How to Unlock an Excel File That Is Locked for Editing by Me

Written by

Mel Jenkins

Reviewed by

Laura Tsitlidze

Last updated on September 10, 2023

This tutorial demonstrates how to unlock an Excel file that is locked for editing, when the name of the person locking the file is your own.

lock file intro

File Locked for Editing

Say you are Fred Smith and you get the File in Use error pictured above. If this happens, chances are that the file is open already on your machine but is hidden in the background. To fix this issue, you need to close the file in the background.

  1. Press CTRL + ALT + DELETE on the keyboard, and then click Task Manager.

lockfile taskmanager

  1. Scroll down until you find Background Processes, and then continue to scroll until you find Excel. Select it and click End task.

lockfile end task

  1. Close the Task Manager, and then try to open the file again. It should now open without any error messages.

Workbook Locked for Editing

If you have protected your workbook, you might only be able to open the file as read-only.

lock file read only

  1. Click No to open the file and edit it, and then change the settings on the file to remove the read-only setting.
  2. Once the file is opened, in the Ribbon, go to File > Info. Note that Protect Workbook is highlighted (in yellow).

lock file info

  1. Click the Protect Workbook drop down, and then click Always Open Read-Only to remove the read-only setting.

lock file remove read only

As a result, Protect Workbook is no longer highlighted.

lock file read only gone

  1. Click Save to re-save the file without the read-only setting.

Tip: You can always save it as read-only again later.

Sheet or Sheets Locked for Editing

If you can open the file, but you still cannot change information in the cells in specific sheets, it may be that the sheet is locked for editing.

lock file sheet locked

  1. Click OK to remove the error message, and then in the Ribbon, go to Review > Protect > Unprotect Sheet.

lockfile sheet unprotect

  1. If the sheet was locked with a password, you must enter it in the Unprotect Sheet window.

lockfile sheet password

Now, you can enter and edit data in your sheet.

Delete Temporary Files

If you are still encountering problems in opening a workbook, it may be that Excel has saved a temporary file for your workbook and ended up locking the original.

  1. First, make sure that Excel is closed, and then hold down the Windows key () and press R.
  2. Then, type in: %appdata%\Microsoft\Excel\

lock file run

  1. The location of your temporary Excel files opens in File Explorer.
  2. Delete any of the temporary files or folders you want to, specifically the file you are trying to access.

lock file temp files

Note: If you have a folder called XLSTART, it normally contains any global macros you have created. If you delete this folder, you lose the macros, so it’s best to leave that folder in place!

lock file leave start

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