Excel Macro Security

Excel macro security protects your computer against viruses that may be passed to your computer via Excel Macros.

Macro security has changed significantly between Excel 2003 and Excel 2007. Therefore, this topic is decribed separately for recent and older versions of Excel:

Go to Macro Security in Current Versions of Excel (2007 & later)
Go to Macro Security in Excel 2003

Macro Security in Current Versions of Excel (2007 & later):

If you want to run macros in current versions of Excel, you need to save your Excel file as a macro-enabled workbook. Excel recognises macro-enabled workbooks from the file extension .xlsm (rather than the usual .xlsx extension).

Therefore, if you add a macro to a standard Excel Workbook, and want to be able to run this macro whenever you access the workbook, you will need to save it with the xlsm extension.

Excel Save As Dialog Box With .xlsm File Type Selected

To do this, select Save As from the 'File' tab of the Excel ribbon. This will bring up the 'Save As' dialog box. Within the dialog box, change the 'Save As Type' to "Excel Macro-Enabled Workbook" (see rightabove).

The different Excel file extensions make it clear when a workbook contains macros, so this in itself is a useful security measure. However, Excel also has optional macro security settings, which are controlled via the options menu.

The four macro security settings are listed in the following table:

'Disable all macros
without notification'
-This setting does not allow any macros to run.
When you open a new Excel workbook, you are not alerted to the fact that it contains macros, so you may not be aware that this is the reason a workbook does not work as expected.
'Disable all macros
with notification'
-This setting prevents macros from running. However, if there are macros in a workbook, a pop-up window will warn you that the macros exist and have been disabled.
'Disable all macros
except digitally signed
macros'
-This setting only allow macros from trusted sources to run. All other macros do not run.
When you open a new Excel workbook, you are not alerted to the fact that it contains macros, so you may not be aware that this is the reason a workbook does not work as expected.
'Enable all macros'-This setting allows all macros to run.
When you open a new Excel workbook, you are not alerted to the fact that it contains macros and may not be aware of macros running while you have the file open.

If you Choose the second setting, 'Disable all macros with notification' you are provided with an option, when you open the file, to allow the macros to run. This option is presented to you in a yellow band at the top of your spreadsheet, as shown below:

Enable macros button in Current Versions of Excel

Therefore, you just need to click on this button if you want to allow the macros to run.


Accessing the Excel Macro Security Settings

If you want to view or alter the Excel Macro Security Setting in Excel 2007, 2010 or 2013:

In Excel 2007:

  • Select the main Excel menu (by selecting the Excel Logo on the top left of the spreadsheet), and from the bottom right of this menu, select Excel Options, to bring up the 'Excel Options' dialog box;
  • From the 'Excel Options' dialog box, select the Trust Center Option, and from within this, click on the Trust Center Settings... button;
  • From within the Macro Settings option, select one of the settings and click OK.

In Excel 2010 or 2013:

  • Select the File tab, and from this, select Options, to bring up the 'Excel Options' dialog box;
  • From the 'Excel Options' dialog box, select the Trust Center Option, and from within this, click on the Trust Center Settings... button;
  • From within the Macro Settings option, select one of the settings and click OK.

Note: when you change your Excel macro security setting, you will need to close down and re-start Excel for the new setting to take effect.


Trusted Locations in Current Versions of Excel (2007 & later)

Current versions of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) have trusted locations, which are directories on your computer that Excel 'trusts'. Therefore, Excel omits the usual Macro checks when opening files that are stored in these locations. This means that, if an Excel file is placed in a trusted location, the Macros in this file will be enabled, regardless of the Macro Security Setting.

Microsoft has defined some default trusted locations, which are listed in the Trusted Locations option setting in your Excel Workbook. This can be accessed by the following steps:

In Excel 2007:

  • Select the main Excel menu (by selecting the Excel Logo on the top left of the spreadsheet), and from the bottom right of this menu, select Excel Options;
  • From the 'Excel Options' dialog box that pops up, select the Trust Center Option, and from within this, click on the Trust Center Settings... button;
  • Select the Trusted Locations option from the left hand menu.

In Excel 2010 or Excel 2013:

  • Select the File tab, and from this, select Options;
  • From the 'Excel Options' dialog box that pops up, select the Trust Center Option and from within this, click on the Trust Center Settings... button;
  • Select the Trusted Locations option from the left hand menu.

If you want to place your Excel Workbook in another location, and still allow Macros to work, you can define your own trusted locations. To do this:

Warning: it is not advised that you make a large part of your drive, such as the whole of your 'My Documents' folder into a trusted location, as this puts you at risk of mistakenly allowing macros from untrusted sources.


Macro Security In Excel 2003:

In Microsoft Office 2003, there are 4 levels of Excel macro security, which are controlled by options in the Excel menu. These are:

'High' /
'Very High'
-These 2 settings only allow macros from trusted sources to run. All other macros do not run.
When you open a new Excel workbook, you are not alerted to the fact that it contains macros, so you may not be aware that this is the reason a workbook does not work as expected.
'Medium'-If there are macros in a workbook, this setting causes a pop-up to be displayed as the workbook is being opened, asking if you wish to allow macros to be run or not.
'Low'-This setting allows all macros to run.
When you open a new Excel workbook, you are not alerted to the fact that it contains macros and may not be aware of macros running while you have the file open.

Therefore, if you want to run a macro in Excel 2003, the Excel Macro Security Setting needs to be set to Low or Medium.

Macro Security Access in Excel 2003

In order to view or alter the Macro Security Setting in Excel 2003:

Once you have changed a macro security setting in Excel 2003, you will need to close and restart Excel for this change to take effect.