Excel: What Is Protected Mode?

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Problem: Any time that I download a file from our file sharing site, it opens in Protected mode.

Strategy: I am sure that you regularly get files from other people in your company. They arrive via Outlook or you download them from an Internet site. I always worry that those people aren't smart enough to avoid getting viruses or that they actually hate me and would maliciously slip something bad into the workbook_open macro to cause problems with my computer.

In Excel 2003, if you opened a file with a macro, it stopped right away and made you choose whether to enable or disable macros. Have you ever thought about this question? How the heck should I know whether I should enable the macros when I haven't even had a chance to look around the worksheet (or examine the macro code, if you are comfortable with that)?

When you answered Enable Macros in Excel 2003, you were really taking a risk.

Now, any file that comes from a potentially dangerous location is open in the new Protected mode in Excel 2010. Here is the cool thing about Protected mode: You can look at the workbook. You can scroll through it or go to other worksheets. You can look at the macros. When you are convinced that the file is safe, you click a button and the workbook is available in regular mode.

This is brilliant. You get to actually look at the workbook, and while doing so it cannot harm your computer. You get to make an educated decision as to whether the workbook may prove harmful.

And, you know what? A lot of the time, you won't even have to leave Protected mode. You can look at the worksheet, see what you need to see, and close the workbook.

If you need to edit the workbook, use the button shown in here.

  1. When you are convinced that the workbook is safe, enable editing.

    Additional Details: The following is a list of files that will open in Protected Mode. Any file that did not originate on your computer can open in protected mode.

    • Files that you download from the Internet
    • Files in your temporary Internet folder
    • Files that you open from Outlook
    • Files that fail validation

    If you want to adjust those settings, click the words in the information bar in Fig 55, and then choose Protected View Settings. You can turn off Protected mode for any of the situations shown here.

  2. You can tweak which files open in Protected Mode.