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How to Lock a Word Document

Your text could be sensitive. Therefore, learning how to lock a Word document is mandatory. Thankfully, Microsoft Word has some built-in features that allow you to protect your files and the information they contain from unwanted exposure or unauthorized or accidental modifications.

Depending on the kind of data you deal with, your preferred method of protecting the files may vary. Therefore, for your convenience, the following sections cover almost all effective but easy ways to lock a document in Word.

Add a Password in a Word Document to Lock It

This is the most secure way to lock a document in Word. In this method, you encrypt the entire Word file with a password. After that, each time a person tries to open the document, Word prompts them to enter the correct password.

The best thing about this solution is that you cannot bypass the encryption password using workarounds. If you want to see the information an encrypted file contains, you must enter the correct password or have an in-depth understanding of programming techniques so you can write a VBA code to nullify the protection.

You can also try an efficient and reliable third-party tool that can recover the Word password to make your task easier. However, going that route is helpful when you face such situations regularly. If it’s merely a one-time job, you may want to give it a second thought.

Coming back to the point, to learn how to lock a Word document by encrypting it with a password, you can follow the instructions given below:

Note: Microsoft Word 2021 is used here for illustrations.

  • Open the Word document you want to encrypt with the password
  • Go to File from the menu bar at the top
  • Click Info from the left pane
  • Click the Protect Document button from the Info pane in the center
  • Click Encrypt with Password from the list that appears

Encrypt with Password from Protect Document

  • Enter a strong password in the Password field of the Encrypt Document box
  • Click OK

Encrypt the contents of this file with password

  • Enter the password again in the Reenter password field of the Confirm Password box
  • Click OK to lock the document in Word

From this point onwards, each time you wish to open the file, Word will prompt you to enter the password.

Other Ways to Protect Your Word Document

While the above solution prevents anyone from opening the document without a password, let alone showing its content, there could be instances when you want others to see the text but prohibit them from making any changes.

For such purposes, MS Word has several methods, and you can pick the one that suits you best. You can go through the following solutions to learn how to lock a Word document to prevent any changes in it:

Solution 1: Always Open Read-Only

This method allows you to configure Word so it always opens in read-only mode, thus allowing people to view the content but preventing them from making any changes. The step-by-step procedure to lock a document in Word and open it in read-only mode is given below:

  • Get to the Info screen using the steps explained before
  • Click the Protect Document tile from the Info pane in the center
  • Click Always Open Read-Only from the list
  • Save and close the document when done

Always Open Read-Only from Protect Document

From this point, each time you attempt to open this file, Word will display a message box informing you that the document is configured to open as Read-Only. The box also lets you lift this restriction temporarily if you want to modify the content. Once you’re done changing the text, you can save and close the file. Try reopening to confirm if the Read-Only protection is still there.

Open Word document as read only

Additional Tip

To remove the Read-Only protection, return to the Protect Document list and click Always Open Read-Only again.

Because this method doesn’t require you to define a password, you can use it to avoid any accidental alterations in the document.

Solution 2: Restrict Editing

This is a password-protected method where you can view the content of a Word document, but to modify it, you must enter the correct password. You can follow the instructions given below to learn how to lock a Word document to restrict editing:

  • Follow the steps explained earlier to get to the Info screen and open the Protect Document list
  • Here, click Restrict Editing

Restrict Editing in Protect Document

  • From the Restrict Editing pane on the right of the document, check the Limit formatting to a selection of styles box
  • Also, check the Allow only this type of editing in the document box with the No changes (Read only) option selected in the drop-down list
  • Optionally, choose the groups you want to lock the document for (only for advanced users and systems administrators)
  • From the Start enforcement section, click Yes, Start Enforcing Protection

Start Enforcing Protection on Word document

  • On the Start Enforcing Protection box, ensure that the Password radio button is selected in the Protection method section
  • In the input fields, enter and reenter a strong password that the document will require before allowing any modifications
  • Click OK to save the changes

Enter password to lock Word document

Note: Although defining a password is optional, Microsoft suggests you do so to add a layer of security to your content.

  • Save and close the document

From here, each time you open the document, you can view its content. However, click Stop Protection from the bottom of the Restrict Editing pane on the right, and enter the password to make any changes.

Solution 3: Mark as Final

You can use this method when you want anyone who opens the document to know that its text requires no further modifications. The message appears in the MARKED AS FINAL bar that shows up at the top, i.e., above the Ruler. Along with the message, the bar also has an Edit Anyway button, which, when clicked, allows you to make changes to content.

You can follow the steps given below to lock a document in Word by marking it as final:

  • Get to the Info screen and open the Protect Document list as explained before
  • Click Mark as Final

Mark as Final from Protect Document

  • When the warning box appears, click OK
  • Click OK on the information box that comes up next
  • Close and reopen the document
  • Notice the MAKED AS FINAL bar that appears at the top (above the Ruler)

At this point, you can click Edit Anyway to make changes to the document. This automatically turns off the MARK AS FINAL setting in the Info > Protect Document list.

Edit anyway in Word document


Is there a way to unlock a Word document without a password?

If you have enabled Restrict Editing with a password, you can find several workarounds explained here. As for Read-Only and Mark as Final locks, you can go to File > Info > Protect Document and click their corresponding options to turn off the settings right away.

However, you may need an in-depth understanding of VBA code to write a script if you want to unlock a Word document without a password. An easy solution would be to use a third-party tool to get the job done.

What’s the point of locking a document by marking it as read-only or final when anyone can edit it?

You can use these options when you want to avoid accidental modifications. To prevent editing more securely, you can turn on Restrict Editing. This is useful when you plan to share your document with others but don’t want them to make any changes.

For complete protection, where nobody can view the content of your document, it would be best to encrypt it with a password.

Which version of Word is most secure in terms of locking a document?

Protection gets better with every new release of the Microsoft Office Suite. About your question, to exploit the security measures to the fullest, you must have at least Word 2007.


There are several ways to lock a document in Word, and depending on the sensitivity of your data and how good your backup and restore method is, the solution you pick may vary. However, regardless of the route you take, it is imperative to learn how to lock a Word document so you can save time for other productive tasks.

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