How to Strip a PDF of Its Password Protection

PDFs are commonly protected with passwords to restrict access and prevent unauthorized editing. However, you may sometimes need to remove these passwords, especially if you’ve forgotten or lost the password. Fortunately, there are several methods to strip a PDF of its password protection.

Why Remove PDF Passwords

Here are some common reasons for removing password protection from a PDF:

  • You created the PDF and have forgotten the password
  • You need to edit or print a password-protected PDF sent to you
  • The password restrictions are too cumbersome for your workflow
  • You want to extract data or reuse content from the PDF more easily

Without the password, you cannot open, view, edit, print or extract data from the protected PDF. Removing password security gives you full access.

Methods to Remove PDF Passwords

There are various free tools and techniques to remove or crack PDF passwords. Here are the top methods:

Use Adobe Acrobat (Official Method)

Adobe Acrobat is the official software for creating and managing PDFs. If you have the paid Pro version, you can easily remove password security:

  1. Open the protected PDF in Acrobat and enter the password
  2. Go to File > Properties > Security and select “No Security”
  3. Save the changes to strip password protection

This method works 100% of the time if you have the password.

Print to New PDF

A simple trick is to print the unlocked PDF to a new PDF file. The new file will not retain any password security. To do this:

  1. Open the protected PDF in a reader and enter the password
  2. Print the document using a “Print to PDF” virtual printer
  3. Save the output PDF file

This quick workaround strips PDF password security but may lose formatting.

Use Online PDF Unlocker Tools

Many free online tools like SmallPDF and ILovePDF can unlock protected PDFs. Typically, you:

  1. Upload the protected PDF
  2. Enter the password if prompted
  3. Download the decrypted PDF

The exact steps vary across tools. Online unlockers work instantly without installing anything.

Use PDF Password Cracker Software

Advanced password cracking software like PDFCrack can remove password protection by brute force or dictionary attacks. This works even without knowing the password, but takes effort and computer resources.

Convert PDF to Word

Since Word documents cannot be protected with passwords, converting a PDF to Word will strip its passwords. However, formatting and layout may change in the process.

There are many PDF to Word converters online and offline to achieve this.

Removing Restrictions vs. Cracking Passwords

There is an important distinction between removing a known password and cracking an unknown password:

  • If you already know the PDF password, you can legally remove all password security following Adobe’s official method or using online unlocker tools. This gives full access with no restrictions.
  • If you need to find an unknown password, the only option is to use password cracking software. This requires significant computational effort and may or may not succeed. There are also legal concerns over unauthorized access.

In short, removing a known password is reliable and risk-free, while cracking an unknown password is challenging and legally ambiguous.

Security Risks of Unprotected PDFs

Although stripping passwords improves access and workflow, it can also introduce security risks:

  • Sensitive information becomes exposed if passwords are removed from confidential documents
  • Unencrypted PDF metadata may reveal private details
  • Unrestricted printing, editing and data extraction increases misuse potential
  • Digital signatures and certifications become invalid if signed PDFs are decrypted

So before removing passwords, assess the impact on information security, compliance and authenticity. Use other means like cloud access controls and endpoint protection to secure decrypted PDFs.

Best Practices for Managing PDF Passwords

To avoid issues with forgotten passwords and unauthorized access, follow these PDF password management best practices:

  • Maintain a documented list of passwords used on sensitive PDFs in a secured password manager
  • Use unique complex passwords for each important document
  • Set an expiration date for passwords to force periodic updates
  • Enable auditing features in Adobe Acrobat to track document access
  • Store protected PDFs in a digital vault with access controls
  • Educate employees on PDF encryption risks and policies


While adding passwords improves PDF security, it can hinder legitimate usage if passwords are lost or forgotten. Thankfully, various reliable methods like Adobe’s encryption removal tool, print-to-PDF tricks and online unlockers can strip password protection when needed. But improper use of PDF password cracking software has legal and ethical concerns.

To balance both security and accessibility, organizations should actively manage PDF passwords, enforce strong password policies, control user permissions and provide authorized employees the means to bypass passwords when required.

Handling sensitive documents in a regulated industry? Contact us to learn how Perplexity can help with your PDF workflow challenges. Our AI solutions enable secure collaboration, air-tight data protection and frictionless user experience.