How to remove password from PDF on Mac

PDF (portable document format) is one of the most popular document formats on both Mac and Windows. If you receive documents like receipts or invoices by email, they’re probably PDFs. Likewise, if you download documents from a website, they are most likely in the same format. The popularity of PDF stems mostly from the fact that documents look exactly the same no matter what device you view them on and whether or not you have the correct fonts installed on the device. Which can’t be said of most other document formats. One of the other useful features of PDFs is the ability to protect them with a password. When you password-protect a PDF, you can choose what someone reading the document can do with it and what they can’t. For example, you can allow and prevent printing or enable and disable changes to the document. You can even prevent it from being opened at all. But what if you need to remove a password from a PDF? How do you do that? We’ll show you.

Why remove a password from a PDF?

There are a number of reasons why you may want to remove a password from a PDF. You might want to change the password to a different one. Or you might want people to be able to read it easily without having to type in the password. Or the document may have been created by someone who no longer works for your organization, and you need to change it but don’t have the password.

We should stress that most of the techniques we will show you require you to know what the password is. We’re not going to tell you how to crack a password — that would be illegal in many jurisdictions. However, there are a couple of techniques that allow you to work around the problem of not knowing the password without cracking it. For example, as Adobe makes clear every time you password-protect a PDF, not all PDF readers support password security.


Protecting PDFs that contain sensitive information and that you’re going to send by email is a good idea in order to protect your privacy. However, there are lots of other things you could — and probably should — be doing to improve your privacy when you use your Mac. For example, if other people use the same Mac and can access your user account, it’s a good idea to clear out your Recent Items List, especially if you’ve been making lists of surprise gifts or organizing a surprise party. Similarly, you should clear your search and web history, downloads, and cache files. It’s also a good idea to regularly review the permissions you grant to apps. And you should definitely consider deleting the list of Wi-Fi networks your Mac keeps in case there are unsecure public networks in there. The easiest way to do all of that is to use the Privacy module in CleanMyMac X. It allows you to do all of those things with just a few clicks. And you can download it for free here.

CleanMyMac X - Recent items in Privacy module

How to remove a password from a PDF using Acrobat

Adobe’s Acrobat is the home of the PDF. It was the first application to allow you to create and read PDF documents. And so it’s natural we start here. If you want to password-protect or remove the password on a PDF, you will need the professional version of Acrobat, which requires a paid-for subscription.

Once you have it, follow these steps:

  1. Open Acrobat and open the PDF.
  2. Press Command-D to see security options, or click File > Document Properties.
  3. Type in the password.
  4. Choose No Password from the dropdown menu where the password is used.
  5. Click OK, then OK again.
  6. Save the PDF.

You will now be able to open, print, and make changes to the PDF without using a password.

How to remove a password from a PDF using Preview

Given that you need a subscription for the professional version of Acrobat to remove the password from a PDF, Preview is likely a much better option for most people.

  1. Open the PDF in Preview.
  2. Type in the password.
  3. Click the File menu and choose Export.
  4. Give the file a name and choose where to save it.
  5. Click Save.

The PDF file will be saved with the name you gave it. When you open it, you won’t have to type in the password.

How to remove a password from a PDF with a third-party PDF app

There are lots of third-party apps that allow you to read and make changes to PDFs. Most of them respect the security applied to the PDF and will require you to type in the password to make changes. We’ll use Nitro PDF as an example and remove the password from a PDF that has been set up to allow anyone to open it but needs a password to make changes.

  1. Open Nitro PDF and open the PDF file.
  2. Click the inspector icon in the toolbar.
  3. Click the padlock.
  4. Type in the password.
  5. You can now make changes to the password or permissions.
  6. Once you’re done, click Save.

How to remove a password from a PDF in a web browser

Web browsers can display PDFs. And as well as showing you PDFs on websites, you can use a web browser to open a PDF on your Mac. Here’s how to do that and then remove the password:

  1. Drag the PDF onto a browser window, or click File > Open and navigate to the PDF.
  2. With the PDF displayed in the browser window, go to File > Print or click Command-P.
  3. At the bottom left of the Print dialog, click PDF.
  4. Choose Save as PDF.
  5. Give the file a name and choose where to save it.
  6. Click Save.
  7. The PDF will be saved as a new file with no password.

Removing a password from a PDF is much easier if you know what the password is. And if you don’t, you shouldn’t try to crack it. However, there is a workaround — printing the document as a PDF in a browser will allow you to create a new PDF without a password. Use whichever technique above works for you to remove a password from a PDF.

Frequently asked questions

1. Why do PDFs have passwords?

    Some PDFs have passwords to prevent them from being opened by people they weren’t intended for. Others allow you to open them without a password but require a password to print them or make changes to them.

    2. Do I need Acrobat to remove a PDF password?

    No, there are several other PDF applications that allow you to make changes to PDF documents, including changing or removing the password. Apple’s Preview, for example, as we showed above, allows you to change security settings as long as you know the existing password.

    3. Do PDF passwords prevent a document from being opened?

    Not necessarily. It depends on how the security was configured. It’s possible to set a password so that the PDF can’t be opened without it. However, you can also use a password to prevent printing or copying, for example, while allowing the PDF to be opened and read without one.

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