Solved: How To Open A Locked File Cabinet Without A Key?

Yesterday, my boss broke the news of another official trip to me.  Anyone who has followed me for a while knows how much I detest business trips. However, the fact that I would be traveling to Greece for a business conference made me less anxious than usual this time. Honestly, I felt a little excited this time.

Already, I could see myself swimming in the clear waters and savoring the mouthwatering Mediterranean cuisine. Once I got home, I kept daydreaming until the following evening, when I went looking for the filing cabinet key so I could get my passport out. I couldn’t find the keys, to my dismay, and it felt like a nightmare.

I searched for the keys for a few minutes but had no luck. I soon became anxious and made the decision to pick the filing cabinet’s lock because I required my passport the following morning for official purposes. Trust me; it was hard but possible. The panic of a few minutes made me realize the importance of an article on the subject, so here I go!

You can open your file cabinet without a key only by picking your lock if you do not have the spare keys stacked up. You can do so by using multiple tools like paper clips, bobby pins, nail files, etc. However, if your lock is hard to pick, you may either need to get a new key made by a locksmith or open your lock using a drilling tool.

In this article, we will learn several methods to solve the issue of how to unlock a filing cabinet without a key.

How To Pick A File Cabinet Lock With Paperclip

 How To Pick A File Cabinet Lock With Paperclip

One of the easiest ways to open your file cabinet without a key is by using a paperclip. Learn how to pick a file cabinet lock using a paperclip following the instructions given below. 

  • Step 1: Take a paperclip and straighten one of its ends using a pair of pliers. The bent end of the paper clip will be used to pick the lock on your filing cabinet. 
  • Step 2: Holding the paperclip vertically between your index and thumb, insert the curved end into the keyhole. The curved end of the paper clip will serve as your key. 
  • Step 3: Twist the pin, pushing and pulling it out of the lock while being guided by sensation. The key pin should feel like it has reached the shear line. As you do so, the paperclip presses down on the lock’s pins.
  • Step 4: Once you think the pin has found the sheer line, twist it clockwise to open your file cabinet lock. Some file locks open in the counterclockwise direction, so if your lock does not open on twisting right, turn it towards the left side. 

Following the above steps, you will be able to pick your lock easily. However, you may have to twist the pin a couple of times to unlock the lock.

Using A Nail File To To Open The File Cabinet

Another way to pick open your file cabinet lock is by using a nail file. It is similar to picking a door lock using a knife. The file acts as a key to unlock the lock without its original key

Following are the steps to do so.

  • Step 1: To use the filing tool, locate a nail clipper file or a pair of nail clippers, as they have a tiny nail filing tool. The top of the file on the majority of these tools has a curved tip.
  • Step 2: Push the tool as far as it will go into the keyhole while holding it up to the bottom of the keyhole with the curved tip facing down. Most of the files should fit inside the hole, and the tool should fit comfortably inside.
  • Step 3: Insert the file holding it at the bottom of the keyhole with the curved tip facing downward, and push it in as far as it will go. 
  • Step 4: To find the correct way to unlock the cabinet, rotate the file clockwise and then counterclockwise. When you’ve found the right spot, the nail file slides right in, and the lock of your file cabinet will unlock.

The above steps should help you learn how to unlock a filing cabinet without a key easily using a nail file. You may also use an object similar to a nail file but ensure that the object is not very sharp.

How To Pick A File Cabinet Lock With A Bobby Pin

How To Pick A File Cabinet Lock With A Bobby Pin

If you were not able to pick your locking using any of the above methods, you may consider calling a locksmith. Although they frequently do a decent job, locksmith services can be expensive and time-consuming. 

Alternatively, with the aid of two bobby pins, you might be able to find an alternative approach to opening the door by yourself.

Here are the steps to do so.

  • Step 1: Take a bobby pin, bend it right from the center, and insert it into the bottom part of the lock keyhole. You should insert the pick one centimeter within the lock, and you must have the flat side facing up.
    bobby pin
  • Step 2: Push the remainder of the pin to the left. Turn the pin as though you were going to open the door as though it were a key. Although it won’t travel very far, this pressure is significant.
  • Step 3: Take the second bobby pin and bend the pin backward until it resembles a long metal wire to make a pick.
    bend the pin
  • Step 4: Make a loop from the opposite side of the pick simply to make the pick easier to hold and apply pressure on. You can do this by taking one end of the pick and bending half of it back on
    Bobby pin loop
  • Step 5: Now insert the looped pin into the upper side of the lock keyhole while holding the pressure on the first pin and bend it down to release the lock to open it.
    lock keyhole

Ask a Locksmith To Cut A Key Without The Original Key

Ask a Locksmith To Cut A Key Without The Original Key

If you don’t know this already, a locksmith can cut the key of your lock without the original key. He may use several approaches to succeed in the process by either cutting the key according to the keycode, making an impression of the key by inserting a blank key into the lock, or by dissembling the lock to crack the key code. 

However, some locks may be more formidable than others and maybe even be impossible to be keyed if the original key is lost. But usually, it is the case with high-security locks, and most other locks should open without a key by one means or another.

In fact, I have written a full brown article on whether a locksmith can cut a key without the original key. If you are considering the option, you may find the article helpful.

Drill Open Your File Cabinet Lock

Drill Open Your File Cabinet Lock

While drilling the lock is a method for removing a file cabinet lock without a key; you should only do it as a last resort and in an emergency because the drill will harm the lock’s internal components and make them unworkable. You’ll need to fix the lock and possibly other parts of your cabinet after using the drill to unlock the lock. 

Apply a small amount of machine lubricant to the drill bit before starting. This lessens any friction that could otherwise occur while you drill through the lock. Start your drill at a medium speed while applying constant pressure. Continue drilling until the drill has reached the lock mechanism, at which point you should switch your drill to reverse and carefully remove the bit from the lock.

Put your flathead screwdriver into the lock mechanism’s slot once you’ve removed the drill turning it in a clockwise direction. 

If your first drilling attempt was successful, this would cause the lock’s release lever to move. If not, you will have to re-drill using a larger-sized bit. Once the second round of drilling is complete, try the screwdriver once more. Until the release lever can be tripped, repeat the procedure as necessary.

Consider using eye protection during the procedure to shield your eyes from any stray metal. Also, be careful not to shatter any drill bits inside the lock.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Is picking your own locks considered legal in the US?

Answer – You are automatically permitted to open your locks in any way because you are the legitimate owner. Hence, picking your own locks is considered legal in the US.

Q2. Does picking a filing cabinet’s lock damage the lock?

Answer – Yes, picking any lock will result in minute dents in the mechanism. Additionally, misusing a tool or procedure can seriously harm a mechanism’s durability and reliability.


Having your important documents stuck in a file cabinet because you cannot locate its key is a horror that nobody would want to experience. The agony multiplies when you need the documents urgently. While I cannot help you find your key, I can definitely help you get access to your valuables by assisting you in picking the lock. 

If you are looking for how to get into a file cabinet without a key, the article must have been valuable. Do let me know in the comment section if one of these methods worked for you. For any other assistance on home security, I am happy to help!

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