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The Basics of Freezing Rows and Columns in Excel

When you’re working with a large amount of data in Excel, limiting what you see on your spreadsheet might be desirable or necessary. You can accomplish this by freezing rows and columns. 

This piece explains the different ways to freeze rows, columns, and panes in Excel as well as how to lock and unlock them. While this is a fairly simple operation, you might run into some issues or want some personalized instruction. 

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Computer screen displaying an excel sheet.

Learn the basics of freezing rows and columns in Excel to control your view of data.

How to Freeze Rows in Excel

You can freeze rows in Excel with just a few clicks. Which clicks you use will depend on what you want to do – freeze the top panes only or a group of several rows. 

You may want to freeze the top row in Excel because it holds your column titles. This way, when you scroll down through hundreds of rows, you’ll still have those headings at the top to give you the information you need. 

To do this, go to the View tab in Excel, and select Freeze Panes > Freeze Top Row. Your top row (Row 1) will now have a grey line below it, which indicates that it has been frozen or locked. 

Freeze top row box.

You can also freeze multiple rows in Excel. To do this, navigate to the first cell or row below the ones you want to freeze. For example, if you want to freeze the first two rows, go to cell A3. Then go the View tab and click Freeze Panes > Freeze Panes

Freeze panes box.

Note: Excel only allows you to freeze rows at the top of your spreadsheet and not ones in the middle. 

How to Freeze Columns in Excel

You can also freeze columns in Excel, and the operation is similar to the way you freeze rows. If you want to freeze or lock the first column only, go the View tab and select Freeze Panes > Freeze First Column

After you do this, the leftmost column in your spreadsheet will remain frozen as you scroll to the right. 

Freeze first column box.

You can also freeze more than one column. To do this, select the column or a cell just to the top right of the columns you wish to freeze. Then go to the View tab and choose Freeze Panes > Freeze Panes

For example, if you want to freeze the first two columns, you can highlight cell C1 to complete this operation. Then, the first two columns will be locked as you scroll to the right. 

Freeze panes example.

Note: You can only freeze columns on the left side of your worksheet, not on the right or in the middle. 

Freeze Rows and Columns in Excel at the Same Time

Excel also allows you to simultaneously freeze the first row and column in your spreadsheet in a few simple clicks. First, highlight cell B2, and then go to the View tab and select Freeze Panes > Freeze Panes. That’s it. 

Freeze panes box example.

This same operation will work to freeze a combination of rows and columns by choosing the cell just below and to the right of the ones that you want to freeze. Remember, you can’t freeze rows and columns in the middle of a spreadsheet. They’ll always be from the top and to the left of the spreadsheet data. 

Unlock Frozen Rows and Columns

If you have some locked or frozen panes that you want to unlock, you can accomplish this by reversing the procedures that we just completed. 

For example, you can go to the cell next to the frozen column or row, and then go to the View tab. Choose Freeze Panes > Unfreeze Panes. If you don’t see that selection, you’ve chosen the wrong cell. 

Unfreeze panes box.

When Freeze Panes Isn’t Working

What happens if you’re trying to lock or freeze panes in Excel and you don’t have this option? For example, you might go to View > Freeze Panes and find that the button is greyed out. 

This can happen for several reasons. The first is that your worksheet is protected and won’t allow you to make these changes. Once the protection is removed, you can freeze and unfreeze panes. The other is that your cell is in editing mode. Just hit the Esc or Enter key to get it out of editing mode and try again. 

Other Ways to Lock Rows and Columns in Excel

In addition to freezing panes, Excel gives you a few other options to lock different areas of your worksheet. 

The first is to split panes instead of freezing them. When you split panes, it divides your window into multiple areas that can be scrolled separately, with other parts of your spreadsheet remaining stationary. 

To do this, go the right of the column or row that you want to split. Navigate to the View tab and choose Split under the Window group. To undo the operation, choose Split again. 

Split cell example.

You can also use a table to lock the top row in Excel. This keeps your top row fixed so that it remains visible while scrolling. The quickest way to create a table in Excel is hitting Ctrl-T

Were you able to find the information you needed relative to freezing rows and columns in Excel? If you learn better with one-on-one help or need to troubleshoot an issue in Excel, our program experts can lend a hand. 

Excelchat has knowledgeable, friendly, and experienced live help standing by that can teach you about Excel or help you with a problem-specific issue. Your first session is always free. 


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