How to Get Into a Locked Metal File Cabinet

Losing your keys is part of life. The keys to your office file cabinet are no exception. Most people keep a spare set of their car and house keys. But the filing cabinet keys are smaller and more easily misplaced. The lock on a typical metal filing cabinet is not a complicated mechanism. It can be unlocked easily using the right tools and techniques. You can get to your precious files and be back to work in no time.

Bend two paper clips until they are long and straight with a hook at the end.

Slide the hooked end of the paper clip into the very top of the lock. Most locks used for filing cabinets have four pins. Apply pressure to the uppermost pin. You will feel the pin move and snap into the open position. If you don’t feel the pin snap you are working with a lock that is double sided. You will need a ball pick to move both pins at the same time.

Slide the ball pick into the lock. Move the ball pick around until you hear the pins snap.

Move down to the next lowest pin. Use the paper clip or the ball pick to move that pin out of the way.

Repeat the process with the remaining two pins.

Insert one paper clip at the top of the lock. Insert the second paper clip in the bottom. Move both clips together to turn the lock and open the filing cabinet.


If the keys are lost forever you will need to replace the lock on the filing cabinet. Replacement locks can be ordered online and you can easily change out the lock with a few simple tools.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper clips
  • Ball pick
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Lisa East Hunter is a consultant and freelance writer in Phoenix. Her background in marketing and technology led her to explore all avenues of writing. She is currently dividing her time between freelance writing and her consulting business. Hunter has a Bachelor of Science in management information systems and marketing.