How to fix Word error “You can’t make this change because the selection is locked”

Microsoft Word is an application that isn’t exactly impervious to errors. As with every product from Microsoft, most people are bound to encounter at least one issue that prevents them from completing a certain task within the product without a noticeable degree of frustration and annoyance.

One such error that people encounter is the passage, “You can’t make this change because the selection is locked”, which is presented within Microsoft Word. The text is fairly self explanatory, in that when displayed, it is an explanation to the user that they are being denied access to a certain aspect of the Microsoft Word application.

The error message can relate to one, or several, of a multitude of different scenarios. The ones we will be discussing are as follows:

  • Your Office subscription has expired, or you are using a trial version.
  • Another user is editing the file you are trying to edit.
  • You have multiple versions of Office installed, and one is not activated.
  • The document has a protection applied to it.
  • The document you are trying to edit has been marked as final.

Now, you can probably guess that some of these processes are far simpler than some others. For example, if your subscription has expired, then this is easily resolvable as all you would need to do is, well, renew your subscription. Also, if another user is editing a file you are trying to edit, it is as simple as making a copy of the file and working on your copy.

The other three though have a bit more substance to them as processes. As such, it is these that we will be putting a heavier focus on in this article.

As is the case with every blog post we write, we will first offer you a step by step guide to each process, as this alone may be enough detail for some to work with. If not though, do not worry. After each step by step, we will break the processes down further, with screenshots added to best serve you as a tool of assistance.

So, first, we will look at how to solve the issue of having multiple versions of Microsoft Office installed.

Note: this guide will be carried out on a Windows device, and written to be solved as if you were also using a Windows device.

We’ve also created a video to help guide you through the steps:

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Sep by step: How to fix Word error “You can’t make this change because the selection is locked”

  • Open your computer’s Control Panel.
  • Here, navigate to ‘Programs’. After that, go to ‘Programs and Features’.
  • This will present a menu to you of all currently running programs.
  • In this list, find ‘Office’.
  • If the issue is having multiple editions of Office open, delete the one(s) that were installed the most recently.
  • Then, run a repair on the remaining, original version.

So, as you can tell from the above steps, you will first want to open the control panel of your computer. Chances are, you don’t have a shortcut for this feature of your device. If you do, simply follow that. If not though, look towards the search bar within your computer’s navigation bar. Search for ‘Control Panel’, and click the first option you see.

After opening your Control Panel, there should be an option labelled ‘Programs’ which, as you could expect, will guide you to the subsection of options that handle anything to do with the programming side of your device. Click on the heading, the highlighted section below.

Clicking ‘Programs’ will bring you to the Programs menu, as was aforementioned. From here, you should look to click the heading that reads ‘Programs and Features’. It has been highlighted in the image to follow, should you need the guidance.

Clicking this will open a list of applications currently in use on your computer. It will look something like this:

Of course, yours will look different depending on the applications you have installed. Here, you will be able to see if you have more than one Microsoft Word application installed. Look at the date they were installed. Keep the oldest Word, whilst deleting the rest. Then, right click the remaining application and repair it.

This may well be enough for you in your search to resolve the error in question. If not though, read on, as we will now be discussing whether or not your document has a protection applied to it.

Again, we will first offer you a step by step guide, before delving into the process further.

STEP BY STEP: CHECKING DOCUMENT PERMISSIONS ON WORD

  • On your Word document, look to the navigation bar at the top of your screen.
  • Here, click the ‘Review’ tab.
  • Look to the ‘Protect’ subsection, and click ‘Restrict Editing’.
  • This will cause a menu to appear.
  • On this menu, you will be able to see if any protections have been applied.
  • Make sure to untick any and every protection in order to disable any preset permissions.

So, having opened your Word document, look towards the top of your screen. Here, you will see the numerous subsections of topics that you can view within your application. One will be called ‘Review’ and that is the tab you will want to click.

Clicking ‘Review’ will cause a menu to drop down, and of the options presented to you, you should look towards the right side of this menu. Under the subsection labelled ‘Protect’, you will want to click ‘Restrict Editing’. As always, there is a highlighted screenshot below should you need further guidance in finding it.

Clicking this will cause a menu to appear on the right side of your screen. This menu will be littered with numerous tick boxes, and if any are checked, they may be the cause of your error. Make sure you untick any ticked boxes, so that your menu looks like this:

If you find that neither of these processes assist you in limiting your exposure to the error in question, then we have one more avenue you can look to pursue. This is checking whether or not you have set your document to being final.

Again, we will first offer you a step by step, before heading into the complete overview.

STEP BY STEP: MAKING SURE YOUR WORD DOCUMENT IS NOT FINAL

  • After opening your Word document, click ‘File’.
  • From here, go to ‘Info’.
  • Now, you will see an option labelled ‘Protect Document’, with a clickable box to its left. Click that box.
  • At the bottom of the new drop down list you will see from clicking this, you will be able to edit whether or not your document is final.

When you are in your Word document, look to the navigation bar at the top of your screen. Here, click ‘File’, which has been highlighted below.

Now, click ‘Info’:

Clicking ‘Info’ will present you with a new menu of options, the top listed one being ‘Protect Document’. Next to this heading is a clickable box, and you will want to click this.

Clicking this box will open a drop down menu. At the very bottom of said menu will be the option by which you can edit whether or not your document is final.

Make sure your work is not final, and see if that impacts the error you have been having.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, I hope you found it as helpful as you wanted it to be! As is the case with every blog post we publish, if you encounter any issues throughout any of the processes, or simply wish to share some thoughts you may have, then please do not hesitate to get into contact with a member of our team.

Michael Fontana

Michael Fontana has been the managing director of telecoms and MSP Optionbox for over a decade and has worked in various telecommunication roles over the last 20 years. Michael has been involved in many exciting projects, such as co-founding telecoms and IT businesses and has now built up a team of more than 15 staff, serving over 300 clients nationwide. With a wealth of experience in IT and a passion for technology, Michael is now helping BTP to produce the highest quality guides on the internet. You can connect with Michael on LinkedIn.

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