Hyperlinks in Excel – Security Warning

The catalog which Filecats Standard and Filecats Professional creates includes hyperlinks, both to the file and to the folder.

If you click on the File Hyperlink in Microsoft Excel, you will usually get the following warning:

Microsoft Office has identified a potential security concern  Let’s look into what this dialog box actually means, and whether you can get rid of it entirely.

What does this warning mean?

Let’s look at the various aspects of this message to find out what it means:

  • Microsoft Office has identified a potential security concern. Note that the key word here is “potential”. It just means that Excel has not opened the file and doesn’t understand the nature of the file (for example, if it is a GIF, as in this example, Excel cannot be sure that there isn’t a virus in it). Having looked at its file type, Excel cannot be 100% certain that it is safe. It errs on the safe of caution.
  • This location may be unsafe. Again, Excel doesn’t know for secure that the folder location, and the file in particular, may not lead to errors.

Also note what it is not saying. Excel is not saying that the location even exists! If the file does not exist, then all clicking Yes does is give you another dialog box:

Cannot open the specified file.

That’s right – this big “Security Notice” can appear even if there is no file – or folder – to begin with. The amount of checks Excel does before raising this big red flag is therefore minimal.

Hopefully, this in itself has reassured you the security warning isn’t much of a warning. If not, let’s read on:

  • Hyperlinks can be harmful to your computer and data. Again, it’s possible. It’s not saying it’s likely.
  • To protect your computer, click only those hyperlinks from trusted sources. Good advice, and with it also saying the file and path (though, as you can see, the path can be fairly curtailed), this should give you a bit of reassurance as to what the file is all about.

​But what is it not saying?:

  • What is the danger compared with double-clicking the file in Windows Explorer? Answer: It is the same.
  • Is there other advice it could be giving? Answer: Yes – make sure that you have adequate Anti-Virus protection. Filecats recommends Norton Internet Security, especially if you have more than one computer to protect, because the price per computer for the 3 or 5 computer package is quite reasonable. (And also recommends not auto-renewing it, because the renewal price can be much higher than the purchase price. But enough of a digression…)

So – can I ignore it? Well, it’s no more dangerous than double-clicking on the file in Windows Explorer. It comes up for most files, most of which are not dangerous. But make sure you have anti-virus protection, just in case.

Can I remove this warning?

You can indeed, as long as you are fine going into the Registry Editor.

Here’s how to do that:

  • Open the Registry Editor. Easiest way to do that is to go to the Start menu, and type regedit, and press OK or Enter.

​Where do you type this? If you are using Windows XP, click on “Run…” then type it in the dialog box. If you are using Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, type it where it says “Search files and folders”. And if you are using Windows 8.0, click on the search tool at the top-right of the Start screen and enter it there.

It may need administrative rights as well to run, so you may need your Supervisor password.

  • In the left-hand pane, navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER, then Software.
  • Then go to Microsoft, then Office.
  • Then there will be a number – probably 12.0, 14.0 or 15.0 – it depends on your version of Office.

Registry Editor - Microsoft/Office/Common

  • 12.0 relates to Office 2007, 14.0 relates to Office 2010, and 15.0 relates to Office 2013 or Office 365.
  • Click on whichever one is appropriate, then go to Common. Left-hand click on Common.

If you have several folders with numbers (as in the above example), each of which has a Common folder, then you may need to do the following on all of them.

Adding a new Key

Do you have a Security folder? (You may do – something else may have already set one up.)

If you have, left-hand click on it, and ignore the next bullet points.

If you have not:

  • Right-hand click somewhere white in the right-hand pane, and select Key.
  • It should now be highlighted in blue. Type Security.
  • Left-click on this new folder Security. The right-hand pane should be empty except for “(Default)”.

Adding a new key

Now that you have the Security folder, and you have left-hand clicked on it:

  • Right-hand click somewhere white in the right-hand pane, and select New – DWORD Value.
  • It should now be highlighted in blue. Type in DisableHyperlinkWarning (without any space) to rename it.

Changing the value of DisableHyperlinkWarning

  • Now right-hand click on the DisableHyperlinkWarning, and click Modify.
  • In the next dialog box, change the 0 to a 1 (or, if you want the warnings back, change it to a 0). Then click OK.
  • That’s it. Hopefully, the warnings will now have ceased. But still make sure you have adequate anti-virus and Internet Security.

Alternately, if you trust the root folder and all of its files and folders and want to permanently trust it, in Excel go to File – Options – Trust Center – Trust Center Settings… – Trusted Locations, and “Add new location…”

Additionally, if it is on the network, you would then have to tick “Allow Trusted Locations on my network (not recommended).”

Thank you for reading

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If you want to catalog your files and folders, then please download the file cataloger Filecats Standard. If you want additional hidden document properties, then please download the metadata extractor Filecats Professional. (Or download both!) Here’s more information about them.

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