your locked sheets, depending on how many locked sheets you have. I have 3 sheets as shown in the image below.
- Open the xml files using Notepad or Notepad++ (a third-party app).
- Use the Ctrl+F keys on your keyboard to search for sheetProtection.
- Delete the entire tag which is the text from <sheetProtection to the closing square bracket >.
- Save the file. If you have multiple locked sheets, do this one by one.
- After you remove the sheetProtection tag from all locked sheets, compress the extracted files (don’t change other files except for the xml files) to a new ZIP file.
- Change the extension of the ZIP file to xlsx.
- Now, open the new Excel file, and you will be allowed to modify the sheets.
Method 6. Using VBA Code
This method might work but it didn’t go smoothly with me. People in the Microsoft community said it worked for them, but on my computer, the process seemed to hang indefinitely, displaying ‘running’ without completion. Sometimes, it said ‘not responding’ and even made my computer stuck. I tried different VBA codes and got the same results, so I gave up.
I think most people can use the other methods with no problem, but for some particular situations, this method might be helpful, so I still share it here.
The author who shared this method said that the time it would take depends on the power of the computer and the length of the password. For some worksheets, it can take a whole day, sometimes more.
Here is the step-by-step guide:
- Open your locked Excel file.
- Click Developer on the top menu and then Visual Basic.
- If you cannot see the Developer option, click File > Options > Customize Ribbon, and select Developer under the title of Main Tabs. Finally, click OK and you will see Developer appearing on the top menu.
- Double-click the worksheet name in the left panel.
- Copy the VBA code below.
- Run the VBA code by pressing F5 or the “Run” button on the top menu.
- Once it finishes, save the Excel file with a different name.
Note: The VBA code below is from the user NikolinoDE in Microsoft community.
Const a = 65, b = 66, c = 32, d = 126
Dim i#, j#, k#, l#, m#, n#, o#, p#, q#, r#, s#, t#
If .ProtectContents Then
On Error Resume Next
For i = a To b
For j = a To b
For k = a To b
For l = a To b
For m = a To b
For n = a To b
For o = a To b
For p = a To b
For q = a To b
For r = a To b
For s = a To b
For t = c To d
.Unprotect Chr(i) & Chr(j) & Chr(k) & Chr(l) & Chr(m) & _
Chr(n) & Chr(o) & Chr(p) & Chr(q) & Chr(r) & Chr(s) & Chr(t)
Method 7. Using Open Office
I haven’t personally tried this method because for some reason I cannot have Open Office installed on my computer. However, I mention it here because some people in the Microsoft community have reported success with it. After all, solutions can never be too many.
To perform this method, you just need to open the Excel file with Open Office and the protection will be eliminated. You can save the file as a new one.
Method 8. Use Paid Software
I don’t think you have to resort to this method. However, if you’re pressed for time and dealing with a large number of worksheets or workbooks, the manual operations outlined in the above methods can be quite extensive. While LostMyPass works well for common Excel file formats, if you forget the password for formats like .xlsb, you might want to consider third-party software such as PassFab for Excel and iToolab PassWiper. These are usually paid options but offer better compatibility.
Forgot the Password to Open Excel Files?
If you forgot the password when trying to open an Excel file, then it could be challenging to regain access to it. You cannot just remove the password like how we deal with Excel worksheets and workbooks. The only choice is to recover the password. The problem is password recovery is not a matter of a 100% success rate. To know more about it, learn the principle behind password recovery. Fortunately, there are solutions worth trying.
Solution 1. Using a Free Online Tool
In the previous section, I mentioned the online tool LostMyPass for removing worksheet or workbook passwords. However, it primarily functions as a password recovery tool which can recover the password to open locked Excel/Word/PowerPoint/PDF files and RAR/ZIP/7Z archives. It provides three options below. To know more about LostMyPass, check my detailed review.
I recommend that you try the weak password recovery which is free and only takes a few minutes. You just need to upload your file on this page.
This option is basically a dictionary attack with 3 million passwords that people really use. Although it only has a success rate of 22% based on its user cases, it is completely FREE. Why not have a try? Good luck!
Solution 2. Using a Paid Tool
Doesn’t the free version of LostMyPass work for you? If you are a technical person, you might consider writing some code for brute force attack yourself. However, if you lack technical expertise, the only viable option may be paid tools.
A. Strong Password Recovery of LostMyPass
Regarding the paid tools for password recovery, LostMyPass is still a good option because it provides a pay-on-success service for strong password recovery. This way, you won’t find yourself paying for a tool that doesn’t work and having to contact support to request a refund.
The strong password recovery option of LostMyPass is also a dictionary attack, but the dictionary contains 20+ billion real passwords. Although it just has a success rate of 61%, it’s worth trying. Even if it doesn’t recover your password, you lose nothing.
Besides, you don’t need to leave your computer open for hours or even a whole day to allow the tool to execute the password attack process, because it is carried out on their servers. You can leave an email to them and they will notify you once the password is recovered.
How much do you need to pay if fortunately your password is recovered? It starts from 29 USD depending on what Excel version you created the Excel file with.
Check more about the pricing and time needed in the image below.
B. Brute Force with a Mask of LostMyPass
If unfortunately your password is not recovered, you still have one last option with LostMyPass. It is Brute Force with a Mask which is a customized service and the technical team will create a mask of your password and run the server to crack it. The condition is that you have clues about your password. Otherwise, it will be extremely hard to recover the password. Why? Learn how a password is recovered.
The bad thing about this option is that you have to prepay for the service and a refund is not supported. However, the success rate is 100% only when the mask is created correctly. That means if you provide incorrect information about the password, everything will be ruined. Money has been paid, time has passed, and you end up with nothing. Therefore, I only recommend this method to people who are confident about the clues they have regarding their passwords.
C. Other Paid Software
There are also some paid PC software for Excel password recovery, for example, PassFab for Excel. You need to download an application on your computer in order to use their service. You can do the recovery process all on your own. The services such programs offer are similar to LostMyPass, usually dictionary attack, brute force attack with a mask, or simply brute force attack. The differences lie below:
- Software installed on computers usually runs much slower than on cloud servers.
- Software may employ different algorithms to combine the characters.
- The file types they support might be a little different.
- The software provides more flexibility in creating masks and importing dictionary files.
- The software executes the entire process on your computer, so you don’t need to worry about data leakage. LostMyPass is also safe. Check more details about LostMyPass’s safety here.
The above is all the solutions for those who forgot Excel passwords. Whether it is a password to open Excel files, an Excel worksheet password, or an Excel workbook password, you can find solutions here. If you know any other methods that I haven’t mentioned, please leave a comment below.