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Protected sheets with unlocked cells shows all cells as protected in Excel Online

Brass Contributor

Hi, I first noticed this today with Excel Online. I have a workbook with a protected sheet, some cells are locked and some aren't. On the desktop, this works fine. On Excel Online, when editing cells on the protected sheet, as of today it says the cell is protected, even when it's not part of the set of cells that are locked.


Under 'Review - Manage Protection' in Excel Online, there is a new(?) option to add editable ranges, but this isn't visible in Excel Desktop. This seems to override this behaviour where unlocked cells on a locked spreadsheet can't be edited in Excel Online.


Is this an intended change to the way these locked cells on protected sheets work for Excel Online, or is it a bug that has been introduced? Is this the correct venue for reporting something like this? There is a Reddit thread started earlier today that first noted this, I've been using this functionality as described (protected sheets with locked and unlocked ranges) for over a year this way with no issues, with this change happening today: Office 365 Issue with cells randomly locked : excel (




18 Replies


Yes this same thing is happening to us.  It started end of last week and having the user open the application on their desktop and syncing seemed to work but now I'm able to replicate the issue myself and syncing is not helping anymore.  I can either leave the sheet unlocked or have users open them in the app instead of the browser.  Not sure what happened recently to change the behavior.  


This same thing is happening to us. It started at the end of last week but not for all the users or all the Excel files. It seems that opening the Excel file on their desktop seemed to work. 

This is a serious functionality error in the application that, if files are to be used, leaves the sheets unprotected, turning it into a serious security breach.

We have the same issues in our company.
The weird thing is that it's not affecting all users. For some users it's working as usual and other users can't do anything anymore as it seems that the unlocked cells are locked for them. So for those users I need to unprotect the full sheet to have them do their work.
I hope this can be fixed as soon as possible because we really rely on excel online where we have 20 excel tabs open at the same time.
Or if we need to change the process then hopefully someone from Microsoft can tell us what to change to have our protected excel files workable again in excel online.



My organization is facing the same issue, tons of Excel files that had locked/unlocked cells are now randomly locking cells that were not locked previously. Tons of users in our org are having issues with various Excel files we have in use. The issue is rectified by opening the file in the desktop app, but using Excel Online we experience all these issues suddenly.

Microsoft need to fix this ASAP. There are hundred of people in our organization can't do work because of this protected cell bug.


Exactly the same behavior for us, appears random, it's random cells that are inaccessible.  It started for me and I could select 3 cells in one row but the rest of the rows were fine.  Very weird behavior.  I ended up having to use the online Manage Protection to add a range, even though they are not locked via cell formatting, and then locked the sheets.  That resolved it for online use.  However you have to do that for every sheet and every cell you want them to have access to.  So unpleasant if you have a lot.  I had 2 workbooks and a total of about 10 sheets to update.  Everyone is able to continue using them online now.  Hope Microsoft fixes this soon.

Hey, since nobody seems to have an ability to let Microsoft know in an official capacity, I tried submitting an official Microsoft support ticket through 365. I got word the team involved on Excel Online is aware of the issue now, I will post an update here if I hear more.

@RobertAttrell Please keep us updated on anything you hear from Microsoft on this issue.  I have a LOT of work ahead of me if this is not fixed very soon.  Thanks! 

Good morning Robert. Any report back from support? Yesterday I went through approximately 1000 worksheets within 150 workbooks on the online version to get these sheets to work again for my company.
Just jumping in to say I am having the same issue in my organization. Excel Online is locking ALL the cells instead of just leaving the range opened. My only temporary workaround is asking users to refresh the page, or change the Editing drop down box in the top right hand corner to Viewing Only then back to Editing and see if it helps.

Hope this is fixed soon.
Our customers cannot use our Excel Online sheets because of this bug. Hopefully issue is solved ASAP
I went through the issue with a support engineer just now and sent them the diagnostic files from the system, they are aware of the issue, I'll post again if I hear anything definitive.
I've done the same and gone through with support tech yesterday - they are aware of an issue which is good, but no plan on turnaround times..

Hi @RobertAttrell,


We had the same problems but as of today, it seems fixed.

Is it fixed for you too?


With kind regards,


Hi all,

I just get news from our team and it seems the users who had issues are able to work normally again. So it seems to be fixed for us.

Kind regards,

best response confirmed by RobertAttrell (Brass Contributor)

Seems to be fixed for me as well. Go team!

Saw this incident report in my M365 dashboard on this issue:

Title: Some users can't freely edit unlocked cells in protected Excel files opened in Excel for the web


User impact: Users couldn't freely edit unlocked cells in protected Excel files opened in Excel for the web.


More info: Some users modifying unlocked cells in protected Excel for the web files would receive a prompt that the cells were protected. Affected users could have bypassed the problem by opening files in the Excel desktop app, if accessible.


Final status: We've disabled the offending changes and confirmed through an additional period of monitoring that the issue is resolved throughout the affected environment. Users encountering persistent impact may need to refresh their Excel for the web session to see remediation.


Scope of impact: Some users are impacted when attempting to edit unlocked cells in protected files through Excel for the web.


Start time: Sunday, December 10, 2023 at 7:00 PM EST

End time: Wednesday, December 20, 2023 at 3:05 PM EST


Root cause: Two recent changes to introduce a new feature that was intended to improve the content latency in Excel for the web resulted in impact.


Next steps:
- We're reviewing our update testing and validation methods to better identify the potential for issues such as this prior to deployment to prevent similar impact in the future.


This is the final update for the event.

on 21/dec seems to be fixed for us as well
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best response confirmed by RobertAttrell (Brass Contributor)