Stopping the Deletion of Cells

Vilas knows that he can protect a worksheet so that users cannot delete cells. However, he has a need to prevent the deletion of cells without using worksheet protection. (Vilas is not talking about the clearing of cell contents, but the actual deletion of cells so that surrounding cells must move left or move up.) He wonders if there is a way to prevent a user from deleting cells, without protecting the worksheet.

There is no direct way to do this in Excel. It would be nice if Excel provided a way to create an event handler that was called whenever a cell was deleted, but it does not. (The Worksheet_Change event is apparently triggered whenever the contents of a cell are changed, but not when a cell is entirely deleted.) Because of this, using a macro to protect your cells from being deleted is not the way to go.

The best solution we’ve been able to find involves taking advantage of a quirk in how Excel handles array formulas. For the sake of example, let’s assume that you have data in the range A1:L37, and you don’t want any cells within this range to be deleted. Follow these general steps:

  1. Select the range of cells just to the right of your block you want to protect. In this case, select cells M1:M37.
  2. Type =”” and press Shift+Ctrl+Enter. You’ve now created a do-nothing array formula that takes the entire range of M1:M37.
  3. Select the range of cells just beneath the block of cells you want to protect. In this case, select cells A38:L38.
  4. Type =”” and press Shift+Ctrl+Enter. You’ve now created a do-nothing array formula that takes the entire range of A38:L38.

At this point you cannot delete any cell within the data block (A1:L37), nor can you delete any row 1 through 37 or any column A through L. Whenever you try, Excel displays a message that says “You cannot change part of an array.” The only way to delete cells, rows, or columns within the data block is to first get rid of the array formulas that would be affected. In other words, you would need to delete column M or row 38 first.