How to Crack, Break or Just Remove a Forgotten Excel Password for Free/a Fee
It can be frustrating when you try to open a password-protected resource and suddenly realize that the password has been forgotten or lost. It’s annoying even on sites with online password recovery. But if you’ve forgotten or lost the password for a protected Excel document, it can be a real disaster.
Fortunately, there’s something you can do to remove the password from an Excel file. Then, after breaking into it, you can protect the spreadsheet again if necessary.
But for now, let's take a look at how to crack Excel passwords.
Cracking, breaking or removing a password. Is there a difference?
Yes, there really is a difference!
Removing a password is creating a clone of the original Excel file without password protection. There was a password, but it was deleted as if it never existed in the first place. Removing an Excel password happens instantly.
Usually, "breaking an Excel password" is the calculation of any suitable password that can unlock the protection. Often, these passwords are completely different from the original ones but again, the process for picking them happens instantly.
Cracking a password (also called password recovery) is the search for the only correct password by trying all possible variations in a brute force attack. Here, we’re talking data-encrypted files with strong protection. Sometimes, it takes a lot of time to crack a password.
Choosing the best solution for a forgotten password
On the Internet, you can find many programs and several free ways to remove a password from an Excel spreadsheet, but most of them are limited: some of them will work only for old Excel formats (for xls files), some only for protecting pages, but not for "file-open passwords," and some will be unbearably slow when searching for long passwords…
On the other hand, modern programs (for example, with GPU acceleration) support current Excel formats and do an excellent job with the classic formats of previous versions.
Yes, these are paid solutions. But you must admit that supporting the developers of a universal program that can crack a forgotten password for an Excel file is a reasonable tradeoff for regaining access to important data that’s been locked away in a file.
But let’s take things one step at a time.
Next, we will look at free ways to remove Excel passwords and a couple of commercial solutions: an online service and a program for Windows.
Free ways to remove an Excel password
You can try to save money by using one of the free ways to remove a forgotten password.
But before describing them, I will note a few key points:
- Always make a backup copy. Don't forget. If something goes wrong, you won’t lose your data and you’ll be able to "rewind the situation" to the beginning
- Both methods are applicable only for passwords for individual spreadsheets and don’t work for higher levels of protection (password encryption)
- If you’re not good with computers or want to save on time and frustration more than on money, then you can go straight to the section with paid solutions 😉
VBA script to break Excel passwords in xls files
The idea behind this method is to bypass Microsoft Excel's password verification mechanism. The hacking itself occurs by deceiving the program even before the password is verified using the Visial Basic scripting language.
To an inexperienced user, the method may seem complicated, but this method works and, moreover, it’s free. So it’s probably a good idea to try it for a start.
Of course, it only works for xls/xlsx Excel files up to Microsoft Office 2013.
1. Open the Excel file and call up the macro editor – just press Alt + F11.
2. Copy this VBA code into the editor:
Sub BreakPassword() Dim i As Integer, j As Integer, k As Integer Dim l As Integer, m As Integer, n As Integer Dim i1 As Integer, i2 As Integer, i3 As Integer Dim i4 As Integer, i5 As Integer, i6 As Integer On Error Resume Next For i = 65 To 66: For j = 65 To 66: For k = 65 To 66 For l = 65 To 66: For m = 65 To 66: For i1 = 65 To 66 For i2 = 65 To 66: For i3 = 65 To 66: For i4 = 65 To 66 For i5 = 65 To 66: For i6 = 65 To 66: For n = 32 To 126 ActiveSheet.Unprotect Chr(i) & Chr(j) & Chr(k) & _ Chr(l) & Chr(m) & Chr(i1) & Chr(i2) & Chr(i3) & _ Chr(i4) & Chr(i5) & Chr(i6) & Chr(n) If ActiveSheet.ProtectContents = False Then Exit Sub End If Next: Next: Next: Next: Next: Next Next: Next: Next: Next: Next: Next End Sub
3. Run the macro by pressing F5. Give it a couple of seconds to remove the password and you'll get an unlocked sheet.
Watch how it all works:
You won't find out the password this way, but you can edit the sheet.
If you have several locked sheets, as shown in the video, you can also remove each of those passwords. Just make the necessary sheet active and call up the macro through the menu.
However, you can now create a new password that is easier for you to understand and remember. You’ll find the instructions for how to do so in this article.
How to remove a password from Excel xlsx files by converting them to Zip files
Please note that this method will work only for sheet protection passwords in Excel 2013 xlsx files. For Excel 2016 and higher, the sheet protection algorithm is different.
1. Create a backup copy of the Excel file. After all, you never know…
2. Change the extension of the xlsx file to zip. The operating system will decide that it is a Zip archive and will be able to unpack its contents.
3. Unpack the resulting Zip archive and find the file with the .XML extension. It contains structural information about the original file, including information about protection against accidental edits.
4. Open the XML file in any text editor and find the
<SheetProtection…> meta tag under the
\xl\worksheets\sheetsN.xml path. It contains information about the password protection of each sheet.
5. Remove this meta tag completely, close the text editor and save the modified XML file.
6. Return the original XLSX extension to the Zip file and open your updated Excel file. The password protection will be removed and the file will open without restrictions.
Paid ways to crack and remove Excel passwords
Let me remind you again: make a backup copy of your protected document. The programs we will discuss do not damage files, but it’s still better to be on the safe side. Just copy your original file to some other folder or cloud storage.
Accent EXCEL Password Recovery
Passcovery offers password-cracking software for all versions of Microsoft Excel. The company specializes in password recovery solutions and offers a number of Windows programs for various popular formats.
All Passcovery programs are available free of charge in the form of trial versions that have a number of restrictions but that allow you to evaluate them before paying for a license. I recommend that you take this opportunity, download a demo version and get your own idea ofAccent EXCEL Password Recovery and its capabilities.
The installation process is standard for Windows programs. There are no special instructions here. I will only note that the distribution kit has the Passcovery digital signature (which is certified by the Sectigo certification center) and is free from viruses, malware and any other harmful programs.
After installation, you will be offered a subscription to the latest news updates and get a discount on purchasing a license. And most importantly, you can open AccentEPR and start recovering passwords.
Launch Accent EXCEL Password Recovery and open your password-locked file (as you would normally do in Windows - the button on the toolbar, the one on the menu, or Ctrl + O).
The rest will depend on the format of your file and the type of protection you need to crack.
Instantly remove Excel passwords
If these are old Excel file formats or password protected against accidental changes, then AccentEPR will display the suitable passwords instantly (they will probably be different from the original passwords. You remember that, right?.. 😊). That, or it will inform you that it can instantly delete the passwords.
Accent EXCEL Password Recovery instantly breaks and removes:
- Open-file passwords for xls files Excel 6-95
- Password protection from modifing
- Password protection for sheets and workbooks
- Password protection for Excel VBA macros
Remove strong passwords in Excel
If your file is set to “Password to Open”, then the entire content of the document is encrypted with this password and you will have to search for (aka recover) the original password.
Accent EXCEL Password Recovery will launch the “Password Recovery Wizard” and will first inform you about the file format and type of protection:
In the next step, the program will offer you a choice of three password attacks or a ready-made attack script to automatically search for your lost password:
Brute-force attack. Trying all possible options from a given range of values.
This is the longest, but also the most reliable attack. With it, you will not accidentally miss the password you need, get confused by a mask or forget to take into account some kind of dictionary mutation. But you will have to sift through millions and millions of clearly false options
Brute force attack with an extended (positional) mask. Attempt of each possible option will follow the rules set individually for each position of the generated passphrase.
It’s an awesome thing, this positional mask, if you master it (admittedly, the syntax for creating it is not the easiest thing you’ll do today 😉). It allows you to greatly reduce the number of options for verification and increases the chances of successfully cracking an Excel password. Take a look at examples of what can be done with this attack.
Dictionary attack. The brute force attack is carried out according to previously prepared (downloaded from the Internet or created independently) lists of passwords.
Often, we use common words, names, nicknames and even character sets (hello, QWERTY 😜) as passwords. These words and phrases are collected in the dictionary and can be quickly checked so that the lost password can be found. If the password is more complex, Accent EXCEL Password Recovery (like all Passcovery programs) has a dictionary mutation that works according to the specified rules. Take a look at how this works with an example.
When the settings for the selected attack are done and you click “Finish”, AccentEPR will start trying the options. The program will share information about how the process is going: how fast the search is going and how long is left until all the options have been tried.
After finding the password, Accent EXCEL Password Recovery will display it:
Or it will inform you that it successfully detected the Excel password you forgot and remind you that you are using the demo version. And that may be the best reason for purchasing a license, right?
You can safely purchase Accent EXCEL Password Recovery on the official Passcovery website, where all data exchange is carried out via an encrypted channel, and all transactions are processed by PayProGlobal.
GPU acceleration in cracking Excel passwords
If your computer is equipped with a modern AMD or NVIDIA graphics card and you need to recover the "Open-file Password" for an Excel 2007-2019 XLSX file, then you simply have to try GPU acceleration.
Are you wondering what GPU acceleration means when it comes to cracking strong passwords?
GPU-accelerated password cracking is the ability of a password recovery program to parallelize and distribute the necessary calculations on the computer's graphics cards. After all, modern graphics cards with their multi-threaded GPUs can be mind-bogglingly productive. Passcovery programs use this feature to 100% capacity when possible.
GPU acceleration works for XLSX file formats for Microsoft Excel 2007-2019.
Passcovery programs with support for AMD / NVIDIA video cards:
- Accent OFFICE Password Recovery for Microsoft Office, OpenOffice/LibreOffice
- Accent RAR Password Recovery for RAR/WinRAR archives
- Accent ZIP Password Recovery for Zip/WinZip archives
- Passcovery Suite for Microsoft Office, OpenOffice/LibreOffice, Adobe PDF, RAR, Zip, Apple iOS backups, TrueCrypt, WPA/WPA2
AccessBack.com – remove an Excel password online
There are also online services for solving the problem of a forgotten password. The point is to send your protected file to the service’s server to crack the password and receive proof of success.
One of these online services for Excel 97-2003 XLS files is AccessBack.com.
AccessBack.com is based on the capabilities of Passcovery Suite from Passcovery, which, among other things, supports rainbow tables to quickly find the encryption key. This is both a plus and a minus of the service.
Pros of AccessBack.com:
- 100% guarantee of successful removal of any “Password to Open” regardless of its complexity and length. The service simply finds the required key in its rainbow table and decrypts the Excel document, and the password remains unknown
- Low cost for password removal and pay-as-you-go
Cons of AccessBack.com:
- This only works for Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word 97-2003 with a 40-bit short encryption key
- It is necessary to upload your documents to Passcovery's servers for decryption, which may not be acceptable
The service’s website includes a YouTube video with instructions for use. The video shows that using the service involves four steps:
- uploading a password-protected Excel file
- receiving a screenshot of the decrypted document as proof of success
- paying for the service (if the decrypted document is necessary, of course)
- receiving the decrypted file in your email
Ok, let's summarize what you can do to remove the password from an Excel file and avoid any disasters.
1. If it is a password protecting against accidental changes, you can use a free VBA script or convert the file to a Zip file and edit the XML file
2. If it is encrypted with a password (an "Open-file Password"), but with a short key, then you can with a 100% guarantee delete the password online at AccessBack.com
3. If it is really high-level password encryption, then you need to use GPU acceleration on graphics cards
4. Any passwords on any versions of Microsoft Excel can be deleted, broken, or cracked using Passcovery programs
|Author: Denis Gladysh, co-owner, and head of Passcovery – a provider of high-speed GPU-accelerated software solutions
for recovering passwords for popular file formats; author of the first versions of Accent OFFICE Password Recovery, created in 1999.