Unprotect Excel worksheet

How to unprotect a password protected .XLSX file

I found a pretty easy way of disabling the password protection in the new Excel Worksheet files (XLSX) used by Excel 2007 and 2010.  Just follow these simple steps:

  • Change the file extension from .XLSX to .ZIP
  • Extract the file to a folder with your favorite unzipper (7-Zip is what I used)
  • Go to the xlworksheet sub-folder that you just extracted
  • There should be one or more files named like: sheet1.xml (sheet2.xml, etc). Inside of one of those files is an XML tag: <sheetProtection password=… />. Delete that entire XML tag.
  • Re-zip the files back up
  • Rename from .ZIP to .XLSX

Done!

UPDATE: This method only applies to password protected workbooks.  If the file is secured with the “Encrypt with Password” feature, it will not work.

UPDATE 2: It is important that you don’t have Windows configured to hide file extensions (which unfortunately is the default behavior). To enable displaying file name extensions, follow this Microsoft support article.

34 thoughts on “How to unprotect a password protected .XLSX file”

  1. Hello,
    i followed these steps,
    1. .xlsx to .zip
    2. extract to a folder with 7zip
    3. but i got

    [6]DataSpaces (Folder)
    EncryptedPackage (File)
    EncryptionInfo (File)

    Unable to find this folder (Go to the xlworksheet sub-folder that you just extracted)

    Help me

    Thank you
    Sibi

  2. Chellapandi, apologies, it seems that this tutorial only applies to Protected Workbooks (not the “Encrypt with Password” option). I will update the post to reflect that.

  3. I was able to follow the directions up to “re-zip the files back up”. I don’t know how to do this step. I also downloaded 7-Zip but no luck in trying to figure it out.

    1. Amy, you should be able to go to the folder (where you extracted the contents of the .XLSX file), select all the files, and then right click and in the 7-Zip sub-menu select “Add to Whatever.zip”. After that rename it from Whatever.zip to Whatever.xlsx (replace “whatever” with the name of your file).

    1. This technique only works if the workbook is password protected. There is another Excel features called “Encrypt Spreadsheet with Password” and this does not work for that option. Are you sure you’re looking at the right thing?

  4. Hi Adam: For some reason, the workbook I’m trying to open doesn’t seem to have even the characters ‘Prot’ in any of the XML files. The workbook has 17 visible worksheets and 5 invisible worksheets for a total of 22 XML files. Any tips?

    1. I have checked and i can confirm that this technique should work just fine in Excel 2013. What’s the error you’re receiving and what are you doing exactly?

  5. Actually here’s the deal.

    These options add encryption:
    File > Protect Workbook > Encrypt with Password
    File > Save As > Tools > General Options > Password to Open

    This option doesn’t add encryption so the above password recovery option will work:
    Review tab > Protect Workbook > Structure > Password

  6. Hello,
    i followed these steps,
    1. .xlsx to .zip
    2. extract to a folder with 7zip
    3. but i got

    [6]DataSpaces (Folder)
    EncryptedPackage (File)
    EncryptionInfo (File)

    Unable to find this folder (Go to the xlworksheet sub-folder that you just extracted)

    Help me

    Thank you

  7. Quickest way is to open the .xlsx file on a mac running Numbers which also unhides any tabs as well as removing password protection.
    Accidental and awesome discovery but so are most awesome discoveries

  8. Yes, there are no tricks for passwords to open. Just searching using special password recovery programs.

    It is important to use video cards (GPU from AMD is the best). Video cards allow to increase the speed of searching tens of times.

    1. Hello Tanzir, at what step are you getting that error? By default, Windows will hide file extensions for known file types. So if you call a ZIP file “Test.xlsx” it might be hiding the real extension and it could be “Test.xlsx.zip”. Make sure you disable the “Hide extensions for known file types” option. I updated the article with a link to support.microsoft.com with instructions on showing file name extensions.

  9. I could not get the file to open after re-zipping and changing the ext back to xlsx so I tried something different. After un-zipping, In the xl folder I opened the “workbook.xml” file with notepad, searched for password. In the code “workbookPassword=”94B3″ changed to workbookPassword=”” and saved. Then went into worksheets folder and opened “sheet1.xml” , searched for password. In the code “Password=”94B3″ changed to Password=”” and saved. Zipped it back up and changed ext back to xlsx, opened the file and turned off protection, no password required…

  10. 1. .xlsx to .zip
    2. extract to a folder with 7zip
    3. but i got

    [6]DataSpaces (Folder)
    EncryptedPackage (File)
    EncryptionInfo (File)

    THEN WHICH WAY I REMOVE THE PASSWORD ?

    1. Hello PS89, as I’ve stated repeatedly, this is ONLY for password protected workbooks. NOT excel files that are protected with the “Encrypt with Password” feature. Yours is encrypted.

    2. PS89
      save your file as xls (97/2007), open it, go to file tab,click on “Convert” then it will be saved again as xlsx and then try again described method

  11. URGENT

    hi Adam …
    i converted balance.xlsx to balance.zip using cmd prompt
    than , i tried opening balance.zip using winrar
    i got the msg ..

    ” The archive is in unknown format or damages ”

    i tried extracting using right click & got msg …

    ” No archive is found “”

    please suggest …

    1. Hi Ankur, were you able to get this fixed? It sounds like the file may be corrupt – have you confirmed that Excel doesn’t give you an error when you try to open it? I’ve done this method with both the built-in Windows ZIP utility, and 7-Zip. I’m not sure if I’ve tried Winrar, but it shouldn’t make a difference.

        1. dear friend ….it is my imp accounting file ….
          can i send you on your email which you can unlock and send me back

          please
          please

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