How to Lock Cells in Google Sheets

How to unlock them, as well

What to Know

  • Select and right-click cells, select Protect Range, and assign a name. Click Set permissions and choose to show warning or restrict editing.
  • Unlock cells: Choose Data > Protected sheets and ranges, click the cells in the sidebar, select the trash can icon, and choose Remove.

Spreadsheets are fragile documents; it's easy to accidentally change a cell that "breaks" a calculation, ruins the formatting, or makes the document incorrect. That's why it's important to know how to lock cells in Google Sheets to protect them from changes or unlock them for editing.

What Does It Mean to Lock Cells in Google Sheets?

Before we get to the actual how-to of locking cells in Google Sheets, it's worth taking a moment to understand what options Google Sheets puts at your disposal.

When you lock cells in Google Docs, you have two options:

  • Show a warning. If someone (including yourself) tries to edit a cell that's protected in this way, Google Sheets will display a warning, but allow the cell to be changed if the user persists. This is a sort of safety valve that prevents accidental changes but doesn't keep anyone from making changes if needed.
  • Restrict editing. If a cell is protected this way, only people who are specifically allowed to edit the cell can make changes. This can be just you and you alone, or any number of other people you add to the permission list. 

How to Lock Cells in Google Sheets

You can lock single or multiple cells in Google Sheets. That includes entire rows and columns as well. Here's how.

  1. Select the cell or range of cells you want to lock.

    A range of cells selected in Google Sheets.
  2. Right-click the selected cells and then choose Protect Range from the menu. 

    The Protect Range command
  3. In the Protected sheets & ranges sidebar on the right side of the browser, give the selection a name if desired (but do not press Enter). You don't have to give it a name, but it can make it easier to find a protected set of cells later. 

    named range
  4. Click the green Set permissions button in the same sidebar.

  5. In the Range editing permissions dialog, choose whether you want to only show a warning (which allows the cells to be edited) or to restrict who can edit it. If you choose Restrict who can edit this range, click the drop-down menu and choose Only you or Custom, and add the email address for each person you want to allow editing. When you're ready, click the green Done button.

    The range editing permissions dialog box open in Google Sheets

    If you have already protected at least one set of cells in this document, you can also choose Copy permission from another range, and then select that set of cells from the list that appears. This is an easy way to apply the same set of editors who are allowed to edit this new selection.

How to Unlock Cells in Google Sheets

You might eventually want to stop protecting certain cells in a spreadsheet. You can do that with just a few clicks as well. 

  1. If the Protected sheets & ranges sidebar is not visible in your spreadsheet, click Data in the menu bar at the top of the screen and choose Protected sheets and ranges

    data tab
  2. In the sidebar, click the cell or range of cells you want to unlock. 

  3. Click the trash can icon to the right of the cell's description. In the pop-up dialog, click Remove. This will only remove the protection from the cells, not the data included in the cells.

    trash icon
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