It is very simple to password protect a PDF, you can easily add a password using Adobe’s own PDF editing tool or a third-party tool. The ability to add a password with multiple tools also means that it can be quite frustrating to remove a password manually if you ever need to make the PDF file password free and accessible to others. Fortunately, there are many third-party tools like Free PDF Password Remover (warning! malware has been reported in this one) that will let you remove the owner and user passwords (the former is used to restrict PDF editing while the latter is used to open a PDF). Those two definitions are important:
Owner Password: Also known as “change permissions password” is the name of the password that owner of the PDF document uses to restrict PDF editing features, such as copying, printing, commenting and other content edits.
User Password: It is the name of the password that a user must use to access a password protected PDF file.
However, these tools will require you to provide the user password if the PDF is strongly encrypted , like AES 128 or AES 256 encryption. If the PDF file is just protected with a password using a third-party tool or you have the user password, then you should be able to remove all types of passwords with few clicks.
In this tutorial, we are going to introduce some tools that will let you remove the owner password and even the user password if conditions allow it.
Note: You should only remove password protection from a PDF file that you own or have complete right to modify as you please.
Remove PDF Password using Adobe Acrobat XI
The official way to remove PDF password is to use Adobe’s own Adobe Acrobat Pro tool. It is a paid tool with a 30 day free trial, and you can easily remove the password protection right inside the PDF viewer without any need for third-party tools.
Download Adobe Acrobat Pro from the official site, you can download 30 day full featured trial or just buy it if you think you need its other features. Open the protected PDF using the user password in Adobe Acrobat Pro.
Once inside, you can easily remove both owner and user password from the PDF. Click on “Secure” button (it will have a padlock icon) in the main interface and from the menu, click on “Remove Security”.
You will be asked to provide the password, just enter the password and hit “OK” to remove the password. Once the password is removed, you will have to save the document, otherwise, the changes will not be saved including the removed password.
Remove PDF Passwords using a Third-party Tool
Adobe’s official way of removing password protection is good, but not very feature rich. It requires you to provide user password even if the PDF file is not encrypted, and its batch process is a pain to use. To make the process easier and to take advantage of some added features, it is better to opt for third party tools.
Most of the third-party tools are free to use and will let you remove password protection in single and batch mode. In this tutorial, we are going to use the tool Free PDF Password Remover created by 4dots Software, which is a completely free to use tool and very simple to use.
[Warning! Malware has been reported in this one. Don’t use it for now until the situation has cleared. We haven’t been able to verify this first-hand, but we prefer to be cautious.]
Download the program and while installing make sure you check the option “Integrate with Windows Explorer”, if you want to add “Add file” option in windows context menu (it’s handy).
To add files you can click on “Add File” or “Add Folder”, depending on whether you want to add files or select a whole folder containing protected PDF file. From the Windows explorer “Open” window select the file/folder you would like to add and click on “Open”.
Once the file(s) is added, you need to specify the output folder. Either click on the “Browse” button under the “Output Folder” heading to select a folder manually or use the drop down menu to select a predefined location.
Now that the output folder is selected, all you need to do is click on “Remove Passwords” to remove the password. If the file is not encrypted, the password will be removed (both owner and the user passwords) and a new file will be created or the original file will be overwritten depending on your output folder selection.
If the file was encrypted, you will be asked to provide the user password. Just enter the password and click on “OK” to create an unprotected file.
The new file will not have any kind of password, and can be accessed by anyone. You can also add files to the tool by just dragging and dropping them in the interface of the tool. Furthermore, a file adding option will also be added in the context menu (if you allowed while installing). Just right click on the PDF file you want to unprotect and select “Remove PDF Password” from the context menu.
You can get more details on Free PDF Password Remover use from the Official site’s How to use section.
Remove PDF Password with an Online Tool
There are also many free only services that will let you upload a protected PDF file and then remove the password for you to download an unprotected PDF file. It might not be as convenient as using a desktop tool, but it has its own advantages. It is also less secure, since these services will have a copy of your files.
For example, if you are not allowed to download programs on a PC, you can remove password online. As you are removing password online using a browser, you can also use these online tools on any PC no matter which OS you are using. Although, we will not recommend using online tools if the PDF file contains sensitive information.
We are going to use the website smallpdf’s Unlock PDF feature. It is very simple to use and doesn’t requires any kind of sign-ups to work. The tool will remove both owner and user passwords of an unencrypted PDF file or will ask for user password if the file is encrypted.
On the official website, click on “Choose file” to select a PDF file from your PC. You can also drag and drop file in the “Drop PDF here” box or upload files from your Dropbox or Google Drive account. Before uploading, you will required to “pinky swear” that you have full rights over the PDF file. Just check the checkbox (remember, it’s a pinky swear!) and click on “Unlock PDF” to upload.
If the PDF file was not encrypted, the password protection will be removed and you will see a download button to download the new unprotected file. Otherwise, you will be asked to provide the user password to remove the password and then the download button will be available. You can download the file to your PC and Dropbox or Google Drive account.
You can use the above methods to remove passwords from any PDF file, just choose the one that fits your needs. If there are any questions or you know a better tool, let us know in the comments below.