4 Ways to Protect Your Google Sheets

Last Updated on January 10, 2024 by Jake Sheridan

In this tutorial, you will learn how to protect cells in Google Sheets, including how to unprotect them, password protection and more.

How to Protect Cells in Google Sheets

By default, locking a worksheet makes all of the cells uneditable.

It is possible to unlock all the cells and allow editing in certain of them while locking editing in other cells.

Protecting Google Sheets 101

  • Adding editors to a protected range is a better option than removing protection in Google Sheets.
  • Removing protections in Google Sheets is quick and easy.
  • Spreadsheet owners are able to edit and remove all protected ranges.
  • Google Sheets does not have an in-built password protection function to secure data.
  • It is not possible to hide a sheet in Google Sheets from certain users.

Before you protect the worksheet, you can lock only particular cells and ranges and, optionally, let particular users to edit only in certain regions of a protected sheet.

Once ready, we’ll get started by utilizing real-world examples to show you how to lock cells in Google Sheets.

But first:

Is Google Sheets secure?

You should read our guide on how secure is Google Sheets for a full answer to the question.

But the TLDR is this:

  • Google Sheets is protected by end-to-end encryption and regular third-party audits.
  • A large number of security breaches are due to user error, so it is important to use strong passwords, not reuse passwords, and use two-factor authentication.
  • Be wary of clicking on links in emails, as they may be phishing attacks.
  • Google Sheets may not be as secure as other platforms.
  • It is difficult to ensure that all users are following best practices for data security.

4 Ways to Protect Your Google Sheets

Here are some different ways to lock down your sheets:

1. Protecting Cells in Google Sheets

Before we begin we will need a group of data to be used to lock cells in Google Sheets.

Step 1

First, you need to have a clean and tidy group of data to work with.

Step 2

To lock the protected cell, you can right-click, select View more cell actions, then press Protect range.

Step 3

A pop-up will appear on the right side of the screen. You can name the locked cells anything you want and press Set Permissions.

Step 4

Once you are done, you will see the protected cells stated like this.

2. Unprotecting Google Sheets (in 5 easy steps)

To unlock a protected range in Google Sheets:

  1. open the Protected Sheets and Ranges sidebar
  2. click on the range you want to delete
  3. click on the trash can icon beside the name of the range
  4. click Remove in the popup that appears
  5. the range is now unprotected and can be edited.

Full detailed tutorial here: How To Unprotect Google Sheets

3. Protecting Cells from editing

To protect cells from editing in Google Sheets:

  • Identify the cells or cell range to protect and which cells should remain editable.
  • Use the Data menu to access the Protect sheets and ranges option.
  • Choose the Only you option to give the current user sole edit access to the selected range.
  • Alternatively, users can protect an entire sheet while still allowing certain ranges to be editable.

Full detailed tutorial here: How to Protect Cells From Editing in Google Sheets

4. Password protecting your spreadsheet

Password-protecting Google Sheets is possible with the help of a third-party program (a script from Skipser.com) and then setting a password. To password protect Google Sheets:

  1. you need to download a script from Skipser.com,
  2. copy the protected sheet,
  3. enter the URL of the desired Google Sheet,
  4. press Protect File, select Encrypt File, and authorize the process.
  5. Finally, you can set a password.

Full detailed tutorial here: How To Password Protect Google Sheets

How to Lock a Single Cell or Multiple Cells

To lock a single cell or multiple cells in Google Sheets, you need to use the sheet protection feature, which allows you to restrict the editing of specific cells.

Here’s how to do it:

Step 1

Open your Google Sheets document.

Ensure that you are logged into your Google account and have editing permissions for the sheet.

In this example, we want to lock a range containing customer data.

Step 2

Select the cell or range of cells that you want to lock.

To select a single cell, just click on it.

For multiple cells, click and drag your mouse over the cells, or hold down the Shift key while using the arrow keys to select a range.

To quickly select an entire table, select any cell within that table and hit Ctrl + A (Windows) or Cmd + A (Mac).

Step 3

After selecting the cells, right-click on the selected area and choose Protect range from the context menu.

Alternatively, you can go to the toolbar, click on Data, and then select Protected sheets and ranges.

Step 4

A side panel titled Protected sheets and ranges will appear on the right side of your screen.

Ensure that the proper range is selected.

The cell or range of cells you initially selected should already be filled in the Range section.

If not, you can manually enter the range (like A1 for a single cell or A1:B10 for multiple cells).

Step 5

You can give the protected range a description for future reference.

This step is optional but helpful if you plan to have multiple protected ranges.

In this case, we’ll add the description “Customer Address Details” to our protected range.

Step 6

Click on “Set permissions.” You will then have the option to restrict the editing to certain users.

By default, it’s set to “Only you,” meaning only you can edit the locked cells.

Select Custom:

Step 7

Add the email addresses of those users you want to give editing permissions to.

Click “Done” to apply the protections.

The selected cells are now locked, and unauthorized users cannot edit them.

If unauthorized users try to edit the cell, they’ll see an error pop-up explaining that the cell is protected.

Step 8

To see protected cells, click View > Show > Protected ranges.

Protected cells will be overlaid with gray diagonal stripes.

Set Edit Permissions for Locked Cells to Specific Users

When multiple people have access to a spreadsheet, there’s a risk of accidental or intentional alterations to critical data.

By locking cells and assigning access rights to specific users, you ensure that only authorized individuals can make changes to sensitive or important information.

Google Sheets allows you to lock cells and grant editing permissions to specific users.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do this yourself:

Step 1

Open your Google Sheets document.

Ensure you are logged into your Google account and have the necessary permissions to edit the sheet.

Step 2

To look at the current cell’s protected cells and ranges, click on Data > Protect sheets and ranges.

Step 3

A side panel will appear listing all protected sheets and ranges in the current Google Sheets document.

Click on any of these listed items to edit permissions.

Let’s click on the range with the description “Customer Address Details”.

Step 4

Click the Change permission button to edit who has edit access to this range.

Step 5

Choose Custom to specify which users can edit the locked cells.

By default, it may be set to Only you, which means only you can edit the cells.

Under the Custom option, add the email addresses of the users you want to allow to edit these cells.

Click Done to apply the permissions.

Lock an Entire Google Spreadsheet

Sometimes, locking a cell or range of cells is insufficient.

If you wish to lock an entire sheet in Google Sheets, we can do so through the Protect sheets and ranges feature.

Here’s how to lock an entire Google Spreadsheet:

Step 1

Open the Google Sheets document containing the sheet you want to lock.

In this example, let’s try locking Sheet2 in our document.

Step 2

Right-click on the sheet tab of the sheet you want to lock.

Select the Protect sheet option from the context menu.

Step 3

Similar to protected ranges, you can add an optional description for the protected sheet.

Click on Set permissions to determine which users are able to edit cells in the selected sheet.

Step 4

In the Range editing permissions pop-up, select the option “Restrict who can edit this range”.

By default, this is set to “Only you” which means only the current user will be able to edit the locked sheet.

Click Done to proceed.

Step 5

A lock icon will appear next to the name of all locked sheets.

Step 6

When locking an entire sheet, you may want certain ranges in that sheet to be editable.

To do this, check the Except certain cells option and type the cell or cell range you want to leave unprotected.

Click Done to apply these options.

Allow Editing in Your Google Sheet but Show a Soft Warning

While protecting a range or sheet outright prevents unauthorized edits, showing a warning allows users the flexibility to make changes but with an added layer of caution.

Luckily, Google Sheets allows us to protect a range by only showing a warning pop-up when users try to edit a range.

Here’s how to set up your sheet so that a warning message shows when users try to edit a particular range or sheet:

Step 1

Open the Google Sheets document you want to lock.

In this example, we want collaborators to be able to edit our dataset of customer details but will see a message asking them to confirm if they really want to make an edit.

Step 2

Select the cell or range of cells that you want to lock.

To quickly select an entire table, select any cell within that table and hit Ctrl + A (Windows) or Cmd + A (Mac).

Step 3

Go to the menu bar, click on Data and then select Protected sheets and ranges.

This will open the “Protected sheets and ranges” sidebar on the right side of the screen.

Step 4

In the sidebar, click on Set permissions .

Step 5

In the dialog box that appears, select the option Show a warning when editing this range.

Step 6

All users who try to edit the protected range will see a warning pop-up similar to the one seen below.

You can select the Don’t show this again for 5 minutes option to prevent the warning from popping up for a few minutes.

How to Unlock Your Locked Cells in Google Sheets

Here’s how to unlock locked cells in Google Sheets:

Step 1

Open your Google Sheets document containing the locked cells you want to unlock.

Step 2

Select Data > Protect sheets and ranges to view the list of protected cells and ranges in the current document.

Step 3: A side panel should appear labeled Protected sheets & ranges.

Click on the protected range or sheet you want to unlock or unprotect.

In this example, let’s unlock our protected range in Sheet1.

After selecting the protected range, click on the Trash icon in the top-right corner to remove the protection.

Step 4

Google Sheets will ask if you are sure you want to remove the protected cell.

Click on Remove to proceed.

FAQs

Can you password protect cells in Google Sheets?

No, Google Sheets does not directly support password protection for individual cells or ranges.

However, you can restrict editing to certain cells or ranges using the sheet protection feature.

This allows you to set permissions for who can edit these areas, essentially “locking” them from being modified by unauthorized users.

While this doesn’t encrypt the cells with a password, it effectively controls access based on Google account permissions.

Can you lock cells in Google Sheets from yourself?

Yes, you can lock cells in Google Sheets from yourself.

When you protect a range or a sheet in Google Sheets, you have the option to set permissions that can exclude even the owner of the sheet. This means you can create a protected range or sheet and not include yourself in the list of users who have permission to edit that range.

This is particularly useful in scenarios where you want to prevent accidental changes to critical data, even by yourself.

However, as the owner of the sheet, you always have the ability to remove or change these protections later.

So, while you can somewhat restrict your own editing rights temporarily, you can’t permanently lock yourself out from editing any part of your Google Sheets document.

If you wish to lock cells from your own account, you may want to consider transferring ownership of your spreadsheet to another user.

Once the spreadsheet is owned by another user, the new owner can add the necessary protection to prevent your account from editing certain ranges or sheets.

Summary

That’s all there is to it. You are welcome to copy the example spreadsheet below to see how it is done. 

In this tutorial, I covered how to lock cells in Google Sheets.

Want more? Check out all the Google Sheets Tutorials.

What’s Next?

Explore some of the other useful resources on Sheets for Marketers: