There are various reasons why you’d want to protect your Excel files with a password. Employing a password doesn’t mean we’re keeping secrets, but maybe there’s some sensitive business data we want to protect from being tweaked and tampered with. If there are more team members involved, perhaps you’ll want to share some items as read-only.
Two difficulties can arise from Excel 2016 password protection – it’s time to remove the known password, and you don’t know how, or you’ve forgotten it. There are solutions to both, so keep calm and read on.
Types of Encryption in Excel 2016
As there can be many reasons for password protection, there are also many ways to employ this protection. Some of the solutions listed below will work only for some types of Excel 2016 password encryption, and we’ll briefly explain each, so there’s no confusion later on.
A password that restricts the opening of the files is called an open password. As you open the document, it will pop-up immediately.
The password you need to make some changes in the document is a modify password. Without it, you won’t be able to edit the file, but you’ll still be able to view it in a read-only mode. Of course, if that option is enabled. You can also make the document read-only without the need for a password.
There’s a difference when it comes to the part of the file you wish to encrypt. You can protect the content by encrypting the entire file, or you can choose to protect just a workbook or a worksheet.
By choosing the first, you’ll prevent others from renaming, hiding, moving, adding, or deleting worksheets, protecting the workbook structure but not the content of the worksheet. By encrypting a worksheet, you’ll keep its structure from editing, but not workbook structure.
Now, let’s take a look at how to remove these passwords in Excel 2016.
When You Know the Password
You’ve completed your work, and now it’s time to deliver it to the client. But you’ve protected your Excel file with the password, and you need to remove it before you hand in the document. You remember the password, but you don’t know how to remove it.
This one is quite simple. Open the document, enter the password, then navigate to “File.” Choose “Info,” then “Protect Document,” and finally, “Encrypt with Password.”
A pop-up menu with your last password will appear. Delete the password and click OK, leaving the field empty.
That’s it. You can deliver the document password free.
When You’ve Forgotten the Password for a Protected Workbook
If you’ve protected your Excel workbook with the password, which now you can’t remember, you can remove it with XML. Note that this method won’t work if the entire file is encrypted. If that’s the case, move to the corresponding solution below.
You should first make sure the extensions of your files are enabled. Go to Control panel, navigate to Folder option, then choose “View and disable.” If “Hide Extensions for known file types” is enabled, disable it.
The next step is to rename the trouble-making Excel file, changing the extension from .xlsx to .zip. Now open the zip file, navigate through the “xl” and “worksheets” folders, and extract the “sheet.XML” file.
After the extraction is complete, open the file and look for the following tag:
it: <sheetProtection password=… />
When you find it, you should delete it completely – everything below until the next tag. Save the changes in the XML file, and replace the old one with it inside the zip folder.
In the end, close the zip file and rename it again, switching the extension back to .xlsx. Your workbook is now no longer password protected.
When You’ve Protected the File with Read-Only Restriction
Before we move on to heavy artillery, we should mention what to do if you’ve protected your Excel file with a read-only restriction. Restrictions are not passwords, so they’re quite easy to remove. It only takes a couple of clicks.
After you’ve opened your Excel file, go to the Info section, choose “Protect Document,” then “Restrict Editing.” At the bottom of the following pop-up menu, there’ll be the “Stop protection” option. Select it to remove the restrictions.
When You’ve Forgotten the Password for a Fully-Encrypted File
If you’ve used the password to protect the entire Excel 2016 file, you’ll need a third-party tool to recover the password to remove it. Many tools are available, but a piece of software called PassFab for Excel proved to be the easiest solution, with zero risks of file damage.
After you import your password-protected Excel file into this software, you’ll see three options for password attack type. The Brute-force attack is set as the default option since it will check all the characters one by one to discover the password, so no additional information is available. However, if some pieces of info remained in your memory, this will make the process quicker.
If you remember some pieces of the password, you should choose the Brute-force with Mask Attack and enter everything you remember. That way, the software will search for your password by checking customized characters, symbols, and numbers, taking less time.
If you possess a password dictionary file, then you should import it using the Dictionary Attack option. This option has a high rate of success since it merely helps you sift the correct password from the dictionary.
After you’ve chosen the password attack type, which corresponds with your memory and information, click “Start” and sit back while the software does the rest. When it’s done, the password of your Excel file will appear in the pop-up screen.
Now that you know the password, you can remove it as instructed in the first solution.
No Need for IT Experts
The fear of losing the password prevents many people from securing their Excel files. As you can see, there’s no need to fear since all encryptions have solutions. None of these solutions is complicated, so you don’t have to be an IT expert if you want to remove the password.
If you’ve protected an entire file with the password you’ve forgotten, there’s no way around the third-party tool that we know. If you’re aware of some hack we’ve missed, please let us know in the comments.