How to Get Into a File Cabinet Without a Key


Title: How to Get Into a File Cabinet Without a Key: A Step-by-Step Guide


A locked file cabinet can be a frustrating obstacle, especially when you don’t have the key at hand. Whether you lost the key or inherited a locked cabinet without a key, gaining access to its contents might seem impossible. However, with the right tools and techniques, you can successfully open a file cabinet without a key. In this article, we will guide you through the process, ensuring you can access your files efficiently and effectively.

Step-by-Step Guide to Opening a File Cabinet Without a Key:

1. Assess the lock type:
Determine the type of lock on the file cabinet. Common types include a cylinder lock, tubular lock, or cam lock. Each lock requires a different approach for unlocking.

2. Gather the necessary tools:
Depending on the lock type, you may need a paperclip, tension wrench, screwdriver, or a lock pick set. These tools are widely available and can be purchased online or at a local hardware store.

3. Straighten a paperclip:
If dealing with a cylinder lock, straighten a paperclip to create a makeshift lock pick. Bend a small hook at one end to serve as a pick.

4. Insert the tension wrench:
Insert the tension wrench into the lower part of the keyhole. Apply slight pressure in the direction you would turn the key.

5. Pick the lock:
Insert the paperclip into the upper part of the keyhole. Gently move the paperclip around, feeling for pins. Apply upward pressure to each pin until you hear a click.

6. Rotate the lock:
While maintaining pressure on the tension wrench, rotate the paperclip in the direction you would turn the key. The lock should eventually unlock.

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7. Open the file cabinet:
Once the lock is successfully picked, the file cabinet should be ready to open. Gently pull the handle or push the door, depending on the cabinet’s design.


1. Is it legal to open a file cabinet without a key?
It is essential to note that attempting to open a file cabinet without proper authorization or permission may be illegal. Ensure you are the rightful owner or have proper consent before proceeding.

2. Can I use a hairpin instead of a paperclip?
While a hairpin can serve as a makeshift lock pick, it may not be as effective as a paperclip due to its thickness and design. It is recommended to use a paperclip or purchase a proper lock pick set for better results.

3. What if I don’t have a tension wrench?
A tension wrench is essential for applying the required pressure during the lock picking process. If you don’t have one, you can fashion one using a bobby pin or a similar thin, rigid object.

4. Can I break the lock to gain access?
Breaking the lock should be considered a last resort, as it can damage the cabinet and its contents. It is preferable to exhaust all other options before resorting to this method.

5. How long does it take to pick a lock?
The time required to pick a lock can vary depending on the skill level and experience of the person attempting it. It may take a few minutes to several hours, so patience and persistence are key.

6. Are there any alternative methods to open a file cabinet?
If lock picking is not feasible or you lack the necessary tools, you can consider contacting a professional locksmith who specializes in opening file cabinets. They possess the expertise and tools to unlock cabinets without causing damage.

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7. How can I prevent getting locked out of my file cabinet?
To prevent future lockouts, consider duplicating your key, storing it in a safe place, or providing a spare key to a trusted individual. Additionally, regularly maintain and lubricate the lock to ensure smooth operation.


While it may seem daunting, opening a file cabinet without a key is achievable by following the appropriate steps. Remember to always ensure you have proper authorization before attempting to access a locked file cabinet. In case of uncertainty or difficulty, it is advisable to seek professional assistance from a locksmith.