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Ultimate Guide to Locked PDFs: How to Unlock, Edit, Save, and More

May 11, 2022
Author
Inkit Team

Found yourself locked out of a PDF that you need to edit or save? 

Locked PDFs can be great for keeping private information secure, but they can also result in awkward situations with you being unable to acces its contents!

What happens if you forgot the password or your colleague who know the lock isn’t responding?

Don’t worry, we’ve covered everything you need to know about locked PDFs below!

Keep on reading to learn how to unlock, edit, save, and manage your locked PDFs easily.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • 2 Main Types Of Secured PDFs
  • 4 Ways To Unlock And Edit Locked PDFs
  • Other Ways To Unlock Locked PDFs
  • How To Save Locked PDFs After Unlocking Them

2 Main Types Of Secured PDFs

There are 2 main types types of secured PDFs: A user-locked one and a owner-locked one.

What’s the difference?

A user-locked PDF simply means that as the user, you’ll need a password to view the contents. 

An owner-locked PDF means that you need a password to modify the document in any way. This can include copying, printing, or other forms of editing. 

If you do not know the password to the document, there is not a way to unlock it. 

There are some ways you can still view the document if absolutely necessary, though. You can use tools like Adobe Acrobat Pro to remove the PDF password

First, let’s take a look at what you can do for locked PDFs.

4 Ways To Unlock And Edit Locked PDFs

If you have a locked PDF that you need to unlock, edit, or save, fortunately, you have a few different options to go about this.

Here’s what you need to know.

How to unlock password protected PDFs

If you know the password, then you can follow these steps to unlock the document: 

  • Go to the folder where your locked PDF is.
  • Open the locked document using any PDF viewer.
  • Input the correct password, and you will be granted access to the file 

If you wish to remove the password from the document, follow these steps: 

  • After you have unlocked the file, click on “File”
  • Then click on Info > Protect Document > Encrypt with Password.
  • It will then show the password box - clear the password until it is empty.
  • Then click OK. 

Or

  • Open the locked document with Microsoft Word.
  • In the tabs, click on Review.
  • Then select Restrict Editing > Stop Protection.
  • It will show a dialogue box to input the password and put in the password.
  • Click on Unprotect Document, then click OK.

After completing these steps, the password protection will no longer be there. You can now view the PDF without any restrictions. 

How to edit locked PDFs 

If a PDF is secured, it is typically not supposed to be edited unless it is edited by the author. 

The best option is to contact the author of the PDF for editing purposes 

If you do have the permission to edit or only certain features are restricted, then you can open the document by following the steps above. 

Once the password is removed, you’ll have access to view it. Many times, a different password is also required for editing. 

If you attempt to edit without unlocking the document, you’ll receive an error like this: 

pop-up banner that shows up when you attempt to open a locked document

PDF unlocking tools

If you need to unlock the PDF for editing purposes, you can use a third-party, online tools like SmallPDF to do so. 

Here are the steps to complete it: 

  1. Upload your protected PDF into the Unlock PDF tool.
  2. Enter the password.
  3. Wait for the PDF to unlock, then select “Edit PDF”.
  4. Once you’re finished with editing, you can click the download button to save the document .

If you have access to Adobe suite, then you can use Adobe Acrobat to unlock your PDF as well. Unlocking your document is quick and simple with this tool: 

  1. Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat.
  2. Use the “Unlock” tool by choosing Tools > Protect > Encrypt > Remove Security 
  3. Remove the password: 
  4. If the document has a Document Open password, just click “OK” to remove it.
  5. If the PDF has a permissions password to edit, then enter the password into the box and click “OK.” Click “OK” again to confirm your desired action. 

What to do if you forgot the PDF password?

If you forgot or simply don’t have the password, there is not a way to recover it. 

There are some options that you can use to basically create a copy of the old document. Please note that some interactive elements might be removed if you use this option. 

This is risky but might be worth a shot if you’re out of options.

banner that tells you about the risk of printing or recovering a locked pdf after you forgot the password

How to create a new copy of a PDF with Adobe Acrobat DC: 

  1. Open the PDF in Acrobat DC.
  2. Select File > Print.
  3. Choose Adobe PDF as the printer in the popup box.
  4. Click Print.
  5. Type a new name for your file and click Save. You can now edit the new version of your PDF.
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Other Ways To Unlock Locked PDFs

If you don’t have access to the Adobe suite but still need a way to unlock your PDF, then you have some other options. 

There are a few different techniques that you can use to access the PDF without losing or distorting the formatting. 

Note: The below is an overview of our full article 7 ways to unlock PDF forgotten passwords. Be sure to check that guide out for the full steps and detailed overview with examples!

Unlock locked PDF with Google Drive

If you can’t remember the password to your locked PDF, then you can open the document in Google Drive if you have a Gmail account. 

This involves uploading the document to Drive, using Google’s document converter, and then downloading it as a Microsoft Word document. Please note that this may change the formatting of your document. 

Rename the PDF file

Another option to remove the password for a document includes renaming it and changing it to a zip file. 

This process is a bit back and forth, but it is an option that doesn’t require any other software or tools. 

Change the PDF file format

Please note that this option will only work if the PDF is locked to prevent editing. This option involves hanging the text format to Rich Text format. 

It usually works best with Microsoft Office Pro 2010. If you have a password on a Word document that needs to be removed, check out the tutorial on how to remove MS Word document passwords for more info.

Use an online password remover

There are several tools online, but the tool mentioned in the above section is Small PDF’s “Unlock PDF” option. 

It’s free and will easily remove the password without damaging the PDF.

Edit the PDF with Wordpad

Wordpad is a Windows software that can be used to view and edit documents. This tool is best used for password-protected PDFs that are locked against editing. Make sure to have an extra copy of the file in case of data loss in the process. 

Save the PDF as a new file 

This is a great option if you have access for viewing the PDF, but you aren’t able to edit. This involves opening the document in Microsoft Word “Read Only” mode and saving the file as a new one. This will make the renamed file editable. 

Open the PDF with Google Chrome 

Opening your locked PDF in Google Chrome will allow you to use the converter built into Google. This involves saving the PDF as a new document once opened in Chrome. You’ll then be able to access the new document without a password. 

See our full guide on how to open a PDF in Chrome for more info on this.

How To Save Locked PDFs After Unlocking Them

Finally, to save a PDF that is locked without the password protection, you’ll need to unlock it before saving. Here is a general way of unlocking your PDF. 

If you know the password, then you can follow these steps to unlock the document: 

  • Go to the folder where your locked PDF is.
  • Opent the locked document using any PDF viewer.
  • Input the correct password, and you will be granted access to the file .

After you have access to the document, you’ll need to remove the password protection and save it again. Here are the steps to follow:

  • After you have unlocked the file, click on “File”. 
  • Then click on Info > Protect Document > Encrypt with Password.
  • It will then show the password box - clear the password until it is empty.
  • Then click OK.

Or

  • Open the locked document with Microsoft Word.
  • In the tabs, click on Review.
  • Then select Restrict Editing > Stop Protection.
  • It will show a dialogue box to input the password and put in the password.
  • Click on Unprotect Document, then click OK.

After completing these steps, the password protection will no longer be there. You can now view the PDF without any restrictions. 

After the PDF is unlocked, then you can save it without the password protection. 

Conclusion

Hopefully, this guide helped in managing and unlocking your PDFs.

If a document is locked and you are not the owner, it is best to contact the owner for the password to be authorized for viewing or editing. 

If you need to access or edit a PDF and you can’t remember the password, unlocking it with other tools or software is a last resort. Be sure to follow the best safety practices to ensure you don’t infringe on the privacy rights of the document owner. 

Finally, if you’re looking for more information and best practices on managing your PDF documents, be sure to also read:

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