Advanced PDF Password Recovery (APDFPR)

Advanced PDF Password Recovery (or simply APDFPR) has been designed to decrypt protected Adobe Acrobat PDF files, which have "owner" password set, preventing the file from editing (changing), printing, selecting text and graphics (and copying them into the Clipboard), or adding/changing annotations and form fields (in any combination). Decryption is being done instantly. Decrypted file can be opened in any PDF viewer (e.g. Adobe Acrobat Reader) without any restrictions – i.e. with edit/copy/print functions enabled. Please note that APDFPR doesn't work with documents which have user-level passwords (preventing the files from being opened), if both user and owner passwords are unknown; or if the file is protected with any 3rd party security plug-in. All versions of Acrobat (including Acrobat 5.0) are supported. The program is also able to convert Kinko's Document Format (KDF) files to PDF files.

Requirements :
•Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 or Windows XP
•about one megabyte of free space on hard disk

Please note that APDFPR does NOT work on Mac computers with Virtual PC; unfortunately, it seems to be a problem of Virtual PC itself. However, APDFPR seems to be working just fine on SoftWindows from FWB Software; you can also try RealPC from the same company. Native Mac version is not available yet, as well as versions for other platforms.

Adobe Acrobat features two levels of password protection.

Protecting document with access restriction (“owner”, so-called “security” or “master”) password does not affect a user's ability to open and view the PDF file, but prevents user from editing (changing) the file, printing it, selecting text and graphics (and copying them into the Clipboard), adding/changing annotations and form fields etc (in any combination). If the file is protected this way, you open it in Adobe Acrobat Reader (again, the password is not required for that) and select File | Document Security menu item, the following information is shown.

Fortunately, there is no need to recover that password at all: instead, we can remove it (decrypt the file), so the resulting document will not have any restrictions. That’s exactly what APDFPR does. However, such decryption possible only if “user” password (see below) is not set or known.

Also, there are “open” (so-called “user”) passwords. If one is set, the file is encrypted with strong RC4 algorithm, and cannot be opened at all, if the password is not known. With APDFPR, you need to know this password to be able to decrypt the file protected this way. If you need to recover “open” PDF password, please use the professional edition of APDFPR, available on our site.

Finally, PDF files can be protected using PDF Merchant and EBX digital rights management schemes or 3rd party plug-ins such as FileOpen, SoftLock etc. APDFPR is not able to decrypt such files.

For more details about Adobe Acrobat PDF format and encryption used there, look at Acrobat 5.0 SDK Documentation.

Simply select the PDF file you want to decrypt: press the Open document... button and browse for your file (PDF or KDF). If the given file is corrupted, or used by another application, or not encrypted, or has a user-level password set – appropriate error message will be displayed (in the last case, you can still decrypt the file with APDFPR, but have to know either user or owner password). Otherwise, the program will will ask you do you want to remove the protection, and if yes, prompt you for the file name of decrypted file (you can select any one). Resulting file will not have any restrictions at all. The confirmation box also contain an option Open file in PDF viewer after decrypting – if selected, APDFPR will run default PDF viewer (the one associated with .pdf extension, typically Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Acrobat Reader) and load decrypted file into it (when/if the file will be decrypted successfully).

APDFPR allows to save the decrypted file under the same name as the source file, but asks do you want to save a backup copy or not. We strongly recommend you to have this option always enabled, verify the files after decryption, and delete backup files only when you’re sure that decryption has been done properly.

Please note that unregistered (trial) version of APDFPR decrypts only first 10% pages (but at least one page) of protected documents. All other pages are replaced with blank ones (just some watermarks and hyperlinks are being left).

If Adobe Acrobat Reader doesn’t show the menu and/or toolbar (and so you don’t see the Print item), you can simply press F7 to show menu and F8 to show toolbar.

If you get the message Unknown Encryption Handler, it means that the given file has been encrypted using some 3rd party security plug-in or some DRM (digital rights management) scheme. Unfortunately, APDFPR cannot process such files at all.

You can also process/decrypt PDF files (one at a time) by right-clicking on them in Windows Explorer, and selecting Decrypt with APDFPR from pop-up menu.

APDFPR is also able to convert Kinko's Document Format (KDF) files into PDF files (without any protection). KDF files can be created using Kinko's File Prep Tool (KFP), available free from Kinko's. Converted (by APDFPR) file has both KDF and PDF headers, so allowing to open it in Kinko's FilePrep Tool, if needed (Adobe Acrobat and Acrobat Reader just ignore the KDF header).

If you want to process (decrypt) a few PDF or KDF files at once, you can run the program with a command-line parameters.

If you need to extract contents from PDF files, read How to Extract Text and Graphics from PDF Files Using Acrobat Reader 5.0.5 article in Adobe Support Knowledgebase.

You can execute the program with command line parameters, like:

apdfpr.exe src_path [dest_path] [-b] [-q] [-p=xxx]

src_path Path for source file(s); wildcards are allowed.
dest_path The location of the folder to put decrypted files to (must already exist). If not specified, source path is used.
-b Create backup copies of files being decrypted. Ignored if dest_path is not equal to src_path.
-p=xxx If the program encounters the file which is locked from opening (with “user” password set), it tries to decrypt it using the given password (“xxx”).
-q Quiet mode; ignores the files with “user” password, if one specified in -p option doesn’t match, or -p option is not supplied at all.
-l=log_path Creates a log file (“log_path”; should be a file name).
-w Close program when all files are processed, main window is not being shown at all; last error is being returned (or just 0 if no errors occured).
If the extension of the source file is .PDF, it is being processed as Adobe Acrobat PDF file; if the extension is .KDF, it is being processed as Kinko's Document Format file. If the extension is neither .PDF nor .KDF, the program recognises file format by looking at the document header, and if it starts with %!KDF-, it is considered to be the KDF file (otherwise – PDF). Please note that KDF files, when processed by APDFPR (converted to PDF), still have the optional KDF header along with the PDF one, and .KDF extension, so you can further open them by both Kinko's File Prep Tool or Adobe Acrobat [Reader] – Adobe Acrobat will simply ignore KDF header. You can, however, safely rename processed files and give them .PDF extension.

The parameters enclosed in square brackets are optional; the only mandatory parameter is the source path.

If src_file starts with @ character, it is treated as a name of the file that contains a list of PDF documents to be processed (one per line).

If source or destination path contain spaces, it has to be included in double quotes.

The password may contain any special characters, but they have to be represented in hex form with % prefix. For example, the space is represented as 20 in hex, so if the password is “my pass”, the appropriate command line option would be:


The % character itself should be replaced with %25.

-w option could be used if you would like to execute APDFPR from your own software, but want the main program window not to appear on the screen (please note that if -p or -q option is not specified, but file with user password will be encountered, the program will still prompt for the password). When all files specified in the command line will be processed, APDFPR terminates with an appropriate error code.

-l option instructs the program to create a log file (describing all the program is doing, error messages etc). If the file already exists, APDFPR appends to it (writes at the information at the end). If the path to the file contains spaces, it should be shielded with double quotes (see examples below). Please note that if you select src_path as *.*, log file could not be created in the same folder where the source file are, because the name of the log file will also match the given mask, and so APDFPR will try to process it as a PDF file. Just use the mask like *.PDF, and/or create the log file in a different folder.

apdfpr.exe doc??.pdf
apdfpr.exe “c:\my documents\manuals\*.pdf” “c:\my documents\decrypted\” –q
apdfpr.exe @list.txt -b -p=LockSmith -w –l=”C:\Program Files\apdfpr_log.txt”

When there is a problem with PDF files you’re trying to decrypt, APDFPR shows some kind of error message which looks like:

Can't open file C:\My documents\report.pdf. Error 105

Here is the explanation of the error codes:

Error code Error description
0 PDFERR_OK No errors
1 PDFERR_NO_STARTXREF No reference to objects table
2 PDFERR_BAD_STARTXREF Invalid reference to objects table
3 PDFERR_NOREF No objects table
4 PDFERR_BAD_XREF Invalid objects table
5 PDFERR_NO_TRAILER No document trailer
6 PDFERR_BAD_TRAILER Invalid document trailer
7 PDFERR_NO_OBJ Cannot find object
8 PDFERR_BAD_OBJ Invalid object format
9 PDFERR_NO_ENDOBJ Cannot find the end of the object
10 PDFERR_UNEXPECTED_LEX Unexpected lexem encountered
12 PDFERR_NO_TRAILER_DICT No trailer dictionary
13 PDFERR_NO_STREAM_DICT No stream dictionary
14 PDFERR_NO_STREAM_LEN No stream length
15 PDFERR_BAD_STREAM_LEN Invalid format of stream length
16 PDFERR_NO_ENDSTREAM Cannot find the end of the stream
20 PDFERR_NO_LEX Lexem not found
21 PDFERR_UNK_LEX Unknown lexem encountered
30 PDFERR_BAD_NUMBER Invalid number format
31 PDFERR_BAD_STRING Invalid string format
32 PDFERR_BAD_HEXSTR Invalid hexadecimal string format
33 PDFERR_BAD_NAME Invalid name format
34 PDFERR_BAD_KEYWORD Invalid keyword format
35 PDFERR_UNK_KEYWORD Unknown keyword
101 PDFERR_ALREADY_OPENED Document already loaded
102 PDFERR_CANT_OPEN Cannot open document
103 PDFERR_CANT_CREATE_MAP Cannot map file
104 PDFERR_CANT_MAP_VIEW Cannot view file map
105 PDFERR_NO_HEADER No PDF file header
1001 PDFERR_NO_ENCRYPT Document is not encrypted
1002 PDFERR_NO_PDEF Document is not loaded
1003 PDFERR_BAD_REF Wrong reference to Encryption Object
1004 PDFERR_BAD_OBJ Invalid Encryption Object
1005 PDFERR_WRONG_FILTER Unsupported Encryption Filter
1006 PDFERR_WRONG_VER Unsupported Encryption Version
1007 PDFERR_WRONG_REV Unsupported Encryption Revision
1008 PDFERR_WRONG_OWNER Invalid OwnerKey format
1009 PDFERR_WRONG_USER Invalid UserKey format
1010 PDFERR_WRONG_PERM Invalid Permissions format
1011 PDFERR_NO_ID Cannot find DocumentID
1012 PDFERR_BAD_ID Invalid DocumentID format

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Kaye R. Jenkins said...

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Security Guards said...

For more details about Adobe Acrobat PDF format and encryption used there, look at Acrobat 5.0 SDK Documentation.

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