How to Encrypt a Spreadsheet in Excel 2003

Updated July 20, 2017

Microsoft Excel 2003 spreadsheets may contain sensitive data such as Social Security numbers, credit card information or confidential business strategies. If such files are e-mailed to the wrong person, stolen or lost, private data may become public. Protecting critical Excel documents helps prevent these outcomes. By creating a strong password and setting a high level of encryption using only Microsoft Excel, you can secure your important spreadsheets.

Create a strong document password. After opening the file you want to encrypt in Excel, click the "Tools" item in the menu bar at the top of the screen, then select "Options." In the dialogue box, click the "Security" tab. Enter a strong password in the field labelled "Password to open." Strong passwords are at least 10 characters in length, not easy to guess, and include a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.

Set the document encryption type. Click the "Advanced" button next to the password field you just completed. Excel presents you a list of cryptographic algorithm collections used to secure spreadsheets. Encryption of 128 bits or more is considered strong, but some encryption types only support 40 or 56 bits. Scroll down the list and click the "Microsoft Strong Cryptographic Provider" option, then enter a value of 128 in the field labelled "Choose a key length." Click "OK" to close the dialogue box. Click "OK" a second time to close the Options box.

Save your document. Click the "File" menu at the top of your screen, then select "Save." Your Excel spreadsheet is now protected with a strong password and 128-bit encryption.

Things You'll Need

  • Microsoft Excel 2003
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About the Author

Craig Witt has written professionally since 2005 in the public and private sectors as a journalist, marketing copywriter and public relations professional. He most often writes consumer software and hardware how-to articles for eHow. Witt has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the University of Washington.