How to Remove Read-Only From Excel (6 Easy Fix)

When trying to save changes to an Excel sheet you might find that you are unable to do so, because the file is ‘read-only’.

At other times you might see a message such as the one shown below (when trying to open an Excel sheet).

Read Only prompt when opening Excel

Sometimes this may be done by the author of the sheet for added security. At other times, it may be because you downloaded the file from the internet.

There may be a number of different reasons for a file being read-only.

In this tutorial, we will discuss probable reasons your spreadsheet is showing up as read-only.

Depending on the reason, we will then discuss how you can remove the read-only status from the sheet or workbook.

Possible Reasons your Sheet is ‘Read-only’

To be able to remove read-only from your sheet, it is important to understand why you see it in the first place.

There might be a multitude of reasons your worksheet or workbook is showing up as ‘read-only’. Here are some of the possible reasons.

The Sheet may be ‘Marked as Final’

Excel lets you mark a finished workbook as the ‘Final draft’ so that others cannot mess with it any further.

An Excel file that has been ‘Marked as Final’ cannot be edited, so all types of actions on the worksheet are disabled.

The author of the sheet (or someone else) might have marked the worksheet as final, and that may be the reason the worksheet is ‘read-only’.

Tell-tale signs of a sheet marked as final are a yellow message on the top of the workbook that says ‘Marked as Final: An author has marked this workbook as final to discourage editing’.

‘Marked as Final An author has marked this workbook as final to discourage editing

The File property may be set to ‘Open as Read-only Recommended’

Another reason might be that the author (or previous user) had set the file to open as ‘read-only recommended’.

When you open a file that has been given this setting, Excel prompts you to open the file in read-only mode, unless you want to make edits to it.

Read Only prompt when opening Excel

If you only want to view it without making any edits, you can go ahead and click the ‘Yes’ button. But if you intend to make changes, you need to click on the ‘No’ button.

Setting as ‘open as read-only’ (without a password) doesn’t really serve to protect the file, since the user can always click No and then edit the file.

All it does is just act as a precautionary measure that makes the user aware of what they are about to do.

The Content may be Protected

If the workbook or worksheet you are trying to edit is in ‘Protected’ mode, then the contents are read-only. The author might have chosen to protect the contents from changes made by unauthorized people.

You can tell if the contents of a workbook are in protected mode by going to the Review menu tab. Under the Changes group, you should see a button that says ‘Unprotect Sheet’ and/or ‘Unprotect Workbook’.

Check if the sheet is protected

When you try to make any changes, you should also see an alert that says something like “The cell or chart you are trying to change is on a protected sheet”.

The cell or chart you are trying to change is on a protected sheet

File Properties may be set to ‘Read-only’

The author might have set the file attribute to ‘read-only’ to avoid accidental edits to the workbook. You can tell if the file property has been set to ‘read-only’ by following the steps below:

  1. Right-click on the filename in your file browser
  2. Select ‘Properties’ from the context menu that appearsSelect properties for the file
  3. This should open the file’s Properties dialog box.
  4. Look for the ‘Read-only’ check box in the ‘Attributes’ category.
  5. If the check box is ticked, that means the file property has been set to ‘Read-only’.Read Only option checked

The File may be in ‘Protected View’

Files downloaded from the internet or from potentially unsafe places run the risk of carrying viruses or other malware. These can pose a threat to your computer, so they are usually opened in Protected view.

Files opened in this way let you read the contents of the file while reducing risks.

When a file is opened in Protected View, most editing functions in it are disabled. There may be multiple reasons for a file to be in Protected View. Some of these are listed below:

  • The file might have been downloaded from the Internet or from an email attachment
  • Your computer policy might have defined the sender of the file as unsafe
  • The file might have been opened from an unsafe location
  • The file may be blocked by File Block
  • There might be a file validation failure or error detected while opening the file
  • Sometimes, if your filename contains special characters like the ‘/’ symbol, then the file gets opened in ‘read-only’ mode.

Files that are in Protected View usually contain a pink or yellow warning message on the top of the workbook that says “Protected View

pink or yellow warning message on the top of the workbook that says “Protected View”

Antivirus may be causing the Workbook to Open as Read-only

Some antivirus software opens potentially unsafe files as read-only, to minimize risks. This could also be a reason your excel sheet is not accepting changes.

How to Remove Read-Only From Excel

Now that you are aware of the possible reasons your file is in read-only mode, you can use the guideline above to systematically rule out what is causing your sheet to show up as read-only.

Once you have established the cause, you can now go on to remove the read-only status using the steps shown below.

If your Sheet is ‘Marked as Final’

If your sheet has been marked as final, there are two ways to go around this:

  • You can continue to make edits by clicking on the ‘Edit Anyway’ button at the end of the yellow warning message.Click on Edit Anyway
  • You can remove the ‘Marked as Final’ setting by navigating to File->Info, clicking on the Protect Workbook button, and selecting the ‘Mark as Final’ option from the drop-down menu that appears. This will toggle the Mark as Final setting and thereby remove it.Remove Marked as Final setting

If the File property was set to ‘Open as Read-only Recommended’

If your file is set to Open as Read-Only, you would see the message below on opening the file:

Read Only prompt when opening Excel

When you see this message box, you have two options:

  • Open the file in read-only mode
  • Open the file in the editable mode so that you can make changes to it.

If you intend to make changes to the file, you only need to select the ‘No’ button and your file will then become editable.

If your file was set to read-only recommended with a password, you might need to enter the password to start editing.

To remove the ‘Open as Read-only Recommended’ setting, follow the steps below:

  1. Click on “Save As” from the File menu.
  2. In the “Save As” dialog box, click on the Tools drop-down.Click on tools option in the Save as dialog box
  3. Select ‘General Options’ from the drop-down list that appears.Click on General options
  4. This will open the ‘General Options’ dialog box.
  5. Uncheck the box next to ‘Read-only recommended’.Uncheck Read-only recommended option
  6. Click OK.

This will remove the read-only restriction from the Excel document. You can now save the file with a new name or the old name.

If the Content is Protected

If your worksheet or workbook is in ‘Protected’ mode, then follow the steps below:

  1. Click on the Review tab of your Excel window
  2. Look at the items under the ‘Changes’ group of this ribbon. If you see a button that says ‘Unprotect Workbook’ select it to unprotect it.
  3. Similarly, if you see a button that says ‘Unprotect Worksheet’, click on it to unprotect it too.Check if the sheet is protected
  4. If the sheet or workbook was protected with a password, you will be asked to enter a password. Enter the password (if you know it) or find it out from the person who protected the sheet/ workbook.Enter the password
  5. Click OK.
  6. Once you see the Unprotect button toggled back to ‘Protect Workbook’ or ‘Protect Worksheet’, it means Protection mode has now been disabled.Protect sheet icon becomes visible in the ribbon

You can now go ahead and make edits to your sheet/workbook.

If File Properties have been Set to ‘Read-only’

If the ‘read-only’ mode is due to settings imposed on the file properties, you can remove it as follows:

  1. Right-click on the filename in your file browser
  2. Select ‘Properties’ from the context menu that appearsSelect properties for the file
  3. This should open the file’s Properties dialog box.
  4. Look for the ‘Read-only’ check box in the ‘Attributes’ category.
  5. Uncheck the box next to the ‘Read-only’ attribute.Uncheck read only option
  6. Click OK.

If the File is in ‘Protected View’

If your file is read-only because it is in Protected View, make sure it is safe to remove the read-only setting before you actually attempt to do so.

Once you have established that it is safe, and the file’s source and content can be trusted, you can simply click on the ‘Enable Editing’ in the Message Bar.

Enable editing of the workbook

If an antivirus is causing the Workbook to Open as Read-only

If your Excel file is opened as ‘read-only’ due to antivirus settings, then you might need to adjust the setting from your antivirus software’s properties.

If the problem still persists, you might need to check with the antivirus provider to find out how the setting can be changed.

Finally, if all else fails, you can always use “Save As” to create a copy of the file and then make your required edits to it.

Save a separate copy of the workbook

In this tutorial, we discussed the possible causes for your file opening in read-only mode and showed you how you can diagnose which of the possible causes is affecting your file.

We also showed what you can do to remove the read-only status once you find out the correct cause.

We hope this was a helpful tutorial and that we could help you disable read-only and start editing your sheets with ease.

Other Excel tutorials you may find useful: