Enter your city or zip code to see if we service your neighborhood.


Tap the target to detect your current location.

Searching for your service area...

You're in luck, we have technicians in your area ready to assist.

1 location(s) found near:
Woodland Hills, CA

Oh no! Unfortunately, we do not service your location yet.


Tap the target to detect your current location.

Unlock File Cabinets

File cabinets locked in your office? Call a professional to unlock file cabinets

Find your local
United Locksmith

Enter your city or zip code to see if we service your neighboorhood

Unlock File Cabinet Services


How do file cabinet locks work?

Most file cabinet locks have one keyed cylinder that controls a lock assembly for the rest of the cabinets. When unlocking the file cabinet, the corresponding lock assembly opens all the other drawers. 

Individual file cabinets that only lock by themselves and not as a group typically work by a cam or latch on the back of the cylinder that rotates into a locked or unlocked position when a key is turned.

What type of lock does a file cabinet use?

You probably haven’t put much thought into what type of lock is on the file cabinets in your workplace. Unlocking a file cabinet happens fast and without a ton of effort. File cabinet locks can seem like a simple piece of equipment, but there are several moving parts.

File cabinet locks serve an important purpose of securing office papers and supplies, which means having a quality lock to protect those items is essential. There are two common types of file cabinet locks: Cam Locks and Electronic Locks.

There are different procedures for unlocking these file cabinets that every commercial locksmith is familiar with. At United Locksmith, our professional technicians have seen every different type of file cabinet lock over 15-plus years of being in business.

Can you break into a locked file cabinet

Yes. But let’s preface this question by saying you should only use these tactics to regain access to your own property. Do not attempt to unlock file cabinets that you have not been given express permission from the owner to open.

It will take a little time and some craftiness, but you can open file cabinet locks via picking or drilling. Manipulation tactics are possible only if the file cabinet lock is working properly. If the lock is not working with the authorized key, you will likely need to open the cabinet by drilling the lock.

Can you drill out a file cabinet lock?

As you just learned, yes. Drilling works to unlock most file cabinets because the locks have one keyed cylinder that controls a lock assembly. Once that lock is manipulated to open, it unlocks the rest of the file cabinets.

How do you replace a lost file cabinet key?

File cabinet keys are manufactured specifically for the cabinets in your office. If those keys are lost and nobody, including the property manager, owner, or another supervisor, has a spare, unlocking the file cabinet the traditional way is not an option.

The next step is either rigging up your own tool to break into the file cabinet or opening the drawers and replacing the file cabinet locks altogether. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, you can always enlist the aid of a locksmith to unlock file cabinets.

Professional File Cabinet Lock Services

Every commercial business or home office runs on organization and proper documentation in the form of bills, archives, records, and invoices. These essential papers need to be stored in one centralized location with easy access. This is where unlocking file cabinets become vital to professional success.

By just unlocking and locking the file cabinets in your office cubicle or home study, you may not think there’s much complexity to it. All opening a file cabinet takes is a simple key turn that usually works every time, but when it doesn’t, there are a few remedies.

You can try unlocking the file cabinet yourself. However, hiring a professional locksmith will give you the best results each time.

Types of File Cabinet Locks

Knowing what type of lock your office has is the first step in unlocking those file cabinets. But before you learn the two different types of file cabinet locks, you need to learn about cylinder dimensions.

There are a few standard sizes for cabinet cylinders, so you need to measure your current lock and find its dimensions. You don’t want to use a cylinder that is too short, as it may not reach the lock assembly or locking point on the cabinet.

Many of the kits you can buy for file cabinet lock replacement will have several pieces to accommodate oversized installation holes. The length of your lock cylinder, however, is rarely going to be adjustable with the materials you find in your file cabinet lock replacement kit.

Just make sure that you are using the correct file cabinet lock replacement parts. And if you are ever in doubt about what you might need, call a locksmith.

1. Cam Locks

These locks feature a cam, tailpiece, or latch of a file cabinet that is locked on the opposite end as the keyway. The cam catches on the interior lip of the cabinet to prevent the drawer from opening.

It will also intersect with the lock assembly that keeps the lower drawers locked with one of the following: hooked tailpieces, latches, and short or long cams. You can change which type of cam your file cabinet uses, but you must check that it’s compatible.

A locksmith can figure out compatibility very simply due to their years of experience with file cabinet lock replacement. If you are doing this assessment yourself, you should try to find a replacement file cabinet lock that is visually identical.

2. Electronic Cabinet Locks

Your business may be using electronic locks for the filing cabinet or is looking to upgrade during the filing cabinet lock replacement process. It may surprise you to know that file cabinet locks are available with almost every electronic lock variation.

This includes digital combination locks, RFID locks, and fingerprint readers. If you want to be able to change access protocols without worrying about who may still have a key, these types of locks may be ideal for your file cabinet security.

Standard locks may be more reliable due to their physical components, but file cabinets with physical keys can also be secretly copied. Physical locks also need to be physically changed to invalidate existing keys. Consider these differences when you are going through the file cabinet lock replacement process.

Opening Locked File Cabinets

Drilling a lock will not only open file cabinet locks without a key, but it will also open most broken locks. Be careful if you are drilling the lock yourself, as you could harm the file cabinet or yourself.

Drilling a lock is best left to a professional locksmith, but the process can be done by an individual who has experience with power tools. To drill a lock open, you will need a power drill and several bits, progressing in width.

The final drill bit’s width should be roughly the size of the lock core. With all the internals ground out, you should be able to reach through the lock housing (with a tool) and exploit the lock assembly so the cabinet will open. 

Tips For Drilling File Cabinet Locks:

  • Lubricate the keyway.
  • Lift the drawer as you turn the key.
  • If there is no way to open the cabinet with the key, drill the lock.
  • For proper lock drilling, contact a locksmith.

When the lock is in working order, and the only issue is you don’t have keys to the file cabinet, it is much easier to safely open. Several bypass methods may work on your file cabinet lock, such as an actuator bypass where you insert a small thin piece of metal into the lock.

The thin piece of metal lifts the pins, pushing the tool through to the back of the lock. While pushing in, push down and depress the actuator that controls the latch. You may also be able to insert a small metal tool into the keyway and jiggle it up and down while applying turning pressure.

Other keyway manipulation methods are best left to a professional locksmith. You can look into other lockpicking solutions, but it’s going to save you from unnecessary frustration and losing valuable time to simply call a locksmith.

Replacing File Cabinet Locks 

In cases where you are doing this work on your own, it is extremely important to determine which kind of replacement parts will fit your existing cabinet. File cabinet lock replacement does not work if you do not have a new lock that will fit your lock assembly and cabinet.

Basic file cabinet lock replacement begins by removing the top drawer of the cabinet. With the drawer removed, reach behind the lock cylinder and locate the C clip. You may need a flathead screwdriver to pry the clip loose. With the C clip removed, detach the assembly linkage piece.

If you are going to be installing a new linkage piece due to any changes between the old and new cylinder, you can also remove the old linkage piece. With the lock cylinder free, remove it from the knockout.

File cabinet lock replacement is as easy as reversing those steps. Install the cylinder into the knockout. Fasten the cylinder in place with the new C clip. Reattach the linkage piece to the cam. Then you can use the new key to lock the cabinet. 

Check that the lower drawers are locked. You can lock and unlock a few times to make sure that everything is working reliably. Then with the cabinet unlocked, re-install the top drawer. Test again to make sure that all drawers lock and unlock, and that is how you replace file cabinet locks!

You may still run into a few issues here and there, but if that happens, a locksmith is just a single call away. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Hiring A Locksmith To Unlock File Cabinets

A locked file cabinet helps secure important business resources and keep them safely tucked away. If you’re having trouble unlocking those file cabinets, United Locksmith’s trusted technicians are equipped to address the situation. 

Our professional locksmiths can unlock any type of file cabinet safely and efficiently, so you don’t need to know how different cams and latches operate within specific cylinder dimensions. You can also leave the power drill alone and not risk damaging your file cabinets further by dismantling equipment you don’t fully understand.

The quality of our service ensures your file cabinets unlock and lock when you need them to, so your business can keep running smoothly.

Need a locksmith?

Call us: (866) 338-9997