How to Pick a File Cabinet Lock in Urgent Situation

by Vincent Foster

File cabinets are excellent storage units that hold all your important documents, paperwork, and similar financial information stored safe and sorted. But then again, this wonderful stuff becomes extremely irritating once you lose the key to open it.

And from what I've seen, somehow the key decides to disappear whenever there's an urgent need to get access to it. Maybe for tax paperwork, audit, or anything similar. The point is, in such events, there's hardly any time for you to call a locksmith and wait for him.

Knowing how to pick a file cabinet lock can be your ultimate savior for those moments specifically. That's why I chose to write about two super simple methods to access your file cabinet without the key.

Here's How To Pick A File Cabinet Lock Using Minimal Stuffs

How To Pick A File Cabinet Lock In Urgent Situation
How To Pick A File Cabinet Lock In Urgent Situation

There is more than one technique that the genius human race managed to come up with since all these years. I'll be telling you two simple methods, one using a paperclip and another with a nail clipper file. Let's Go for It!

Using Paperclips

Picking File Cabinet Lock With Paper Clips
Picking File Cabinet Lock With Paper Clips

So far, it's the simplest way to try unlocking a file cabinet through picking. Here's how you should do this.

You need to make the paperclip straight while keeping one end bent. This end is what you are going to use for picking the lock. If bending the clip seems hard, use a pair of pliers to do so. Now you want to hold the clip vertically using your thumb and index finger. Gently press that curved end inside the slot.

It's very important to hold the paperclip in the right direction. If you hold it horizontally, chances are that the clip won't be able to fit inside the keyhole. The paperclip will next start pushing the lock's interior pins.

Depending on what filing cabinet you are using, it's essential to find out the right direction to turn this tool. The best way to figure this out is by carefully moving the clip to the left side first. And then let it go for the right side.

While moving, you will be able to grasp which one is the correct side. You should be able to easily turn the paperclip on this correct side. And once you feel that, you've figured right unlock position for the paperclip.

Some cabinets require clockwise turning. While a few needs counter-clockwise turning. So that's something to figure out as well. Once you turn clip following the right way, let the paperclip come out of lock. Since keyhole is now moved to its correct position, the cabinet should be unlocked. You can open it as usual with the handle. Also, the cabinet will stay unlocked until you use a key or tool to move the keyhole back to its position.

Using a Nail Clipper File

Picking Using A Nail Clipper File
Picking Using A Nail Clipper File

You will need a regular nail clipper file for this method. It must have a curved tip to work as your lock picking device though. Usually, the ones that come with a tiny filing tool work best here. You need to slide the file from clipper's base. It needs to be straight. You will work by holding on to the spot where file meets clipper. Here's how to pick the lock.

The curved tip needs to face downwards. So, hold the tool up to keyhole's bottom. Now gradually push this tool into the hole. Let it go as far as it can. The file will be easy to slip inside for most cases.

Now you want to move the file in a certain way. Try moving it clockwise and then counter-clockwise. You need to sense the correct positioning while doing so. The file should easily slide once you discover the correct position. Here a little experimental move and having patience are your two major keys.

Once the file fits keyhole perfectly, time for some jiggling. Just let the tool move up and down slightly for three to five times. And this will help to move the lock's pins. As a result, your cabinet lock will easily unlock.

Once you are done with jiggling the file around, time to spin it a bit. Use your wrist to gently spin the file in a determined direction. And this will bring the lock to its unlocking position. You should hear a sound. You can then take the file out from keyhole and open your cabinet door now.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

A Few Things to Keep in Mind
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
  • While unlocking cabinet lock using different tools other than the key, it's important to not apply force. You can't forcefully get results from picking tools. Instead, there's a good chance of permanently damaging your file cabinet's lock mechanism.
  • Hardware stores often come with lock pick sets that you can get. If you are not sure about the paperclip and file techniques, this could be another safe way to try. Usually, the directions should be mentioned with these sets.
  • Don't try picking the cabinet that uses magnetic cabinet locks . This type of lock is not very easy to open with such methods. Magnetic cabinet lock is easier to use and humanized with better safety. And that's why you should let a professional handle this type of lock rather than trying any type of picking activity.

Related Guide:

Tips for Keeping Your File Cabinet Locked and Safe

Benefits of Knowing How to Pick a File Cabinet Lock
Benefits of Knowing How to Pick a File Cabinet Lock

If you're like most people, your file cabinet is full of important documents and other items that you wouldn't want to lose. That's why it's so important to keep your file cabinet locked when you're not using it. Here are a few tips to help you keep your file cabinet safe and secure:

  1. Use a quality lock. This is the first and most important step in keeping your file cabinet safe. Make sure to use a heavy-duty lock that can't be easily picked or forced open.
  2. Store your file cabinet in a secure location. If possible, store your file cabinet in a locked room or storage area. This will help to deter thieves and keep prying eyes away from your documents.
  3. Keep a spare key in a safe place. In case you lose your primary key or the lock fails, it's a good idea to keep a spare key hidden in a safe place. Just make sure that only you know the location of the spare key.
  4. Inspect your file cabinet regularly. Periodically check to make sure that your file cabinet is still locked and secure. If you notice any damage to the lock or if the cabinet seems to be tampered with, contact a locksmith right away.

By following these simple tips, you can help to ensure that your file cabinet remains safe and secure at all times.


Using the two methods I just mentioned, you should be able to get access with maximum file cabinet locks. However, you must have the overall concept of how to pick a file cabinet lock without any confusion. Or else there's a high chance of causing damage while doing this process. You should be aware of the lock type of your file cabinet as well.

If the lock is more advanced and meant to avoid any picking for safety concerns, then a locksmith will be your best bet. But in most cases, file cabinet locks are easy to pick and open with some careful proceedings, trails, and of course patience.

About Vincent Foster

Greetings, This is Tom Vincent. I’m a home Security Expert and Web developer. I am a fan of technology, home security, entrepreneurship, and DIY. I’m also interested in web development and gardening. I always try to share my experience with my reader. Stay Connected and Keep Reading My Blog. Follow Me: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest

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