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How to Remove a File Cabinet Lock Without a Key?

Fact checked by Teddy B.Miller

How to Remove a File Cabinet Lock Without a Key

Do you want to learn how to remove a file cabinet lock without a key? By using a nail clipper file, you can open a file cabinet lock by inserting it into the keyhole and jiggling the file up and down until you push down all the pins and turn the lock into the unlocked position.

This tutorial is useful if you misplaced the key of your file cabinet lock or you are a new employee and the office doesn’t have duplicate keys. By learning this technique, you won’t have to worry when your boss is asking you for files.

What You Will Need


To successfully open the file cabinet lock without using a key, you need to have the right item with you. The tutorial is doable since you won’t be needing electric tools to follow the procedures.

Aside from that, you don’t have to go to a shop or borrow from your friends or neighbors since the items may just be sitting inside your pocket or office.

Nail Clipper File

The nail clipper file is the only tool you need, but you must have the right one. This item is usually for grooming, but it can also be used for picking a lock. What you need here is the file, and not all nail clippers have files in them, so make sure that yours include a curved file.

Furthermore, avoid using a straight file since it won’t exactly fit in the keyhole and move the pins that need to be pushed. It must also be tiny enough to fit the keyhole.

Aside from that, make sure that it is made of thick metal so it won’t break and get stuck once you jiggle it and push the pins. A low-quality file can be broken and get stuck in the keyhole.

If you don’t have a nail clipper file, you can use a paperclip as an alternative. It must be heavy-duty so that it won’t be out of shape while you are trying to locate and push the pins. Also, make sure that it is made of metal.

However, between a nail clipper file and a paperclip, a nail clipper file is better because of its durability.


This is optional but it would be very helpful, especially if your hand is slippery and wet. The purpose of a pair of gloves is also to protect your hands from blisters that can be caused by exerting too much force and effort. It can also prevent any cuts in case the file slides wrongly or accidentally.

You can wear gloves made of cotton and fabric. They are ideal as protection against abrasions. Since this is not a difficult and dangerous task, using this kind of gloves is enough to keep your hands protected while following the tutorial.

Steps to Remove a File Cabinet Lock Without a Key


Step 1: Put the file in the right position

Before you start, wear your gloves first for safety. The first step you need to do is slide the file out of the nail clipper. Make sure that it is facing downward. You can either turn it clockwise or counter-clockwise, depending on the direction you prefer.

Aside from that, tighten your grip on the nail clipper. In the next steps, you will need to jiggle and move the file inside the lock, so make sure you are exerting the right amount of pressure to open the file cabinet quickly and easily.

Step 2: Insert the nail clipper file in the bottom of the keyhole

After ensuring that the nail clipper file is in the right position, you need to insert the nail clipper file with the curved tip at the bottom of the keyhole. Push it as far as possible until the major part of the file is inside.

Since the file has a curved tip, fitting it inside a file cabinet lock won’t be a problem. Also, you can start to feel the pins inside the lock. Because of this, you will locate them easily when it is time to move and push them.

Step 3: Figure out how to unlock the file cabinet lock by turning it counter-clockwise or clockwise

You have to determine the right direction in which the file cabinet lock would unlock. To do this, turn the file counter-clockwise or clockwise until you feel that the file is sliding with ease. Most of the file cabinet locks can be turned clockwise to unlock them, just like how keys work.

People who have experience in picking locks can execute this easily. However, if you are a beginner, you will need to experiment.

Step 4: Release the locking mechanism by moving the file up and down

To release the locking mechanism, you need to move the pins of the lock. Usually, most of the office file cabinet locks consist of five pins. To do this, move the file up and down three to five times. You need to exert more pressure in this step so that you can push the pins correctly.

You will know that you have successfully moved the pins correctly if you can move the file up and down without any effort. Once you move the pins in the right place, it would be easier to unlock the file cabinet lock.

Step 5: Spin the file in the right direction to unlock the keyhole

After you release the locking mechanism, spin the file to the unlock position you determined earlier to unlock the keyhole. In this procedure, a gentle wrist will do. An indicator that you successfully collapsed the locking mechanism is if you hear a clicking sound.

Step 6: Remove the file and open the cabinet

Once you move the keyhole to either a horizontal or vertical position, depending on the kind of motion required to unlock, you can now remove the nail clipper file from the keyhole and open the cabinet. Fold the file carefully inside the nail clipper.

You can keep the cabinet unlocked to access the files easily.

Also, if your lock has been broken, here is a guide to open it.


Have you enjoyed following the tutorial on how to remove a file cabinet lock without a key? The simple hack you learn is useful if you misplace or lose the keys of your file cabinet or you work in an office setup and need the documents as soon as possible. You will solve the problem without any professional help.

There are many types of locks to suit your house or apartment. You can refer to, for example, locks for apartment doors, child-proof door locks, or sliding glass door locks.

If you find this tutorial helpful, you can share it with your family, friends, and workmates. We will also be very happy to know more about your experiences while doing the tutorial. You are free to comment below the post.

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