How to Open a Locked File Cabinet Without the Key

Updated February 21, 2017

Both at home and in the workplace, file cabinets can accumulate a surprisingly large amount of sensitive material in a short period of time. In an effort to protect these files, locks are often used. These locks that are on file cabinets are great for securing the confidential files, but the keys are often misplaced or lost, leaving you with a locked file cabinet and seemingly no way to get in it. Fortunately there is a reliable method for getting the file cabinet open and saving your file cabinet at the same time.

Measure and mark a spot on the top of the file cabinet that is 2 inches from the front edge where the lock face is. This mark should also be in line with the lock cylinder. This mark is going to be the spot where you drill a hole down into the file cabinet so that you can locate the lock plunger bolt.

Put a 1/8 inch drill bit on the drill and drill a hole through the top of the file cabinet on the marked location.

Use the small flashlight and peer through the hole, looking for the plunger bolt of the lock mechanism. If you locate it, great. If not, don't worry. You can still proceed to the next step.

Insert the ice pick into the hole and angle it to move it towards the area where you located the plunger bolt. If you did not see it, simply move the end of the pick around until you feel it, you will be very close because of the way in which you measured out the location for the hole you drilled.

Use the ice pick to depress the bolt and pop open the lock. Open the drawer and you can remove the lock assembly to replace or repair it.


Repair the small hole in the cabinet with a dab of wood or metal putty, allow it to dry, and then just a small amount of paint or wood stain to match.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Electric drill with 1/8-inch bit
  • Small flashlight
  • Ice pick
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About the Author

Anthony Smith began writing for Demand Studios in May of 2009 and has since written over 1400 articles for them. He also writes for "The College Baseball Newsletter." He attended the University of New Mexico, and has more than 25 years of experience in the business world.