How to Unlock a Password-Protected Word Document

how to lock or unlock a Word document
Unlocking and locking a Word document is almost as easy as unlocking a padlock.

Getty Images (POJCHEEWIN YAPRASERT PHOTOGRAPHY/Moment collection)

Microsoft Word offers different levels of protection that can be applied to your documents, allowing you to dictate whether or not someone else can edit their content or even open them. This is done by locking your documents with a password and configuring various protection settings based on your individual needs.

Note: While these features are not available in Word Online, you can control who you share your documents with as well as whether or not they have edit access to said documents.

How to Lock a Word Document in Windows

Follow the directions below to lock your document via password protection functionality in Word 2010 or later.

lock a word document in windows
Locking a Word 2016 document with a password in Windows.
  1. Open the Word document you wish to protect.
  2. Select the File tab, located in the upper left-hand corner, then select Info from the left menu pane. 
  3. Select Protect Document.
  4. A drop-down menu will appear containing several options.
  5. Select Encrypt with Password.
  6. You'll be prompted to enter a password, which will be required whenever anyone attempts to open this document going forward.
    1. Warning: This password is not recoverable, so be sure to store it somewhere safe.
  7. Select OK.
  8. You'll now be asked to enter the password again. Do so, and select OK
  9. A message will appear in the Protect Document section stating a password is required to open this document.

How to Lock a Word Document in macOS

Follow the directions below to lock your document via password protection functionality in macOS.

lock a word document in macOS
Locking a Word 2016 document in macOS
  1. Open the Word document that you wish to protect.
  2. Click the Review tab, located near the top of the Word interface.
  3. Click Protect Document.
  4. The Password Protect dialog should now be displayed, overlaying the main Word window. 
  5. To require a password to view this document, enter one in the Set a password to open this document field. You're then asked to re-enter this password a second time.
  6. To require a password to make changes to this document, enter one in the Set a password to modify this document field. You're then asked to re-enter this password a second time. 
    1. Note: A password will not be required to open and read this document's contents.
    2. Warning: These passwords are not recoverable, so be sure to store them somewhere safe.
  7. Click OK to partially or fully lock your document.

How to Add Restrictions to a Word Document

In addition to locking your Word document with a password, you can apply additional restrictions meant to control the specific types of edits other users can make. This is helpful if you're fine with providing access but want to limit certain changes to the document's content.

Adding Restrictions on Windows:

restrict editing in Word for Windows
Restrict Editing interface in Word 2016 for Windows.
  1. Select the Review tab, located towards the top of the Word interface.
  2. Select Restrict Editing, found in the Protect section of the main toolbar.
  3. The Restrict Editing interface will now slide out on the right-hand side of the screen, containing configurable formatting and editing restrictions. These include the ability to only allow comments, tracked changes, or form entries within your document. You can also limit formatting to a specific set of styles (i.e., HTML only).
    1. Tip: Additionally, you can select specific regions of your document to only allow designated groups to edit them while restricting changes to all other users.
  4. Select the X in the upper right-hand corner of the Restrict Editing interface once you're satisfied with your settings.

Adding Restrictions on macOS:

editing restrictions in Word for macOS
Protecting document for editing restrictions in Word 2016 for macOS.
  1. Click the Review tab, located towards the top of the Word interface.
  2. Click Protect Document.
  3. The Password Protect dialog should now be displayed, overlaying the main Word window. In the Protection section, place a check mark next to Protect document for.
  4. From here, you can choose to restrict edits of comments, tracked changes, form entries, or even set the entire document to read-only. You can also include an optional password required to make these aforementioned edits if you wish. 
  5. Click OK once satisfied with your settings.

How to Unlock a Word Document

If you've previously locked a Word document, removing its password protection restriction is a fairly simple process, provided you're signed in as the document owner. Depending on your platform, repeat the steps in the respective tutorial above until you've returned to the Protect Document button. 

Windows users:

  1. Select Protect Document.
  2. Select Encrypt with Password.
  3. Remove the password from the field provided, then select OK to unlock the document.
unlock a Word document in Windows
Unlocking a password-protected Word 2016 document in Windows.

macOS users:

  1. Click Protect Document.
  2. Remove the password or passwords from the fields provided, then click OK to unlock the document.
unlock Word document in macOS
Unlocking a password-protected Word 2016 document in macOS.