Remove hidden data and personal information by inspecting workbooks

If you plan to share an electronic copy of a Microsoft Excel workbook, it is a good idea to review the workbook for hidden data or personal information that might be stored in the workbook itself or its document properties (metadata (metadata: Data that describes other data. For example, the words in a document are data; the word count is an example of metadata.)). Because this hidden information can reveal details about your organization or about the workbook itself that you might not want to share publicly, you might want to remove this hidden information before you share the workbook with other people.

This article describes how the Document Inspector feature in Excel can help you find and remove hidden data and personal information in your workbooks.

 Note   You can remove hidden data and personal information from workbooks that you share with other people. However, if your workbook has been saved as a shared workbook (Review tab, Changes group, Share Workbook command), you cannot remove comments, annotations, document properties, and personal information. To remove this information from a shared workbook, first copy and unshare the workbook.

In this article


Find and remove hidden data and personal information

You can use the Document Inspector to find and remove hidden data and personal information in workbooks. It is a good idea to use the Document Inspector before you share an electronic copy of your workbook, such as in an email attachment.

  1. Open the workbook that you want to inspect for hidden data and personal information.
  2. Click the File tab, click Save As, and then type a name in the File name box to save a copy of your original workbook.

 Important   It is a good idea to use the Document Inspector on a copy of your original workbook, because it is not always possible to restore the data that the Document Inspector removes.

  1. In the copy of your original workbook, click the File tab, and then click Info.
  2. Under Prepare for Sharing, click Check for Issues, and then click Inspect Document.
  3. In the Document Inspector dialog box, select the check boxes to choose the types of hidden content that you want to be inspected. For more information about the individual Inspectors, see Information the Document Inspector finds and removes
  4. Click Inspect.
  5. Review the results of the inspection in the Document Inspector dialog box.
  6. Click Remove All next to the inspection results for the types of hidden content that you want to remove from your document.

 Important   

  • If you remove hidden content from your workbook, you might not be able to restore it by clicking Undo.
  • If you remove hidden rows, columns, or worksheets that contain data, you might change the results of the calculations or formulas in your workbook. If you do not know what information the hidden rows, columns or worksheets contain, close the Document Inspector, unhide the hidden rows, columns, or worksheets, and then review their contents.
  • The inspectors for Comments and Annotations, Document Properties and Personal Information, and Headers and Footers cannot be used in a workbook that has been saved as a shared workbook (Review tab, Changes group, Shared Workbook command). This is because shared workbooks use personal information to enable different persons to collaborate on the same workbook. To remove this information from a shared workbook, you can copy the workbook and then unshare it. To unshare a workbook, on the Review tab, in the Changes group, click Shared Workbook. In the Share Workbook dialog box, on the Editing tab, clear the Allow changes by more than one user at the same time check box.

 Note   Unsharing is not available in Microsoft Excel Starter 2010. To unshare, you must use the full version of Excel.

  • If you want to remove hidden data and personal information from spreadsheets you save in the OpenDocument Spreadsheet (.ods) format, you must run the Document Inspector every time that you save the spreadsheet in this format.

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Types of hidden data and personal information

Several types of hidden data and personal information can be saved in an Excel workbook. This information might not be immediately visible when you view the workbook in Excel, but it might be possible for other people to view or retrieve the information.

Hidden information can include the data that Excel adds to a workbook to enable you to collaborate on it with other people. It can also include information that you deliberately designate as hidden.

Workbooks can contain the following types of hidden data and personal information:

  • Comments and ink annotations     If you collaborated with other people to create your workbook, your workbook might contain items such as comments or ink annotations. This information can enable other people to see the names of people who worked on your workbook, comments from reviewers, and changes that were made to your workbook.
  • Document properties and personal information     Document properties, also known as metadata (metadata: Data that describes other data. For example, the words in a document are data; the word count is an example of metadata.), include details about your workbook such as author, subject, and title. Document properties also include information that is automatically maintained by Office programs, such as the name of the person who most recently saved a workbook, the date when a document was created, and document location (Excel 2013). If you used specific features, your document might also contain additional kinds of personally identifiable information (PII) (personally identifiable information (PII): Any information that can be used to identify a person, such as a name, address, e-mail address, government ID, IP address, or any unique identifier associated with PII in another program.), such as email headers, send-for-review information, routing slips, printer properties (for example, printer path and secure print passcode), and file path information for publishing Web pages.
  • Headers and footers     Workbooks can contain information in headers and footers.
  • Hidden rows, columns, and worksheets     In a workbook, rows, columns, and entire worksheets can be hidden. If you distribute a copy of a workbook that contains hidden rows, columns, or worksheets, other people might unhide these row, columns, or worksheets and view the data that they contain.
  • Document server properties     If your workbook was saved to a location on a document management server, such as a Document Workspace site or a library based on Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services, the workbook might contain additional document properties or information related to this server location.
  • Custom XML data     Workbooks can contain custom XML data that is not visible in the document itself. The Document Inspector can find and remove this XML data.
  • Invisible content     A workbook can contain objects that are not visible because they are formatted as invisible.

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Information the Document Inspector finds and removes

In Excel, the Document Inspector displays several different Inspectors that enable you to find and remove hidden data and personal information that is specific to Excel workbooks. For a list of the different types of hidden data and personal information that the Document Inspector can find and remove from workbooks, review the following table.


 Notes 

  • If you are using Microsoft Excel Starter 2010, not all the features listed for Excel are supported in Excel Starter. For more information about the features available in Excel Starter, see Excel Starter feature support.
  • If your organization customized the Document Inspector by adding Inspector modules, you might be able to check your workbooks for additional types of information.
Inspector name Finds and removes

Comments and Annotations

 Note   In Excel Starter 2010, Document Inspector removes only annotations.

  • Comments
  • Ink annotations
Document Properties and Personal Information
  • Document properties, including information from the Summary, Statistics, and Custom tabs of the Document Properties dialog box
  • (Excel 2013) Document location, when click Remove All the existing document location will be cleaned up from the file. The document location won’t be added back to the file while saving until you close Excel 2013 and reopen the file again.
  • Email headers
  • Routing slips
  • Send-for-review information
  • Document server properties
  • Document Management Policy information
  • Content type information
  • User name
  • Printer path information
  • Scenario comments
  • File path for publishing Web pages
  • Comments for defined names and table names
  • Inactive external data connections
Headers and Footers
  • Information in worksheet headers
  • Information in worksheet footers
Hidden Rows and Columns
  • Hidden rows
  • Hidden columns that contain data


 Notes 

  • If there are hidden columns in your workbook that do not contain data and they are located between columns that do contain data, these empty hidden columns will also be detected and removed.
  • If the hidden rows or columns in your workbook contain data, you might change the results of the calculations or formulas in your workbook by removing them. If you do not know what information the hidden rows or columns contain, close the Document Inspector, unhide the hidden rows or columns, and then review their contents.
  • This Inspector does not detect shapes, charts, controls, Microsoft ActiveX objects and controls, pictures, or SmartArt graphics that might be located in hidden columns.
Hidden Worksheets
  • Hidden worksheets

 Note   If the hidden worksheets in your workbook contain data, you might change the results of the calculations or formulas in your workbook by removing them. If you do not know what information the hidden worksheets contain, close the Document Inspector, unhide the hidden worksheets, and then review their contents.

Custom XML Data
  • Custom XML data that might be stored within a workbook
Invisible Content
  • Objects that are not visible because they are formatted as invisible

 Note   This Inspector does not detect objects that are covered by other objects.

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Applies to:
Excel 2013, Excel 2010