How to Open a Locked Filing Cabinet [7 Easy Methods]

If you’ve lost or misplaced the key and need to open a locked file cabinet, consider some great alternatives. Drilling or prying the cabinet open may seem like good solutions, but they can be really destructive.

However, with the right methods and tools, you can open a locked filing cabinet without damaging its contents or the cabinet itself. In this post, I’ll provide a comprehensive guide on how to open a locked filing cabinet.

I’ll also discuss the necessary tools, the different ways to access a locked filing cabinet, and various tips and tricks to get the job done quickly and efficiently.

I hope this post will give readers the knowledge they need to open their filing cabinets and secure their documents safely.

Tools You Need

Here are the tools you need to open a locked filing cabinet:

  • Nail Clippers with a Curved Tip
  • Paperclips
  • Knife
  • Screwdriver
  • Bobby Pins
  • Bump Keys
  • Drilling Tool
  • Ruler
  • Magnetic Pick Tool

So now you know what tools you need to open a locked filing cabinet! Good luck!

No Key Required: 7 Ways to Open a Locked Filing Cabinet Without Breaking It

1. Using a Flathead Screwdriver

To open your cabinet lock, you can use a flathead screwdriver which is a great option. Insert the screwdriver into the lock mechanism’s slot and turn it clockwise.

If your first attempt doesn’t work, try pounding the screwdriver into the file cabinet with a hammer. Again, if this doesn’t work, you can use a bottle-head screwdriver and turn it in the direction of the file cabinets that are normally opened.

I hope, with enough force and patience, you can open your filing cabinet with a flathead screwdriver.

You can use a screwdriver to open a Deadball lock If you lost your key.

2. Use a Paperclip to Open a File Cabinet

Before you start, straighten one end of the paperclip while keeping the other one bent. Slide the curved tip into the keyhole vertically so that the curved end is pressed down on the inside of the lock.

Move it slowly from left to right, and be patient until you figure out how to push the pins down to unlock the filing cabinet.

When the lock rotates to the side, you’ve got it! Lastly, make sure to carefully extract the paperclip when you’re done.

Alternatively, a nail clipper (especially the fingernail file) works just as well as a straightened paper clip when it comes to lock-picking tools.

Tips: The various kits you can purchase for file cabinet lock alternatives can also have numerous portions to accommodate oversized setup holes.

3 Using a Nail Clipper

Using a nail clipper is another great way to open a locked filing cabinet if you don’t have access to other tools. Make sure to use a nail clipper with a curved tip, and insert it into the bottom side of the keyhole.

After that, push it as far as possible and feel for the pins inside the lock. The next step is to jiggle the nail clipper until you can slide open the drawer.

Be patient and take your time, as this method may require trial and error.

4. Open a Filing Cabinet with the Drilling Process

Before you start, rub some engine oil onto the drill bit. This reduces any ensuing friction as you are drilling into the lock.

Begin with your drill at a medium pace, using constant and firm pressure. Preserve going till the drill penetrates the lock mechanism. And then, transfer your drill to reverse mode and thoroughly pull the bit out of the lock.

Turn the file clockwise into the lock mechanism’s slot. If your first drilling spherical becomes successful, this could experience the lock’s launch lever.

Try the screwdriver again once you have finished the second round of drilling. Repeat the method as desired till the discharge lever can be tripped.

5. Using a Ruler

To start, keep one hand on the handle for the door and jiggle the release with your thumb while working the ruler on the right-hand side.

With the ruler correctly positioned, try to locate the unlock position by moving it horizontally as you feel for a spot where the ruler doesn’t catch.

Once you’ve found that sweet spot, gently press down and turn in one direction until you feel that clicking sound. This method works best if your filing cabinet has a vertical latch on the right side.

If you don’t have any luck with this method, try some other options below.

6. Using a Magnetic Pick Tool

You can use a magnetic pick technique when you don’t have access to the master key. To use this method, you’ll need two paper clips and a pair of tweezers.

magnetic pick tool

Start by looping one paper clip around the core of the lock, and then use the other paper clip as a tensioning tool. Keep slight tension on the lock in the direction that a key would turn, and then use the tweezers to push each wafer all the way up until they click into place.

Once you’ve done this, your file cabinet will be unlocked! However, with this method, you won’t need to worry about these magnetic locks being picked or memorizing combinations.

7. Unlocking the Filing Cabinet with a Bump Key

You can unlock your filing cabinet with a bump key. You’ll need a bump key, a wire, and some pliers to start.

Step #1: Take the piece of wire and bend it into a “Z” shape using the pliers. This is your torque wrench and will help to apply tension on the lock to turn it.

Bump Keys

Step #2: Insert the bump key into the lock. To find the unlock position, you must move the bump key to the right and left until you feel a “smooth” action without any catches.

Step #3: Once you’ve found the unlock position, slowly turn the bump key while applying pressure with the torque wrench.

Keep turning until you hear a clicking sound that the lock has opened. And that’s it!

Alternatively, you can try to use a Knife to unlock your cabinet lock, but I’m not sure whether it’ll work or not for you.

In conclusion, there are many methods for opening a locked filing cabinet. Depending on the model of the cabinet, the type of lock, and the tools you have access to, you can choose the most appropriate method from the above.

Depending on your filing cabinet, you can use a paperclip, a bump key, Nail Clipper, Screwdrivers, or other methods. Whatever method you choose, make sure you take the necessary precautions to ensure that your cabinet remains secure.

Overall, with patience and the right tools, you can open your filing cabinet and access your documents in no time.

[Updated By Palash Talukder]

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I'm Bobby Taylor, a tech lover, writer, and editor for Smart Home Protector. I am also a customer relationship officer of a well established electronics manufacturer company in the United States.

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