How to Fix Excel Not Highlighting Cells (5 Easy Ways)

Five Easy Ways to Fix Excel Not Highlighting
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Spreadsheets are a mainstay of the digital office. They are flexible tools that can store a lot of data, manipulate it in many different ways, and easily do more complex calculations. But even the most powerful apps can sometimes do strange things that make users scratch their heads. One such issue is the inability to select cells in Excel. When you click on a cell and it is not highlighted as you expect, it can get in the way of your work. In this guide, we’ll talk about how to deal with and fix the issues shown below;

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  • Excel does not show the selected cell border.
  • Excel did not highlight cells generally.
  • Active cell not highlighted in Excel.
  • Excel not highlighting cells in the formula.
  • Excel not selecting cells with arrow keys.


How to Fix Excel Not Highlighting Cells

These 5 ways will help you to fix issues that are related to Excel not highlighting cells. Let’s get started;

1. Unprotect the Sheet:

If you’re unable to highlight cells in your Excel worksheet, the first thing to check is whether the sheet is protected. Worksheet protection prevents inadvertent alterations to crucial data. However, it can also inhibit cell selection. To resolve this or to unprotect a sheet in Excel by following the steps below:

Ways to Fix Excel Not Highlighting Cells: Excel protected sheet warning
Excel protected sheet warning
  • Select the “Home” menu.
Ways to Fix Excel Not Highlighting Cells: Click the Home tab
Click the Home tab
  • In the ribbon, click the “Format” button and click “Unprotect Sheet.”
Ways to Fix Excel Not Highlighting Cells: Select the Unprotect sheet
Select the Unprotect sheet
  • If a password is set, enter it.
  • Once the sheet is unprotected, attempt to select cells again.

READ ALSO: How to Calculate Variance in Excel

2. Ensure “Select Locked Cells” is Checked:

If you wish to maintain sheet protection while permitting cell selection, ensure the correct settings are in place:

  • In the “Home” menu, click “Format” and Select “Protect Sheet.”
  • Check the box next to “Select Locked Cells.” Optionally, set a password and click “OK.”
Ways to Fix Excel Not Highlighting Cells: Check Select locked cells
Check the Select locked cells
  • You should now be able to select and highlight cells while the sheet remains protected.

3. Check if Individual Cells are Locked:

In some cases, specific cells within a protected sheet may be locked, preventing selection. To unlock these cells:

  • Unprotect the worksheet as instructed previously.
  • Right-click on the cell you want to unlock and choose “Format Cells.”
Select format cells
Select format cells
  • In the “Protection” tab, ensure that “Locked” is unchecked and click “OK” to confirm.
Unselect the locked option
Unselect the locked option
  • You should now be able to highlight these cells.

4. Use Extend Selection:

Some users have found success by using the “Extend Selection” feature to highlight cells that wouldn’t respond to standard selection. To utilize this feature:

  • Press F8 to activate “Extend Selection.”
  • Click a cell; it may or may not be highlighted initially.
  • Select a different cell, and all cells in between should become selected.
  • Press Escape or F8 again to turn off “Extend Selection.”
  • Try selecting the previously unresponsive cells again.

5. Repair Your Excel Document:

If the problem persists and appears to be specific to your document, it might be corrupted. Attempt to repair it by following these steps:

  • Save and close the spreadsheet. Open a new spreadsheet and click the “File” menu.
Select the File tab
Select the File tab
  • Select “Open” from the left-hand menu.
Click the Open option from file menu
Click the Open option from file menu
  • Click “Browse” to locate your document.
Browse to where the file is saved
Browse to where the file is saved
  • Select the file and click the arrow next to “Open.” Choose “Open and Repair.”
Click the open and repair button
Click the open and repair button
  • Select “Repair.”
Proceed to repair the file
Proceed to repair the file
  • After the repair process is complete, try highlighting cells again.

If the issue persists, try saving your document and closing Excel completely before reopening it. Sometimes, this simple act can resolve the problem.


When all else fails, consider restarting your computer. This age-old IT remedy can sometimes clear lingering issues. Be sure to save your document before shutting down. After the restart, open your spreadsheet and test cell selection.

Microsoft Excel is a powerful tool, but occasional hiccups can occur. By following these troubleshooting steps, you can address the issue of Excel not highlighting cells effectively. If you encounter any other challenges with Excel, don’t hesitate to seek solutions, as there are often fixes for common problems. Excel’s versatility can be fully harnessed with a bit of technical know-how.