How To Restrict Editing for Specific Cells in Google Sheets

If you use Google Sheets for business or for an organization, locking down or otherwise protecting assets is key. Accidental modification or deletion, malicious changes or general mischief or errors can all cause you to lose your work and while Google keeps a backup of it, it is still time wasted. If you would like to restrict editing for specific cells or protect other aspects of Google Sheets, this tutorial is for you.

How To Restrict Editing for Specific Cells in Google Sheets

Google Sheets is the equivalent of Excel and provides some basic but still powerful spreadsheet tools in the cloud. I use Google Sheets and Docs a lot. While nothing to look at, they contain all the essential tools necessary for productivity. They may not be as in-depth as Office or capable of as many functions but unless you’re an accountant or project manager, you won’t use half the tools that comes with Office anyway.

There are a few ways to protect your work in Google Sheets. I’ll show you some of them.

Lock cells in Google Sheets

To restrict editing for specific cells in Google Sheets, you lock them. That way, only you or someone you add to the approved list can modify those cells. All people with permission to view and see them but not modify them. It’s a practical way to control who does what with your documents.

There are two main ways to do this. You can select cells and lock them or select the entire sheet and add exceptions. I’ll show you the first method here and the exception method in a minute.

  1. Open your sheet and select the range of cells you want to lock.
  2. Select Data and Protected sheets and ranges. A menu bar will appear on the right.
  3. Give the lock a meaningful name and select Set Permissions.
  4. Select Restrict who can edit this range and set it to Only You or add others from the Custom option.
  5. Select Done once finished.

You can add other people with their Gmail address or select from a list depending on how you have Google Sheets set up. Once done, the cells you specified will be locked to anyone but who you give permission to. The lock is invisible until someone tries to modify it who isn’t on the list.

If you don’t want to completely lock down cells, you can display a warning message instead. This allows you to alert the editor that the cell(s) they are about to edit are important and to be extra careful.

  1. Open your sheet and select the range of cells you want to lock.
  2. Select Data and Protected sheets and ranges. A menu bar will appear on the right.
  3. Give the lock a name and select Set Permissions.
  4. Select Show a warning when editing this range.
  5. Select Done.

With this setting, anyone about to edit the protected cell will see a popup warning telling them ‘Heads up! You’re trying to edit part of this sheet that shouldn’t be changed accidentally. Edit anyway?’ There is also a specific OK button to make double sure the editor really wants to change the cell. This is useful to remind those you do trust to edit your Sheet that those particular cells require extra care.

Lock the entire Google Sheet

If locking down cells isn’t enough, you can lock the entire Google Sheet to make it read only for everyone but approved users. It follows a similar process to the above but renders the entire sheet untouchable rather than specific cells. If you’re presenting or sharing your Sheet and don’t want it messed around with, this is how you protect it.

  1. Open the sheet you want to lock.
  2. Select Data and Protected sheets and ranges. A menu bar will appear on the right.
  3. Select the Sheet toggle instead of Range.
  4. Select the specific sheet if there are more than one.
  5. Select Set permissions and add users who can edit.
  6. Select Done.

You can use the same arrangement as cell locking with regards locking or warning. It uses the same setup as above so I won’t bore you by repeating it.

Adding cell exceptions to a locked Sheet

I mentioned above that there is a second way to lock down cells and that is to lock the entire Sheet but add cells as an exception. If you have a large sheet and only one or a few cells to lock, this can be the simplest way to do it. Here’s how:

  1. Follow the process above to lock the entire Google Sheet but stop before Step 6.
  2. Select Except certain cells underneath the Sheet selector.
  3. Add the cells you want to remain editable within the box underneath. Continue until all cells are included.
  4. Select Set permissions and proceed from there.

You can add individual ranges by selecting one group and then selecting the Add Another Range link underneath. You can repeat as much as is practical to fully secure your Sheet.

6 thoughts on “How To Restrict Editing for Specific Cells in Google Sheets”

Eloise says:
Hi! I’m having problem regarding this. I am using this for my team’s report and I’ve given access to a teammate but he couldn’t seem to edit even if I gave him permission to do so. other teammates can edit tho. What could be the problem? I’ve tried giving access to his other gmail accounts too but to no avail. Hope you could help me.
Suzanne Alotta says:
I realize this is an old post, but maybe you can help me. I am new to spreadsheets and my grandson made one for me that I just update. I have a spreadsheet with ten teams who are tracking miles walked. Currently, I have sent each team a copy of their portion and they update weekly. I then do a cut and paste to add it to my spreadsheet with all teams. Would it be possible to have one master sheet that each team would update, but they can only update their portion and can not change any other part? So ten people would have access to the spreadsheet, but only able to make changes to their part. Then I would not have to cut and paste each week. Thanks.
William Sattelberg says:
Hey Suzanne! Based on your own description, it sounds like using the protected sheets and range option described above! Just make sure each team has their own section on the sheet separate from each other, and once the document is shared with everyone, select each group and use the option described above to allow just the one group to edit each section. Let us know if you have any questions!

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