I realize most PDF documents are locked for a reason, but I spend several hours a week editing datasheets provided directly from my vendors to be sent to customers. Obviously it's very annoying and somewhat of a show-stopper when I download a datasheet in PDF format, then I am not able to draw boxes, add comments, or draw arrows to the supplied product.

One of our vendors told us the way around that was to print a physical copy, then scan it in as a PDF - not the most technological or aesthetically pleasing solution I have found.

I at least would like to be able to print the PDF to another PDF so that the new copy is unlocked for editing. Is there any way around this?

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    The vendor is certainly wrong: certainly it's better to take screenshots of every page. Still annoying of course. Nov 23 '09 at 17:48

I know this might not the solution you're looking for, but I'll try my luck...Okular has the option to ignore any DRM-Settings of a PDF-File.

  • Interesting, I hadn't heard of this before. How does this PDF reader compare to some of the other free ones out there? I just downloaded PDF-Xchange Viewer and I love it so far, but the free version is limited and still cannot unlock pages. Nov 23 '09 at 15:35
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    I have to say that I have no idea. ;) It is part of the K Desktop Environment (KDE, available for Windows too, by the way) so it must be something good.
    – Bobby
    Nov 23 '09 at 15:37
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    I use this viewer exclusively (on Kubuntu 10.04), it works very well and performs better than Adobe Acrobat Reader does on Windows 7 on the same computer. It has many, many features and can export to tons of formats. I have not yet encountered any DRM'd PDFs, so I can't say whether the "Ignore DRM" setting is effective or not. However, I would assume that since it is there, it most likely works as well as all the other settings I have tested.
    – marcusw
    May 10 '10 at 16:37

Assuming that you know the Password to the PDF, the most simplest method would be:

  • Open the PDF in a Browser by putting in pwd (like Chrome or any application that can read it natively and can print it as well)
  • Print the document (CTRL + P or Cmd + P, usually). But in the Print dialog, choose to Save as PDF, instead of actually printing

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PDFTK can help you create shell commands as a Service, or a Workflow in Automator in Advanced OSs like Mac, so that you just right click a PDF and say "Unlock this PDF"

Refer this SO question for above


There is a piece of software called PDF reDirect that allows you to create PDF documents from just about any program that can print. The software installs a printer called "PDF reDirect" on your computer and when you want to use the software you print the document to that printer. Perhaps you can print the document to that software and then you can resave it after that without the DRM.

I have never tried this before, just a thought.

  • BTW it's not the only PDF printer driver out there, other examples I've used are PDF Creator and CutePDF, and the one from Adobe Acrobat. Nov 23 '09 at 17:47
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    while this is an option, it doesn't always work. the PDF permissions can prevent users from printing the document.
    – Molly7244
    Nov 23 '09 at 17:52

The Problem with a re-printing the document to PDF is that the protected document may be printing restricted. So I guess the PDF printer route would work only for documents that aren't print protected already.


Assuming the document isn't protected against printing (in which case the print-and-scan method wouldn't work either), you can use any of the pdf converter programs that work by pretending to be a printer.

The two I've used are
  CutePDF: http://www.cutepdf.com/
  PDFCreator: http://en.pdfforge.org/pdfcreator

Of those, I prefer CutePDF - it's much faster.

  • Well we have Acrobat 8.0 Standard at work, which has the Distiller to print docs in PDF format. I've found that generally the printed file still is locked against editing (though sometimes this does work). Nov 24 '09 at 3:40
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    Well naturally Adobe's own product will preserve the lock setting. Third-party pdf writers, on the other hand, probably won't (perhaps can't) preserve/reproduce meta information like that. However, I don't have a locked pdf to try this with, so I can't say for sure.
    – Martha
    Nov 24 '09 at 14:53

Sorry to take the Accepted Answer checkmark away from ya, but I found the best solution in this eHow article. I downloaded the FreewarePDFUnlocker.msi file it mentions (I did check for viruses, everything was good), followed the simple instructions, and it worked perfectly.

  • 3
    The software in this eHow is now called Wondershare PDF Password Remover and costs $15. The free trial is limited to 5 pages.
    – user33139
    Jun 26 '12 at 19:27
  • You are correct. I have found the best solution now, years later, that has worked for me ever since. See my other posted answer. Thanks for the feedback. Jun 29 '12 at 18:35

The best solution I have found so far in these years since my original question is PDFUnlock. Feel free to present other solutions. Thanks.


Tiny Windows apps that can be used:

They don't have explicit option to unlock PDFs, but you can do fake operations, like reverse pages and then reverse once again, or merge PDF with an empty-page PDF, to achieve effectively the same.


Online unlocker that worked for me is FoxyUtils Unlock PDF which

  • is free and does not require registering;
  • has a drag & drop browser interface;
  • accepts multiple files;
  • maximum file size for upload is 50 MB;
  • there is no time limit as with other sites (e.g. only 2 files per hour);
  • limited to files with PDF encryption as defined in the PDF standard; files with encryption such as a DRM, are not handled;
  • can also convert (to/from DOC, JPG), merge, split, compress, protect PDF files;
  • resulting files are actually smaller than the originals (i.e. it does not add 10-20% overhead as other sites);
  • there doesn't seem to be any quality decrease in the result;
  • files are removed after completion or within an hour of inactivity (at least they claim).

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