How to Protect Your Sensitive Business Files with Passwords

Protecting a file with a password can provide an extra layer of security for sensitive business documents. Learn how to password-protect your files in Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

This can come in handy if you want to, for example, email a report that contains your company’s sales figures or bring it along on a business trip.

Three Microsoft Office apps — Word, Excel, and PowerPoint — offer the ability to password-protect files. As Table 1 shows, this feature is available in nearly all supported versions.

Table 1: Microsoft Office Apps in Which You Can Password-Protect Files

WordExcelPowerPoint
Word for Office 365*Excel for Office 365*PowerPoint for Office 365*
Word 2019*Excel 2019*PowerPoint 2019*
Word 2016*Excel 2016*PowerPoint 2016*
Word 2013**Excel 2013**PowerPoint 2013**
Word 2010**Excel 2010**PowerPoint 2010**
  * Uses 256-bit AES encryption
** Uses 128-bit AES encryption

Before you protect a file, though, you should take the time to come up with a unique, strong password for it. Otherwise, it might be easy for someone to guess or crack it. And if you tend to forget credentials, you might want to keep a copy of the file’s password in a safe location. While not ideal, it beats not being able to open and use the file ever again. The apps do not have the ability to recover or reset a forgotten password.

How to Password Protect a File

Protecting files with a password is a straightforward process. Plus, the steps are easy to remember, as they are basically the same no matter whether your password-protecting a Word document, Excel workbook, or PowerPoint presentation.

To password protect a file, open it in the appropriate app and follow these steps:

  1. Click the “File” tab in the upper left corner.
  2. In the “Info” section, click “Protect Document” if you are in Word, “Protect Workbook” if you are in Excel, or “Protect Presentation” if you are in PowerPoint.
  3. In the drop-down menu that appears, select “Encrypt with Password”.
  4. Enter the password you want to use and click “OK”.
  5. Re-enter the password and click “OK”.
  6. Save and close the file.

When you later open the file, you will be prompted to enter the password you selected.


How to Remove Password Protection

You can remove a file’s password protection at any time. To do so, open the file in the appropriate app and follow these steps:

  1. Click the “File” tab in the upper left corner.
  2. In the “Info” section, click “Protect Document” if you are in Word, “Protect Workbook” if you are in Excel, or “Protect Presentation” if you are in PowerPoint.
  3. In the drop-down menu that appears, select “Encrypt with Password”.
  4. Delete the displayed password (it will be masked with asterisks) and click “OK”.
  5. Save and close the file.

You will no longer have to enter the password to open the file.