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.