"I forgot my PDF password! How can I open my file?" This message arrives in our inbox more frequently than any other PDF-related question. Most concerned inquirers wish to know if they can recover a PDF password after it vanishes from their memory.

Fortunately, you can recover the password. However, you can also unlock your password-protected PDF file without it.

Learn what to do if you've lost your PDF password, explore the top tools for unlocking PDFs, and discover the best password practices. Keep scrolling to find a brilliant solution for recovering lost PDF files.

In this article
    1. PDF24' Unlock PDF
    2. LostMyPass PDF Password Recovery
    3. Smallpdf's Unlock PDF
    4. Small SEO Tools' Unlock PDF
    1. UPDF
    2. Recover PDF Password by Eltima
    3. PDF Password Remover Tool
    4. Weeny's Free PDF Password Remover
    1. Utilize a Reliable Password Manager
    2. Use a Numeric Alphabet
    3. Substitute Letters With Symbols and Numbers
    4. Make Poetic Passwords

What to Do if You Forgot Your PDF Password

a locked pdf file

If you forget a PDF password, you can try to find it or use a reliable PDF password remover or recovery tool.

Having it in a place other than your memory is a prerequisite for finding it, so that option doesn't work otherwise. Password recovery tools are few and far between, but they can recover your PDF password using brute force.

However, a trusted tool for removing the encryption is the fastest way to regain access to your locked PDF.

Let's see how to find a PDF password before exploring the best online and offline tools for unlocking PDF files.

How to Find a PDF Password if You Forgot It

find a pdf password

You can find a PDF password in several ways, including:

  • Referring to a written note – If you've been wise enough to write your PDF password in a notebook, find that reference and enter the password. The same goes for keeping your passwords in a text file like Notepad.
  • Using a password manager – Retrieving passwords from a password manager is a breeze. If you use one, open its vault and find your PDF password.
  • Checking the email in which your PDF arrived – If someone else has emailed you the PDF, that email might contain the user password.
  • Contacting the sender – If the email or app you used to communicate with the sender doesn't contain the information for decrypting the file, contact them and explain that you forgot the PDF password. They'll gladly reshare it.

If these solutions don't apply, your only options are a trusted PDF password remover or a password recovery tool. Check out the best online and offline tools below.

Best Online Tools for Unlocking PDF Files

The following four online tools are your best bet for removing a forgotten PDF password without software. The best part? They don't cost a dime.

PDF24' Unlock PDF

pdf24 tools' online pdf password remover

PDF24 offers 30+ free online PDF tools, helping you create, edit, merge, compress, and convert PDFs. It's compatible with all web browsers across Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS devices. Windows users can also enjoy PDF24 Creator, a desktop version for offline use.

Its Unlock PDF solution lets you remove PDF passwords within seconds. You only need to upload a locked PDF from your computer or use a drag-and-drop functionality.

You don't need to worry about file protection. PDF24 uses secure SSL transfers and automatically deletes PDFs from its servers after one hour. You'll also love the tool's support for unlimited files and no size restrictions.

LostMyPass PDF Password Recovery

lostmypass password recovery

LostMyPass offers an excellent online password recovery tool for PDF, MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files and archives (Zip, RAR, and 7z). You only need to upload your locked PDF and let LostMyPass use brute force to discover the password and unlock your file. It supports all browsers and systems; the only limit is a maximum file size of 100 MB.

Unfortunately, you can only recover weak passwords for free, with a 22% probability of success. Retrieving complex PDF passwords costs between $29 and $39 (depending on the Adobe Acrobat version) and has a 61% success rate. The good news is you only pay if the tool recovers your password.

However, LostMyPass can brute-force your PDF password with a 100% success rate, but only if you know the password mask (the character set and maximum length). The pricing is available upon request.

Smallpdf's Unlock PDF

smallpdf's online pdf password remover

Smallpdf is similar to PDF24, offering 23+ free online tools for converting, editing, merging, splitting, compressing, scanning, signing, protecting, and unlocking PDF files. Its Unlock PDF password remover can decrypt your PDFs within seconds and won't limit you to a specific file size.

However, it can't unlock PDFs with advanced encryption; they require a password. Speaking of encryption, Smallpdf uses TLS (Transport Layer Security) to protect files during transfer. It also doesn't store passwords and deletes uploaded files from its servers after an hour.

You can use Smallpdf's Unlock PDF and other tools on any browser, whether you forget a PDF password on Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, or Linux.

Small SEO Tools' Unlock PDF

small seo tools' pdf password remover

Small SEO Tools is a treasure trove of valuable solutions. It has nearly 350 tools (free and premium) for managing websites, passwords, domains, keywords, backImage names, images, and text. They also include gems for developers, online calculators, credit card validators, and what have you.

As for PDF options, you have 35 free tools to manage your documents, including the user-friendly Unlock PDF. It lets you upload a locked PDF from a computer, Dropbox, or Google Drive (or drag and drop it) and download the unlocked version to your device.

It's ideal if you forget a PDF password on mobile or desktop, being compatible with all browsers and systems (Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, and Linux).

Best Offline Tools for Unlocking PDF Files

Why would you need an offline tool to unlock PDF files when their online counterparts let you do it in seconds without installing software? Well, many have more extensive features for managing PDFs. They're ideal if you regularly work with PDF files, especially work-related documents that require protecting sensitive information. Here are the top offline PDF password removers to consider.

UPDF

removing a pdf password with udpf

UPDF is an advanced, AI-powered PDF editor for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. It lets you edit, convert, annotate, summarize, translate, merge, sign, and protect PDFs. You can create and fill forms, change backgrounds, add watermarks for copyright protection, redact text to safeguard sensitive information, and set passwords and permissions.

The only downside is you can only remove PDF passwords if you know them. Still, you can use UPDF for free, albeit with limited functionalities.

The free version includes password protection (among other features) but adds a watermark to your documents. It also provides 1 GB of UPDF Cloud storage, with a maximum file size of 10 MB. However, you can unlock all features with an annual subscription ($32.99/year) or a perpetual license ($52.99).

Recover PDF Password by Eltima

eltima's recover pdf password software

Eltima's Recover PDF Password software is available for Windows and macOS users. It lets you use network, dictionary, and brute-force search to find lost PDF passwords and unlock your documents.

It supports Unicode password recovery and can retrieve user and owner passwords. The best part is it saves the recovered PDF passwords for future reference.

The software can also decrypt PDF files (if you know user or owner passwords) and remove digital signatures.

Unfortunately, the free version leaves much to be desired. The network and brute-force search only work for weak passwords (no longer than four characters), while a dictionary recovery will only show the first and last characters. Additionally, PDF decryption will open the first page only and add a watermark.

Therefore, you might need the premium version, which is available for $39.95. However, it doesn't support Windows 11 or macOS versions after Mojave (10.14).

PDF Password Remover Tool

pdf technologies' pdf password remover tool

PDF Technologies' PDF Password Remover Tool is a free solution for Windows users looking to remove owner passwords from locked PDF documents. Therefore, it will enable you to edit the PDFs you can access, not decrypt those you can't open.

That might be a deal-breaker, besides the fact that removing owner passwords is this software's only feature. Still, it does its job seamlessly, making it a fine addition to your Windows toolbox.

The best part? It's entirely free.

Weeny's Free PDF Password Remover

weeney's free pdf password remover

Weeny's Free PDF Password Remover is another Windows software available free of charge. Its no-frills interface resembles the PDF Technologies' tool but has a significant advantage over it. Namely, it can remove user and owner passwords, making it perfect for all forgetful users.

Don't worry when the tool asks for your password once you upload a locked PDF. Click Cancel and initiate the process.

Unfortunately, this software isn't available on Windows 8 and 11.

Best Practices to Ensure You Don't Forget Your PDF Passwords

a password-protected pdf file

Remembering passwords has become challenging due to all the digital services we use daily. That's why many people rely on weak, easy-to-remember passwords and, what's worse, reuse them. You don't want to do either if securing your documents is your top priority.

How can you remember all your PDF passwords, then? Implement the following helpful practices.

Utilize a Reliable Password Manager

You don't need to remember passwords when using a password manager. You'll only need to know the master password to unlock the vault.

Therefore, find a trusted tool and follow the tips below to get the most out of it. They'll help you create complex passwords that no one can guess. More importantly, their uniqueness will prevent them from slipping your mind.

Use a Numeric Alphabet

Converting letters to numbers is an excellent way to strengthen and remember passwords. The letters-to-numbers mapping goes like this: A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, etc. Therefore, a "brave new world" password becomes "2 18 1 22 5 14 5 23 23 15 18 12 4."

Isn't this sequence impossible to remember? You don't need to etch it on your memory because you can use a free online letter-to-number converter. Choose a simple phrase you won't forget, but leave some letters because a combination increases security.

Substitute Letters With Symbols and Numbers

Similarly to a numeric alphabet, you can use symbols and digits instead of letters, creating a tough-to-crack combination. Use something you'll never forget, such as "I must remember my passwords," but change it to "1mu$tR3m3mb3Rmyp4$$w0Rd$."

Make Poetic Passwords

Do you have a favorite verse or quote? That can be the password you're unlikely to forget. However, use the first letters of every word and experiment with capitalization.

For instance, Oscar Wilde's "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." quote becomes "ByEeioT." Of course, sprinkle some numbers, like the publication year, to strengthen the password.

Bonus Tip: How to Recover Lost PDF Files

Losing your PDF files can be a nightmare. However, professional data recovery software can help you restore deleted or lost documents (due to malware, formatting, hardware failure, software malfunction, etc.). Wondershare Recoverit is an excellent example.

It can recover files across 1,000+ formats (including PDF) and 2,000+ devices, sporting a 98% success rate in 500+ data loss situations. It's available on Windows and macOS, regardless of the OS version.

Free Download
Free Download

Therefore, download the correct version to your computer and follow these steps to recover lost PDF files:

  1. Go to Hard Drives and Locations and select the storage with your lost PDF documents to initiate an automatic scan.
    pdf recovery sources

    Alternatively, right-click the correct drive in File Explorer and click Scan for deleted files with Recoverit.

    scanning for deleted files
  2. Specify the file type to instruct the software to only look for PDF documents. You can also use the search bar and size, time, tag, and status filters.
    narrowing the search
  3. Preview and select the retrieved PDFs and click Recover.
    a pdf file preview
  4. Choose a file path (not the original location) and hit Recover.
    pdf recovery destination

Conclusion

Unlocking a PDF file with a specialized tool is your only hope if your mind draws a blank and you can't pull the password from your memory. Your best online options for removing PDF passwords are PDF24, Smallpdf, and Small SEO Tools, while LostMyPass can help you recover them.

Your top Windows-exclusive offline options are Weeney's Free PDF Password Remover and PDF Technologies' PDF Password Remover Tool. Eltima's Recover PDF Password also supports macOS.

However, UPDF beats them all, providing multiple features for managing PDFs across all devices.

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Theo Lucia
Theo Lucia May 14, 24
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