How to Lock Formulas in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Locking formulas in Excel is a vital skill to keep your data secure and prevent accidental changes. It’s a simple process that anyone can accomplish with a few clicks. Once you lock a formula, you can rest assured that it will remain unchanged as you work on other parts of your spreadsheet.

Step by Step Tutorial on How to Lock Formulas in Excel

Before we dive into the step-by-step guide, it’s important to note that locking formulas in Excel involves two main actions: locking the cells and protecting the worksheet. By default, all cells in Excel are locked, but this doesn’t take effect until you protect the worksheet.

Step 1: Select the cells with formulas you want to lock

Click on the cell or use your mouse to drag and select multiple cells.

Selecting the cells is the first and crucial step. If you have a large dataset, you can use the ‘Go To Special’ feature to quickly select all cells with formulas.

Step 2: Right-click and choose ‘Format Cells’

After selecting the cells, right-click on one of them and select ‘Format Cells’ from the context menu.

The ‘Format Cells’ dialog box is where you control the locking feature. It’s also handy for adjusting other cell properties like number format, alignment, and font.

Step 3: Click on the ‘Protection’ tab

In the ‘Format Cells’ dialog box, you’ll find several tabs. Click on the ‘Protection’ tab to proceed.

The ‘Protection’ tab might seem a bit hidden, but it’s the gateway to securing your formulas. Don’t worry; the other settings won’t affect the cell locking process.

Step 4: Ensure the ‘Locked’ checkbox is ticked

In the ‘Protection’ tab, there’s a checkbox labeled ‘Locked’. Make sure it’s ticked (it should be by default).

If the ‘Locked’ checkbox isn’t ticked, the cells won’t be protected even after you follow through with the remaining steps.

Step 5: Click ‘OK’ to close the dialog box

Once the ‘Locked’ checkbox is ticked, click ‘OK’ to close the ‘Format Cells’ dialog box.

Clicking ‘OK’ saves your changes but, remember, the cells aren’t locked yet. There’s one more crucial step to go.

Step 6: Protect the worksheet

Go to the ‘Review’ tab on the Excel ribbon and click on ‘Protect Sheet’.

Protecting the worksheet is the final step that activates the cell locking. You can set a password for additional security, but it’s optional.

After completing the action of protecting the worksheet, the formulas in the selected cells are now locked. This means that no one can edit these formulas unless they unprotect the sheet, which, if you set a password, would require the correct password.

Tips on How to Lock Formulas in Excel

  • Before locking the cells, double-check your formulas to ensure they are correct.
  • Consider setting a password when you protect your worksheet for extra security.
  • If you need to edit a locked formula, you’ll have to unprotect the sheet first.
  • Remember to re-protect the sheet after making any necessary changes to locked cells.
  • Use cell locking in combination with hidden formulas if you want to keep your formulas confidential.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I lock only specific formulas in Excel?

Yes, you can selectively lock only the cells that contain the formulas you want to protect.

Will locking formulas in Excel prevent me from editing other cells?

No, locking formulas will not affect your ability to edit other cells unless you lock those cells too.

Can others unlock the formulas if they have the Excel file?

If you protect your worksheet with a password, others will need the password to unlock the formulas. Without the password, they cannot edit the locked cells.

Is it possible to lock formulas in Excel without protecting the entire sheet?

No, the lock feature only takes effect when the sheet is protected.

Can I still filter and sort my data if the formulas are locked?

Yes, you can still filter and sort data even when formulas are locked, as long as you allow this action when protecting the sheet.


  1. Select the cells with formulas.
  2. Right-click and choose ‘Format Cells’.
  3. Click on the ‘Protection’ tab.
  4. Ensure the ‘Locked’ checkbox is ticked.
  5. Click ‘OK’ to close the dialog box.
  6. Protect the worksheet.


Locking formulas in Excel is a straightforward process that provides an extra layer of security to your data. Not only does it prevent accidental edits, but it also maintains the integrity of your calculations, ensuring that your analysis remains accurate and reliable. Whether you’re working on a personal budget sheet or a complex financial model for your business, locking formulas is a best practice that can save you from potential headaches down the line. Remember that locking formulas is only effective once you protect your worksheet, so don’t skip that final step. Now that you know how to lock formulas in Excel, go ahead and give it a try. You’ll find that it’s a simple yet powerful feature that makes Excel an even more robust tool for your data management needs.

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