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I am trying to fill out some docs, but the provided PDFs are "SECURED", meaning I can't use FoxIt's typewriter tools.

Is there any way to remove the security?

3

14 Answers 14

66

Contrary to the other solutions, you do not need additional software.

Anyone with Windows can do it with no extra software in 4 simple steps.

  1. Open the PDF
  2. Go to File > Print. From your print options choose Microsoft XPS Document Writer. Although you might expect it to print, it does not print anything, it will create an XPS Document.
  3. Open the resulting XPS file
  4. Press Print, go to Microsoft PDF Creator. It will now save it as a PDF again. Again, it will not print.

In my case I had to remove the first/last page of a document so I only printed the pages required.

9
  • 1
    I love this idea and worked for me. Only issue was the quality change in conversion to XPS and back to PDF. It would be just specific to my document, though.
    – fatih_dur
    Aug 24, 2016 at 13:16
  • Interesting, I have also found the MS PDF creator to be a bit pants. I use the Adobe PDF creator, although I believe it came with Adobe Creative Suite so not everyone will have a copy (could be wrong).
    – Eoin
    Aug 24, 2016 at 13:36
  • 2
    This approach worked for me, by opening it in Chrome, printing, choosing 'Print to PDF' and then opening the outputted PDF. Aug 31, 2016 at 3:17
  • I do not use the MS PDF creator I use the Adobe one but I assume not everyone has this so I didn't use it in my example. If you have it or can find it to install then I would advise that it is slightly better (although not perfect).
    – Eoin
    Jun 7, 2017 at 15:19
  • 10
    The major downside of this is that you cannot mark or copy text anymore.
    – basseur
    May 8, 2018 at 9:49
110

Assuming it's simply a 'rights' (owner) password that restricts things like editing, printing, and copying (i.e. the password does not need to be entered to open the file) the following will remove the restrictions:

  1. Grab https://github.com/qpdf/qpdf/releases
  2. Unzip/Install and navigate to the bin folder that holds qpdf.exe (or similar for your platform)
  3. Place the PDF you wish to work on in the same folder
  4. Run: qpdf --decrypt InputFile.pdf OutputFile.pdf (use "s if the file name has spaces).
  5. Do what you like with the OutputFile.

If your PDF file is user password protected, change step 4 to qpdf --decrypt --password=yourpassword InputFile OutputFile

This won't work for Adobe Digital Editions and may have issues with digitally-signed files.

Some discussion on the background of these owner password restrictions at https://lwn.net/Articles/335415/ .

6
  • 4
    qpdf work well for me. I can install it in OS X using homebrew. Oct 6, 2015 at 15:15
  • I had to use qpdf then PDFcreator to enable edits on one PDF document. (PDFcreator without qpdf first wouldn't work). It was a document both password-protected and certified. Using the save as .ps trick didn't work. (I couldn't compare against unlock PDF websites as the document was confidential.) Jan 11, 2017 at 17:57
  • Works fantastic on government-issued W-9 form. Genius bureaucrats locked down the PDF so you can't apply a signature through Foxit, but this fixes it! Nov 30, 2017 at 0:00
  • Worked like a charm on some PDFs that are licensed CC but for some reason then secured. Now I can annotate! May 3, 2018 at 17:08
  • 1
    Why oh why does Adobe come up with this stupid "encrypted" PDF marketing BS. If it can be viewed, it surely is decrypted already. BS.
    – rustyx
    Apr 30, 2021 at 14:42
38
  1. Print to a PostScript (PS) printer (where the printer's port is set to print to file, not to the printer -- or check the "Print to file" option in the Print dialog)
  2. Edit the resulting .ps file and remove:

    mark currentfile eexec
    54dc5232e897cbaaa7584b7da7c23a6c59e7451851159cdbf40334cc2600
    ...
    cleartomark
    
  3. Save and distill the .ps file

3
  • Works for me. I have scripted it here: andorian.blogspot.ie/2014/05/…
    – Lmwangi
    May 19, 2014 at 15:37
  • I've used this trick before, but now I don't remember how I managed to convert to .ps. :( Oct 28, 2014 at 21:16
  • mark currentfile eexec 54dc5232e897cbaaa7584b7da7c23a6c59e7451851159cdbf40334cc2600-These are not present in a pdf version 1.3 (Acrobat 4.x) digitally signed file. It was decrypted with qpdf. But the sign is still there and prevents editing. Oct 15, 2017 at 2:19
11

Easy!

  1. From the full version of Acrobat (I used v9.3), select "File..Export..Postscript..Postscript". This creates a ".ps" file.
  2. Click on the .ps file, it converts it back to pdf automatically with Acrobat distiller.
  3. You now have a perfect copy of the original file, minus any signatures, restrictions on editing, etc.

I needed this technique fix the pdf file so it would display on my Kindle DX, via the "Advanced..Preflight" menu. This method worked perfectly on a file that had resisted all attempts by the four major utilities that offer to remove restrictions on pdf files (i.e. A-PDF, pdftk, Kernel PDF, UnrestrictPDF) .

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  • 5
    Nope, this didn't work for me... Got this error: This PostScript file was created from an encrypted PDF file. Redistilling encrypted PDF is not permitted. Looks like they caught up with this trick.
    – Jon
    Apr 27, 2012 at 13:03
  • 7
    This site unlocked a PDF for me. pdfunlock.com
    – Jon
    Apr 27, 2012 at 13:10
  • By full version of Acrobat do you mean the paid version?
    – Eoin
    Jun 20, 2018 at 21:58
11

Directly (see and) remove the restrictions from your pdf without any tricks:


1- Online method:

If you want to do in your browser (without installing a tool), then use PDFUnlock. You just need to upload your pdf (drop it to the available box) and it removes the security restrictions. However, up to 5MB files are converted for free.


2- Offline method:

But, like me, if you prefer having an offline tool on your machine, then you can install Weeny Free PDF Password Remover.

4
  • The PDFUlock website reported "The uploaded file is not secured and does not have any restrictions that can be removed" even though FoxIt reader declares my PDF "SECURED" and disables comments. Aug 24, 2017 at 15:40
  • 3
    Weeny soft PDF Password remover tool worked great for me! I have tried 6 others before this: PDF Password Recovery, Instant PDF Remover, PDF Password Remover, GuaPDF, PDF Crack, the expensive Wondershare PDF Remover, which worked.. others did not. Dec 21, 2017 at 3:45
  • This software is convenient for bulk files
    – Prometheus
    Aug 12, 2020 at 2:10
  • 2
    Please note that Wondershare products install Chinese-based adware software to your PC. Apr 25, 2021 at 13:22
9

Using google chrome offline (without uploading anything)

It's a slightly old thread but as I use this often, I wanted to update it:

  • Simply drag and drop the PDF in question on a blank chrome page.
  • Chrome opens the "locked" PDF.
  • Now print the document and use "save as PDF" as the printer of choice.
  • Enjoy your perfectly conserved and unlocked PDF (esp. copy & paste ;-) )

The "print"->"save as" step can be tricky when you do it the first time, as you might choose the PDF Writer/Maker for output and you will end up with a locked PDF again.

The process is further described here: Save As PDF

On some versions of chrome (older?) you have to activate the "save as PDF" option first.

As you can install chrome without giving them your email address, I would consider this a truly "free" solution.

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  • Doesn't work any more. Mar 24, 2018 at 23:04
  • 1
    It works, easy and fast! thank u
    – iarroyo
    Jul 21 at 11:41
7

I upload it to google drive with chrome, hit the print button and save it as pdf (which has to be enabled within chrome settings on some versions). I get the real deal, images are same resolution, file size checks out too, but all the security restrictions are gone.

Also removes printing restrictions from files. (Credit @Rob)

Beware! Also removes bookmarks and links. (according to @Barleyman)

Thanks Google! You guys are hackers :-)

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  • Why is this downvoted?
    – Eoin
    Aug 24, 2016 at 13:37
  • 1
    Yeah, I would also be very interested. As a matter of fact, I had some tricky PDFs with images and vectorgraphics and I tried all "free" solutions (most of them aren't really free, it's mostrly trials and crippleware) and none of them worked. Maybe the purely commercial ones are so much better (don't forget, the Microsoft XPS Document Writer is the contrary of free and you better habe a valid MS License whe you export it, as it will be in your resulting PDF, along with your name and other "useful" stuff.) Then I tried the google way and it worked like a charm for all PDFs so far. Sep 1, 2016 at 22:00
  • 1
    This also works for PDFs with printing disabled. They are printable after uploading to Google Drive.
    – Rob
    Aug 24, 2020 at 2:51
  • 1
    This will strip the file of bookmarks and links so it's not ideal.
    – Barleyman
    Jul 14 at 16:50
  • This does not work for whatever pdf format the usa gov uses for fpca generated pdf.
    – Caleb Jay
    Oct 20 at 13:55
5

The best option I have found is this online tool: https://smallpdf.com/unlock-pdf

Edit: they now have a desktop application too. https://smallpdf.com/desktop

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  • Thank you, that was the only thing that worked for me. Many other solutions rely on being able to print the PDF, but some protected PDFs can't be printed.
    – Oleksiy
    Apr 2, 2018 at 7:07
  • Glad it helped. Grateful to the guys who made that tool too :-) Apr 2, 2018 at 9:09
  • Didn't work for me. Document was viewable in Reader, but its document properties couldn't be changed, which is what I wanted to do. SmallPDF appeared to open it, but displayed nothing.
    – enigment
    May 16, 2019 at 15:36
  • This method works to unlock, but removes some filled out form text for fpca pdfs generated by the us government
    – Caleb Jay
    Oct 20 at 13:56
4

My 20-page tax form ballooned to 70MB when I removed the password through a PDF-printer. But then I tried using PDFsam Basic, a free tool that I usually use for splitting and merging pdfs.

To my surprise, it handles password-protected PDFs well and, when exporting the document, removes the password protection without increasing the file-size.

In fact, the file-size decreased by a few kB.

1
  • Yup, works beautifully. And it keeps links and bookmarks intact. Just export pages '1-' and you're good to go.
    – Barleyman
    Jul 14 at 16:51
2

Analog conversion. Print and re-scan.

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  • Hmmmm ... even if you wanted to go that way, isn't it easier to just "Print to PDF" from the full version of Acrobat? However, this ruins the margins, so you get a perfect conversion if you export to Postscript, then reimport to pdf (see my answer below)?
    – Contango
    Sep 3, 2010 at 8:58
  • @gravitas That's only easier if you've paid for the full version of Acrobat, as the questioner is talking about FoxIt I'd assume they haven't got Acrobat Pro.
    – GAThrawn
    Sep 3, 2010 at 12:07
2

Removing user/open password is next to impossible, but if your PDF file is only protected with owner password, i.e., PDF print, edit, copy and other functions are disabled then there are several programs available to remove PDF security like the one mentioned in this article: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Remove-PDF-Password-Security-PrintEditCo/

Due to security and privacy reasons I would not recommend those online services where you’re supposed to upload your PDF documents to remove PDF security.

2

On Windows 10, you can just :

  1. Open the document
  2. "Print" the document by selecting "Microsoft Print to PDF" printer

That's it! the protection is removed and you can still select the text in the document.

1

In my case, there was a view password that maintained its state through save -- but print, etc. were not blocked. That left open the analog method, or print-to-PDF-printer, which is what I did. The resulting file lacked a password, and seemed to suffer no degradation.

1

Building on Dan's answer, here's the full bash for OS X/Mac

#! /bin/bash

brew install qpdf
PDF_PASS=YourPasswordHere

for file in *.pdf
do
    echo "Removing password for pdf file - $file"
    qpdf --decrypt "$file" "decrypt.$file" --password="$PDF_PASS"
done

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