How to Lock a Column in Excel

To prevent accidental erasure or tampering of complex or sensitive data, Excel lets you lock some columns as you work. Locking columns helps prevent errors while maintaining the integrity of data. If your work or assignments require the use of Excel, this is a feature that you’ll find quite handy. Read on for information regarding how to lock a column in Excel.

How to Lock a Column in Excel

Locking Excel Columns Using Cell Formatting Method

All Excel columns are usually locked by default, but the locking property is only enabled once the worksheet is protected. If a specific column is to be locked, all cells on the worksheet should be unlocked first. Only then can you pick a column and lock it individually.

  1. On your Excel worksheet, select all the cells using the shortcut Ctrl-A.

    • Another option is to tap the triangle at the top left box of the sheet.
  2. Right-click the cells and choose “Format cells” from the menu, then click “Protection.”

    • You can also select the “Home” option and choose “Format” from the menu. Choose “Format cells” from here. Next, click on “Protection.”

  3. Under the Protection menu, uncheck the “Locked” box.
  4. Go to the column header for the column you need to lock. Hold down the control key (Ctrl) to pick multiple columns and click on more column headers.
  5. Go to the Protection tab under the “Format cells” dialog box and choose “Protection.”

  6. In this step, check the “Locked” option. This locks all columns selected, and no one can delete or edit the contents. To prevent anyone from seeing your locked columns, also check the “Hidden” tab.
  7. In the review tab, select “Protect sheet.”
  8. Choose a password if you want to add a security layer.

    • A password is added by staying in the Protect Sheet screen. You should enter your password within the list’s top box.

Lock Columns by Protecting Your Worksheet

If all columns in the worksheet need to be protected, there is no need to use the above process of selecting columns and checking the locked box again. To protect the whole sheet:

  1. Access the Review option.
  2. Choose “Protect sheet.”

Unlocking Columns

After locking columns, you may need to rework some data in those columns later. In such a case, it helps to know how to unlock the column. You can lock it again when done.

  1. In the “Review” option, select “Unprotect sheet.”
  2. Edit your unlocked cells as needed.
  3. Go back to “Review” and protect the sheet once more.

Freeze Panes to Lock Columns

This is another option when you want to lock columns. When you want an area of the worksheet to be visible as you scroll to other areas, navigate to the “View” tab and then “Freeze panes.” You can then lock specific columns and rows in place. Alternatively, split the panes to create separate windows on one worksheet.

You can freeze the very first column on Excel in this manner:

  1. Choose “View.”
  2. Select the “Freeze Panes” option.
  3. Choose “Freeze First Column.”

A faint line appears between the first column, “A,” and the second column, “B.” this indicates that the first column has been frozen.

You may also freeze Excel’s first two columns by:

  1. Choosing the third column.
  2. Selecting the “View” option.
  3. Selecting “Freeze Panes.”
  4. Choosing “Freeze Panes” from the options.

You can also freeze columns and rows in Excel. Here’s how:

  1. Choose the cell below the rows and to the right of the columns you want to be visible as you scroll through the worksheet.
  2. Choose “View.”
  3. Select “Freeze Panes.”
  4. Choose “Freeze Panes” in the options provided.

You can unfreeze the columns by opening the View tab, choosing Freeze Panes, and selecting the Unfreeze Panes option on the list. If your Excel sheet doesn’t have a view tab, it could be because you are on Excel Starter. This version doesn’t support all Excel features.

Note: If a column is locked using Freeze Panes, that single column is prevented from scrolling. However, the contents can be altered at any time in the column.

When the Freeze Panes and Protect Sheet options are used together, you can prevent the column from scrolling and protect the content.

To freeze any column on Excel other than the first column, you need to pick the one after it and choose “Freeze Panes.” This means you should always select the column next to the one you want to freeze.

Why You Need to Lock Columns

Locked columns can’t be altered or deleted intentionally or accidentally. You should lock columns to:

Prevent Data Loss

If your dataset has multiple columns, it can be modified or deleted erroneously. When a column is locked, this doesn’t happen, and data remains as it is. This is an important feature when handling large data volumes for running paired sample T-tests in Excel.

Keep Formulas Safe

Most Excel spreadsheets contain formulas. Locking columns with formulas guarantees they won’t be modified or deleted accidentally, especially when sharing them.

Limit Access

With this feature, you can easily control who can access information on your spreadsheet. Columns with sensitive data may be locked. This includes those with personal data or financial information. You can allow only authorized people to access them.

Saving Time

Locking columns saves you time. You won’t have to spend unnecessary time recovering lost data or fixing errors since it prevents data loss and overwriting.

Tips About Locking Columns on Excel

When you want to protect your columns by locking them in Excel, there are some tips you should bear in mind. These include:

  • Consider locking columns with critical or sensitive data that needs to be deleted or changed.
  • Lock the entire sheet to ensure that all cells are protected, especially if one alteration affects multiple cells.
  • Remove all restrictions or passwords in case you plan to share the sheet with many others. This allows them to have full access to the file, letting them make any alterations if needed without the need to request access.
  • Before applying changes to multiple columns, test first to ensure they work as they should. Test one column and review the results before moving on to others.

Have More Control on Excel Using Column Lock Feature

There are instances when an Excel sheet with many headers needs to be shared with multiple users. However, a single alteration, whether intentional or accidental, can affect the entire dataset since most columns are often interrelated. Column lock can keep some columns visible to users regardless of where they work on the spreadsheet, but also prevent users from making alterations. Protecting the columns with a password creates an additional security level.

Have you ever tried to use column lock on an Excel sheet? Did it work out for you? Let us know in the comments section below.

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