How to Lock Cells in Google Sheets

Being able to lock cells in Google Sheets can be a lifesaver, especially when you’re in a corporate environment. Although you can always send someone a spreadsheet that they can’t edit, there’s always a case when we want users to edit some parts of the spreadsheet.

With that said, how can you protect other cells from being tampered with when sending your spreadsheets out to potential employees or guests? Well, locking your cells is how. Now, there are a couple of different ways that you can lock cells in Google Sheets, and we’ll go over all those variations in this article.

4 Ways to Lock Cells in Google Sheets

  • Locking specific cells, so that other cells can still be edited
  • Locking specific cells but allowing other users to edit the locked cells
  • Show a warning when trying to edit, but allow editing
  • Locking the entire sheet

These are the four ways you can lock cells in Google Sheets. We’ll be going over each variation one by one later on in depth. Additionally, stick around to the end so you can figure out how to unlock or edit the permissions of certain cells. 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Google Sheets, you don’t have to feel intimidated. This article was written with beginners in mind, so you should be able to just follow through steps with no problem.

Let’s get started!


Why Should I Lock Cells in Google Sheets Anyway?

There are a lot of reasons as to why locking your cells is a good idea. For example, what if you want a spreadsheet that tracks the activities of your employees? However, you don’t want your employees to mess with each other’s spreadsheets, to avoid compromising their data. 

This can be a troublesome problem to work around, especially if you can’t lock your cells. Ideally, the only way to do this would be to provide a separate spreadsheet per employee, but the hassle of checking each spreadsheet can cost time and money.

Now, by locking certain areas to specific employees, you’ll be able to ensure that none of your workers will be able to alter their co-worker’s data. This way, you’ll be able to monitor all their activities on one spreadsheet while ensuring the safety of their entries. 

With that said, let’s start by figuring out how to lock certain cells in your spreadsheet. Here’s how you can do that!

Method 1: Locking Specific Cells

Locking specific cells allows you to mark out individual or cell groups that you want to be locked. This is much more specific and lets you make changes that don’t affect the permissions of your entire document. We recommend that you use this method when you want to protect certain areas, like headers, titles, and so on.

Here are the simple steps for this method. 

Step 1: Open up a Google Sheet spreadsheet.

First, we’ll need a spreadsheet so you can follow the tutorial on your own screen. Feel free to use an existing spreadsheet, or the document you’re trying to lock. However, those of you who don’t have an existing spreadsheet might need to make one from scratch. Simply open up Google Sheets and create a blank spreadsheet.

Alternatively, you can also make a copy of this sample spreadsheet that we’ve provided so you can follow with the exercise. 

Step 2: Populate the cells that you want to protect.

Before anything, we’ll of course have to enter something into the cells so we can have something to protect. Otherwise, locking the cells won’t make much of a difference since they’ll remain blank. In this method, we’ll be writing a couple of words, locking those specific cells, then sending it over to a friend to see if they can edit what you wrote down.

You can follow how the bottom picture, in the sample, was populated. However, feel free to create and populate the cells in your spreadsheet in your own unique way.

Step 3: Highlight the specific cells you want to lock.

So that Google Sheets knows which cells you want to lock, you’ll need to highlight them first. You can easily do this by left-clicking with your mouse, and while holding the left-click down, drag your mouse over your selection. Alternatively, Shift + arrow keys work just as well.

Step 4: Locking your cells.

Finally, we’ll start locking your cells so only you have the permission to edit them. The steps for this are fairly easy, so start by clicking on the Data button near the top-left corner of your screen. From there, click on Protected sheets and ranges

The range should be automatically filled with the columns and rows that you already highlighted. You can simply click on Set permissions to proceed to the next step. You should be offered the option to either show a warning or restriction, for this step, click on the button that says ‘Restrict who can edit this range’. From there, the default option should be set to Only you, leave that alone and click on Done.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully locked specific cells in your Google Sheets 

spreadsheet. You can hover over the new permissions you’ve created to see which cell blocks are protected. Go ahead and share or invite your friends to edit the document and see if they can alter the protected fields or not! 


Method 2: Locking Cells But Giving Permission to Edit to Other People

Although you’ve restricted other people from editing those cells, what if you want a designated person to have the ability to edit? For example, your employees may not edit those cells anymore, but if you had an administrator, then he should be able to edit those cells. 


In situations like this, being able to give people permissions to edit can be a very useful tool. Here’s how you can do just that and give your co-workers access to edit locked cells in your spreadsheet.

Step 1: Open up a spreadsheet.

Once again, if you already have a spreadsheet that you’re working on, feel free to use that. The steps here will work for any spreadsheet running on Google Sheets. Alternatively, if you don’t have an existing spreadsheet to use, we hope that you made one while following the previous method. 

If you didn’t follow the method before this, you can always make yourself a copy of this sample document to help you get started.

Step 2: Populate your spreadsheet with sample data.

For those of you with a new spreadsheet, you’ll want to populate your document with something first. The ones with an existing spreadsheet, have followed from the previous method, or have made a copy with the link above, can just skip this step.

Step 3: Highlight the cells you want to lock and give edit access to.

Now, highlight the cells that you want to lock. We’ll be locking these and giving edit access to your friend or co-worker. You can do this by easily left-clicking and dragging your mouse over the select area. Alternatively, you can also use the Shift + arrow keys on your keyboard to highlight the cells. 

Step 4: Lock your cells.

To lock your cells, click on the Data button at the top-left corner of your window, while your cells are highlighted. From there, move your mouse down and click on Protected sheets and ranges.

By default, the columns and rows that you’ve already highlighted should be displayed in the Range field. Click on Set permissions to move on to the next step and select Restrict who can edit this range. Now, click on Only you and change this into a Custom setting. Add the new editors by typing out their email or choosing from the list of people who are already displayed on your screen. 

Hooray! You’ve successfully locked certain cells in your spreadsheet while giving permission to specific people. You can count these editors as admins, co-workers, or managers. Make sure to share the editable link to your friends, especially the ones who have permission to edit, so you can test if they can alter the cells or not!


Method 3: Protecting An Entire Sheet

Now that you know how to protect specific cells and give permissions out for those cell blocks, what’s next? Well, in this method, we’ll guide you through the steps you can take to lock or protect an entire sheet. This is a useful skill to have, especially when you want someone to just look at a spreadsheet and not edit it.

Instead of protecting your entire spreadsheet, the easiest way to do this would be to just send a view only link. You can do this by clicking on the Share button at the top-right corner of your screen, click on Change below Get link, and make sure that the Anyone with the link option is set. From there, make sure that the link is set to Viewer before you click on Copy link

Anyone with this link will be restricted to a view-only mode, where they will be unable to make edits or even comments on your spreadsheet. 

However, what if you have multiple sheets, want that person to just edit one sheet, and restrict him from editing the rest? For cases like that, you must protect your sheets.

Step 1: Open up a spreadsheet with multiple sheets.

Before anything, you’ll need a spreadsheet with multiple sheets first. We already have one ready for you, so feel free to just make a copy of our sample spreadsheet to get started. Alternatively, you can also click on the plus sign (+) at the bottom-left corner of your spreadsheet to add a new sheet.

Step 2: Right-click the sheet you want to protect and click ‘Protect sheet’.

This step is straightforward, simply right-click the sheet you want to lock and select Protect sheet

Step 3: Set the permissions.

After that, the ‘Protected sheets & ranges’ window should open with you being redirected to the Sheets tab. Go ahead and click on Set permissions so you can configure the edit options. Feel free to set this however you want it. For this method, we’ll be restricting the edit to Only you.

Step 4: Repeat the steps for all the necessary sheets.

With that done, simply repeat the same steps for all the sheets that you want to protect. Once you’re done with all of that, you can go ahead and send an invitation to edit, with the assurance that those locked sheets will not be tampered with!


Method 4: Allow Editing, but Show a Warning

While this doesn’t lock your cells, this step will show a warning to the user when they try to edit a specific column or row. This feature does come in handy, especially when you want to set some reminders without having to write them out in the spreadsheet directly. 

Here’s how you can easily show a warning on your spreadsheet.

Step 1: Open up a spreadsheet.

Just like the previous methods, you will need a spreadsheet to test this out. You can use the same spreadsheet from method 2, or click on this link so you can make a copy of the spreadsheet that was used there. Of course, you can also use an already existing spreadsheet of your own.

Step 2: Highlight the cells you want to place a warning on.

Before anything, you’ll have to highlight the cells that you want to configure. You can do this by dragging your mouse while holding down left-click over an area. Alternatively, you can also use Shift + arrow keys on your keyboard. 

Step 3: Create the warning.

Once you’ve highlighted the cells, click on the Data button at the top-left corner of your screen and select Protected sheets and ranges. Click on Set permissions and, instead of restricting, select Show a warning when editing this range. Just click on Done when you’re finished and you should have a whole area of cells that will show a warning when they’re being edited.

Eureka! You’ve successfully configured cells to give off a warning when they’re being edited. Share this with your friends and see them get the warning error when they try to alter the cells. 


Bonus Method: Removing or Editing Permissions.

If you want to edit or remove any permissions with the cells, you can do so easily through the Protected sheets and ranges window. Before you proceed, make sure that you aren’t highlighting a group of cells first. If you’re in the clear, then simply click on the Data button at the top-left corner of your screen and select Protected sheets and ranges

You should see all the permissions and configurations on the window to your right.

Simply click on the permissions you want to edit or remove. To edit, you can click on Change permissions or change the range and sheet in the text field. You can even name the permissions, so you can identify it easier. If you want to delete permissions all together, simply click on the trash icon at the top-right side of the window. 


Conclusion

Now that you’ve reached the end of this tutorial, we hope to have helped you lock cells in Google Sheets. With that said, here’s a brief summary of all the things we discussed in this article. 

Locking cells in Google Sheets can be done in several ways. You can lock entire sheets, specific cells, give permissions to those specific cells, and display a warning when someone is editing a sensitive cell. 

Hopefully you found this article helpful! 

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