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How to Unlock a PDF (Even if You've Lost the Password)

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Whether you're a business owner or an everyday person, sometimes, you'll need to unlock a PDF. But what do you do when you lack the right password? You may feel like there isn't anything you can do. Fortunately, you can instantly unlock any PDF with the right tools.

In this article, we'll look at the best ways to unlock PDFs on a PC or Mac. We'll also discuss the different kinds of passwords you can place on yours or other people's PDF files.

What is an Owner or User Password?

It makes sense why people use passwords to lock PDFs. The PDF file system is widely used in business and for signing documents, meaning there's a high possibility that the file contains important and/or private information. A password ensures that this information stays secure.

There are different ways that you can encrypt a PDF file. The two types of PDF passwords include PDF owner passwords and PDF user passwords. Let's discuss what these are.

  • PDF Owner Password: Also called a "master" or "permission" password, these are used to prevent specific operations. These can include copying, modifying annotations, rotating, deleting, and inserting pages, or exporting and saving the file. You'll still be able to see the file, but you won't have the ability to change it once it's opened.
  • PDF User Password: These types of passwords completely encrypt the document. You won't be able to open the document at all unless you have the password.

It's much easier to unlock a PDF owner password than a PDF user password. In many cases, you won't be able to bypass a PDF user password unless you have the specific passphrase.

How to Unlock a PDF With or Without a Password

To unlock a PDF when you don't have a password, you'll need to use some sort of unlocking software. If you have the password, you'll need a software that can open the PDF file.

Using an Online Tool to Unlock the PDF

There are many tools that allow you to upload PDFs to unlock them, such as PDFSimpli on the desktop. Any desktop tool will work for the PC and Mac, so we recommend using one of these.

For the majority of PDF unlocking tools, simply drag your file into the tool. From there, you can make any necessary changes to the file. You should also be able to convert it to any popular format, such as a Word or PowerPoint document. After you're done, download the file.

Two things to keep in mind:

  • Ensure the tool is safe to use: You should always make sure that the PDF unlocker you're using won't download any viruses to your computer. While we know the PDFSimpli is safe, we can't guarantee that every unlocker on the internet will be.
  • These tools don't unlock the existing document: Many of these tools don't unlock the existing document. Instead, they create a copy that you can freely edit.

You'll need a password remover if you want to unlock and edit an existing document.

Using an Online Tool to Remove a Password

Tools like Cisdem PDF Password Remover allow you to add in files and unencrypt them. For these programs, a pop-up will appear asking you if you know the password.

Click "Forgot?" or something similar. From there, it will ask you for some information about the password (length, if it includes upper or lower case letters, etc.) to speed up the encryption.

Two things to keep in mind:

  • Some passwords can't be breached: If the password is too complicated or doesn't follow a specific pattern, there's a high chance that these tools won't work.
  • Don't use these tools maliciously: Only use these tools if you've personally forgotten a password to a document you should have access to. If you unlock a document that isn't yours, it's a criminal offense that's punishable by possible imprisonment.

Keep in mind that if you do have the password but you don't have a PDF reader, you'll need one of those first. Adobe has one that comes with a free trial, but if you've used that up, you'll have to pay. Alternatively, you can use a free PDF viewer, like PDFSimpli, to edit the file.

In Conclusion...

When you forget your password on an import PDF file, you can't simply enter "Forgot Password?" and get a message in your inbox to request a new one. Thankfully, you can use one of these methods to create a new document you can edit or reset your password.

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