The Key To Unlocking Locked PDF Files


PDF files are a convenient way to share electronic files as well as securing them but what happens when you encountered PDF data which has been locked down to prevent you from printing, editing or annotating them?

In my experience, this has occurred when I have received bank records.  Bank of America is notorious for locking down their PDF files.  This is a good thing to protect the data but it can be challenging when you have to process them to meet discovery deadlines.  You COULD try to ask the originator to provide the password but good luck with that.  I have never had success with that method.  So is there a way to workaround locked PDF files?

First, trying saving the PDF file as a .TIF file and then back to PDF format.  If this doesn't work, try this:

  1. Select the PDF to print
  2. Change printer to MICROSOFT XPS DOCUMENT WRITER
  3. Open the version created by Microsoft XPS Document Writer and then save back to PDF format.
If you try to use Adobe's PDF printer driver, it will detect that you are attempting to export a secured PDF to a fresh file and it will refuse to continue. Even third-party PDF print drivers tend to choke on such files. However, by using the XPS Document Writer, you effectively circumvent that check entirely, leaving yourself with an XPS output. Now, open the newly minted XPS file you have just created and simply repeat the printing process, only this time printing to PDF format.

Will this screw up the metadata?  Absolutely but the reason you should use this method is in reviewing the data or making it capable or printing.   If the metadata is an important issue, you should use the original data.  In any event, you need to hold onto the original secured PDF files if needed.  

If this method doesn't work with your PDF documents, you may need to download a third-party app such as PDF Password Remover which has many uses such as:  

  • You have encrypted a PDF files a long time ago and forgot the password
  • You downloaded a password-protected PDF file on the Internet, and you can't print, edit or copy this PDF document
  • Your former colleague or client encrypted a critical report in PDF format, you need to print this report, but you the person and get the password
There is a free trial; however, you can purchase the PDF Password Remover for $14.95 or PDF Password Recovery for $19.95.  They have Windows and Mac versions.

Just remember to MAKE A COPY of the original data and use the copy to attempt any of these methods on.  If you are hesitant and would like an expert to help you, please get in touch with a litigation support professional.





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