Password protection for PDFs is an essential security component of the PDF ecosystem. Since this file format is extensively used to share both public and private information, it is crucial that some documents be protected with strong password-based encryption. It is equally important that authorized users, including the document’s original author, have the right tools to remove such protection so that edits and other modifications may be made to the PDF document. In some cases, the owner might have forgotten the password but still needs to access the content inside. Therefore, we have shown four different ways to remove your password from PDFs.
PDF Password Protection Explained – A Primer
PDF passwords are of two types: Open and Permissions. The first of these allows any user to open the file and view the contents, while the latter allows the user to make changes (edit PDF), copy content, or print PDF. They are also referred to as User and Owner passwords, respectively. Both passwords are required to open and edit the file, but viewing it only requires the Open or User password.
Now that you have an overview of the two PDF password types that protect a document, let’s look at each of the 4 methods to remove them.
Method 1: Remove PDF Password with PDFelement
PDFelement offers a quick and easy way to remove password restrictions from a PDF document. The process is extremely simple, and you have the added benefit of getting a whole range of PDF tools for creating, editing, annotating, converting, protecting, signing, and form-filling, among others.
Step 1: Upload the Locked PDF into PDFelement
Open the PDFelement app and click on the Open File button to load the file into the program. You can also drag the PDF into the software interface and drop it there.
Since the file is currently locked with the Open password, you’ll see a notification where you’ll need to enter it. Do that and click OK to proceed.
Step 2: Initiate Password Removal
In case the document is also copy, print, or edit-protected, simply use the Enable Editing button to begin the process of password removal.
Step 3: Complete Password Removal
In the final step, click on the button with the padlock icon, which represents the settings page to add or remove passwords. You’ll find it in the Protect tab at the top of the software window. When you see the Password Security window appear on the screen, just deselect the Open and Permissions passwords’ checkboxes and hit OK to confirm password removal.
The file is now completely editable and accessible by anyone.
Method 2: Use PDF Password Remover
PDF Password Remover offers a swift way to remove the Permissions or Owner password of any PDF document when the original password has been forgotten, lost, or misplaced. Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Import the Locked File into PDF Password Remover
Once you launch the application, you’ll see an option to Add Files to it. Alternatively, you can drag files from Explorer and drop them into the interface. When you do that, you’ll see the files listed on your screen, along with a padlock icon in case a file has an Open password as well. For these, you’ll need to enter the password so that the software can proceed with the removal of the Permissions password.
Step 2: Remove Permissions Passwords in Bulk
Before you proceed, you will need to specify the folder location to which the unlocked files must be saved. There’s also an option to select a location and open it so you can see what’s inside. If a file has the padlock icon in the first column, click on that item and enter the Open password. After such files have been unlocked, simply hit Start to instantly remove all Permissions passwords for the imported PDF files.
Method 3: Use the Google Drive Workaround to Remove Password Protection from PDF
The third method we’ve outlined is not ideal but it will serve you in a pinch. The process involves uploading the file to Google Drive and opening it as a native Docs file. You can then download it as a PDF that will be unlocked. Here are the steps:
Step 1: Upload Secured PDF to Google Drive
Launch your Google Drive in your browser and make sure you’re signed into your Google account. Next, click on the small black arrow next to My Drive at the top, below the search bar and choose Upload File… Alternatively, you can click on New → File Upload to do the same thing. Import the file and wait for the upload to complete.
Step 2: Open as Google Docs
When you see the file appear in your Drive folder, right-click it and choose Open With → Google Docs. The file will open in a new tab, but you’ll also see a newly generated Docs file with the same name as your PDF in the My Drive location.
Step 3: Download the Docs File in PDF Format
The final step is to go to the new tab where the file is open, then click this sequence: File → Download → PDF Document. Specify a target location and click OK to confirm. The file will now be downloaded as an unprotected PDF, which you can open, edit, copy, or print without a problem.
Method 4: Unlock PDF with Google Chrome
Another workaround is made possible with the help of Google Chrome. The process here involved opening the locked PDF in a Chrome tab, which you can then ‘Print to PDF’ without password protection. Here are the steps described for your convenience.
Step 1: Open Locked PDF in Google Chrome
As a first step, launch a Chrome window or a new tab and drag the locked PDF file into the tab/window.
Step 2: Remove Password using the Print Option
The next step is to click on the Printer icon on the top righthand side of the PDF document. What this does is to use the printing function of Chrome to remove the document’s password.
Step 3: Save File – Print to PDF
The final step is done in the Print panel, which has an option called Save. You should be able to see Save as PDF right below it. Click the Save button, choose your destination folder, and click OK to confirm.
The file that’s downloaded is an unprotected duplicate of the original locked PDF. It’s certainly not the ideal scenario but it works quickly and you don’t need any additional tools as long as you have Google Chrome installed on your computer.
With Method 3 and Method 4, you may notice some layout changes in the final unprotected output PDF file. That’s normal because neither Chrome nor Drive is capable of rendering PDF into other formats exactly as in the original. Moreover, these methods yield a different file that is unprotected, so it’s not useful if you need to unlock the original source file.
For that reason, if you know the Open password and have only forgotten the Permissions password, we recommend PDFelement for single files and PDF Password Remover for multiple files. They will help you remove your password from the original PDF file instead of offering workaround methods that aren’t perfect.