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.

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

    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.

  1. 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…

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. It’s simple…Open the .xlsl file and click the office button all the way down to the prepare tab and again click the Encrypt Document and password window will appear…just remove the password on it and save it…Ohla! now you can open it freely…applicable for both differ version of EXCEL… Hope it works for you! Leave me a comment if it does. 🙂

  5. To remove password encryption before using this zip method to remove the remaining encryption, do the following:
    Go to: File –> Info

    Click ‘Protect Workbook’

    Click ‘Encrypt with Password’

    Delete the password stored in the password bar, and click ‘OK’

    1. You still need to know the password to get there. You must open the file before you can get to that screen, and it prompts for the password upon opening it.

  6. 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

    1. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a way to remove the passwords from those files without knowing the password already or brute forcing the file. When you see that it means the file has been encrypted with a password (which is different from a password protected workbook).

  7. I have excel 2011 for Mac. The whole file is password protected, so I can’t open it at all. I tried opening the re-named file in a zip program but it said it was unable to mount?? I have never used a zip program so not sure if I did something incorrectly or if it is encrypted?

    So sad to loss this data.
    Any thoughts

  8. Hi! I’m working in Excel 2016 (Windows or MAC). Seeing how useful your tip is, I tried with one of my files. All went smooth till I opened the sheet1.xml file and deleted the password as described above. Then I try to save the file and got the following error “You can’t save here. Please choose another location”. any suggestions would be much appreciated. …Sage

    1. That sounds like it could be from a Windows permissions error. You probably need to be running in a UAC elevated context.

      UAC elevation occurs when you see a prompt like this:
      WIndows 7 UAC Prompt

      There’s a few ways you can approach this:

      • Run notepad.exe as admin: right click the Notepad icon, choose “Run as Admin”. Then open the file you want to edit from the File > Open menu item in Notepad, make your changes and you shouldn’t have a problem saving them.
      • Work with the files within your user profile folder (c:Users[your username]): For example, if you extract Book1.xlsx to a folder on your Desktop (C:Users[your username]DesktopBook1), you should be able to edit any files in there without needing to elevate UAC permissions.
      • Lastly, you can save the file to your desktop, then copy and paste it to the original destination through Windows Explorer. Windows Explorer should prompt you for UAC elevation at that time.

      Personally, I prefer doing the second option, so that way I don’t have to keep getting UAC privileges elevated. You would probably need to jump through these hoops again when you re-build the zip file, otherwise. Hope that helps!

  9. Hi
    I went through your steps and saved the modified file. The file was still protected, I went back through the process again, it turns out that after deleting the tag and “saving” it, it turned out the tag was back, when I reopened the file. Even thought I didn’t get an error message the modified file was not saved, the original xml tag is still in the file.

    1. Make sure you extract them in a folder on your Desktop (or somewhere within your profile). That way you don’t need to edit the files with UAC privileges (AKA “run as admin” privileges).

      After you edit the file, save it, close Notepad, and then try reopening it and see if it still has your modifications before you re-compress the zip. It sounds like something wasn’t saving, maybe due to some permission issue, or something on your machine is causing the file to revert back. I would think you would see an error message if you couldn’t save, though.

      You may want to try something like Notepad++ or Atom (a couple of great, free, notepad replacement apps).

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