What Happens If You Forgot Your Excel Password?

One nifty feature of Excel is the ability to password protect your spreadsheets. This helps to keep any secure information on your spreadsheets safe from prying eyes. So if you’ve got something like your financial data that you can – and should – protect, then it’s almost essential that you protect it with a password.

Before we go into what to do if you forgot your Excel password, let’s take a quick look at what kind of password you should have set in the first place…courtesy office.com/setup
There’s a kind of Faustian pact we all have with passwords. Ideally, to be totally secure, each password should be unique and should be changed on a regular basis. But we’re human. Doing that is well near impossible and we’d need a (password protected) file to store them all.

So we often use the same password for multiple places.
Which neatly leads us on to the first tip to recover the lost password for your Excel file:

Start with your favorite passwords!
Of course, if the Excel sheet was created by someone else, that’s not as easy as if you created it yourself. Or if a disgruntled employee has sneakily changed the password whilst you weren’t looking.
So you’re back to square one. Your data is being protected – great news if it was someone else trying to get into your data, bad news if you’re minutes away from a making presentation that includes the padlocked file.
You’ll be hoping that the person who set the forgotten password was fairly lax.
Due to the number of potential combinations, the strength of a password increases massively as the length of the password increases.

A single character password – if it was case sensitive – would have a maximum of 52 combinations plus numbers or any special characters. Even a child could crack that in minutes.
But a password that’s stronger – for instance, 8 characters or more in length – gets tough.
So you either need to use a password cracker program or you need to know the person who set the password very well.
Most people use things like children’s names, birthdays, sports teams, that kind of thing when they set their password. So if you know the person who set up the protection, there’s a good chance that you can use that information to work out how to un-forget the password. Just work through all the likely combinations and hope that you hit lucky.
If the person was highly protective then you’re in trouble with this method – you’ll soon know as you’ll have exhusted all the likely combinations and still drawn a blank.

It’s at this stage that a password cracking software program comes into its own. It will patiently work its way through every single possible password combination until it finds the correct one.
Of course, even software takes time to do this, so if you need the data now then you’re out of luck. It may well take a few hours before the software works out what that forgotten Excel password is.

So the other piece of advise is to make sure that you spread the password knowledge around one or two other people so that between you, you’re able to remember that lost Excel password before it becomes embarrassing.

Robert Morris a Microsoft Office expert has been working in the technical industry from last 5 year. As a technical expert, he has written technical blogs, manuals, white papers, and reviews for many websites such as www.office.com/setup


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