A protected PDF file is copyrighted, it is protected to prevent reproduction and distribution. The owner or creator of the PDF file can protect a file with a password to prevent certain users from accessing it, or to prevent printing, copying and editing. Follow the steps in this article to still be able to edit or copy a protected PDF file.
Method 1 of 7: Find out the limitations
Step 1. Open the PDF file
If you can only open the file with a password, you will need to download software that will allow you to unencrypt. This method requires a lot of your processor, even with a simple password it can take days before the password is 'cracked'. That means you probably won't be able to use your computer for other things during that time. And if good security is used, the password may not be cracked at all.
Step 2. Check security
If you do not need to enter a password to open the file, you can see if a file is protected by the lock icon. Click the icon to see what is protected.
- Try to copy. Files are often copy protected. If you cannot select or copy text, the document is protected.
- Try to save. Protected files cannot be saved as a text file. In order to convert a protected file you will have to remove the restrictions.
Method 2 of 7: Unprotect a PDF file as owner or creator
Step 1. Open the secured PDF file
You can use Adobe Acrobat for this. You must be the creator of the file to do this, or you must know the password.
Step 2. Click on the security button
This button can be found in the 'Security' task pane. You can recognize it by the padlock icon.
- Choose 'Remove Security' if you want to completely remove the protection of the file. If you previously protected the file with a password, you will now need to enter it to complete the process.
Step 3. Change the encryption settings
If you don't want to remove the protection completely, but want to change the settings, click on 'Permissions' under the 'Security' button.
- Click 'Settings' in the document properties under the 'Security' tab.
- Select the encryption level and click 'Next'.
- You need a digital signature to encrypt documents. You can use an existing signature or create a new one.
- Verify the recipient's identity, change permissions, or delete users (optional). Click 'Next'.
- Click on 'OK' to save the changes and close the window. Save the PDF to apply the changes.
Method 3 of 7: Unprotect with Google Drive
Step #1. Open Google Drive
You need a Google account to use Drive. First you need to adjust the settings. Click the gear icon at the top right. Under 'Upload Settings', select 'Convert text from uploaded PDF or image files'.
Step 2. Upload the PDF
In the left column, click on the red button with the arrow pointing up, next to the 'Create' button. Select "Files…" from the drop-down menu and navigate to the location containing the PDF file you want to unlock. Drive will now upload and convert the file. A test document will be created in your Drive folder.
- This method only works with PDF files with an owner password.
- Not all formatting will remain the same.
- Google Drive has an upload limit of 2 MB per file.
Method 4 of 7: Unlock security with PDFUnlock
Step 1. Open the website
Go to www.pdfunlock.com/nl in your browser. This site allows you to unlock PDFs of 5 MB or less for free.
Step 2. Upload the file
Drag the file into the bar or select the location. If you select 'My Computer' you can find the file on your system. If you select 'Dropbox' or 'Google Drive' you must first log in to your account and then select the file you want to convert.
- Click the 'Unlock!' button. The upload may take some time, depending on your internet speed and the size of your file.
Step 3. Download the converted file
After the file is uploaded, PDFUnlock will send you the converted file. Save it to your hard drive. Optionally, add the word "unlocked" to the file name so you can distinguish the two files.
Step 4. Check the permissions
Open your converted file. Under 'File', select 'Properties'. The 'Security' tab menu should now read 'No security'.
Method 5 of 7: Unprotect with Foxit Reader and CutePDF Writer
Step 1. Download the latest versions of Foxit Reader and CutePDF Writer
These are free programs. Foxit allows you to open the PDF file. CutePDF is a printing program that allows you to bypass security.
- If you try this with Adobe Reader and Printer you will not be able to write the file.
Step 2. Open Foxit Reader to open the protected PDF file
Select File, then Print to open the print menu. Print the secured PDF file with CutePDF Writer.
- Save the printed file on your computer as a new PDF file.
Step 3. Open your new file
Check the security settings of the file.
Method 6 of 7: Unprotect with Microsoft XPS Viewer
Step 1. Open the PDF file in Adobe Reader
Select File, then Print. From the drop-down menu, select Microsoft XPS Document Writer. This will convert the PDF file to an XPS file. Before printing starts you will be asked to save the file.
Step 2. Open the XPS file with XPS Viewer
The program is already preinstalled on Windows. Under the File menu, select Print. Select CutePDF or Acrobat Reader in the dialog box.
Step 3. Save the file
You must first specify a file name, then the document will be converted back to PDF. The new PDF file is unsecured.
- This method will not work if the PDF file is properly secured.
Method 7 of 7: Unprotect with Ghost Script and Ghost View (freeware)
Step 1. Download and install Ghostscript, Ghostview and GSview software at pages.cs.wisc.edu/~ghost/ or on mirrors
Step 2. Change the extension of your file from.pdf to.ps (post-script)
Step 3. Open the PS file
Then select file-> convert-> device (select pdfwrite), resolution (select 600dpi) and click OK. Save the file in a folder of your choice with the extension.pdf.