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How Do You Open An Arcade Machine Without A Key? (5 Methods Explained)

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No matter if you lost your key to your machine, or if the key is simply not working, we are here to help! Have you ever needed to get into your arcade machine quickly, but could not find the key? I feel like we have all been there in our lives at some point or another. Don’t worry, we are here to help and walk you through this issue.

If you own an arcade machine and have accidently lost the keys, you can try these methods to unlock it.

  • Use Old Keys
  • Pick the Lock
  • Brute Force
  • Screwdriver Method
  • Drill the Lock

In this article we will go into more detail about those various methods and the best way to perform them if you don’t have a key for your machine.

Read on to learn more about each method mentioned above or check out the video below if you prefer.

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1. Old keys

Many different arcade machines all come with a default lock. If you have an old key to a similar machine you will often find that key will work for other machines too. 

Although the owner of the machine can install a more secure lock, most operators use a series of locks with the same key for all of their machines, so they only have to carry one key around. Leaving the default lock on the machine would also mean that someone else who has the same key (combinations are limited) can open their machine.

I even read on RGP that in the past some manufacturers shipped every machine with the same lock (so that one key can open every machine they produced of that specific type of game). So, the first tip is not to throw away old keys, they may be useful if you own more than one machine

Most default locks have flat keys while some operators use locks with round keys as they’re a bit more secure (we can’t use our screwdriver method on them and picking locks may also require special tools).

2. Lock Picking

The best way to open the machine if you can’t find a kety that will work is to pick the lock. People who know how to do it, say it’s easy to do on arcade machines as these have simple locks. This may be true for professionals but this method certainly isn’t for everyone. 

If you want to learn how to pick a lock, search the internet, there are lots of websites about picking locks available, and you can even buy lockpicking tools online here as well.

Learning how to pull the pick over the pins is surprisingly difficult. The problem is that the mechanical skills you learned early in life involved maintaining a fixed position or fixed path for your hands independent of the amount of force required. 

In lock picking, you must learn how to apply a fixed force independent of the position of your hand. As you pull the pick out of the lock you want to apply a fixed pressure on the pins. The pick should bounce up and down in the keyway according to the resistance offered by each pin.

To pick a lock you need feedback about the effects of your manipulations. To get the feedback, you must train yourself to be sensitive to the sound and feel of the pick passing over the pins. This is a mechanical skill that can only be learned with practice. There are some exercises you can try as well that will help you recognize the important information coming from your fingers.

To learn more about lock picking check out the video below.

3. Brute force

I saw an operator do this on a machine he sold me and didn’t have the key with him. He said they used cheap locks so brute force would work. As he started pulling the coin door a little bit harder and harder, after a few minutes the door just opened. The metal plate inside just bent enough so the door could open on its own.

If you have a screwdriver or flat piece of metal then it’s even easier, just force it between the edge of the coin door and the frame and pull hard. Although this may temporarily damage the door, it will get the job done however if your machine is expensive or rare you would not want to use this method.

4. The screwdriver method

OK, so if picking the lock didn’t work, brute force is the next best option, but if you don’t want to risk damaging the door frame then you will want to try this method.

If the original lock is still on the machine and it’s not a recently built machine, it is possible to open the game using a screwdriver. Usually a large flat screwdriver is all you need. 

Insert it into the lock and turn it around. This may or may not work for you, depending on how strong you are and the age of the lock. 

The pins inside many of the original locks are made out of a soft metal. When you apply enough force, these pins will bend or get damaged enough that it will allow the door to come open. A similar method is to hammer the screwdriver through the inner part of the lock. That way you will also break the pins so the lock can rotate.

Obviously you will damage the lock using this method but they are relatively cheap and easy to replace.

5. Drilling locks

This is the way that most people choose to open most locks if they can’t find any other old keys and get them to work. You simply use a drill with a metal bit on it and drill right through the middle of the lock. This works for all types of locks, with flat or round keys.

There are two different ways that you can do this method.

First, learn how a lock looks on the inside and only drill through the pins which make up the lock. You can check the lockpicking guides to get a general idea. A lock uses small metal pins which the key has to align for the door to open.

Just drill and destroy these pins, and the lock can rotate freely and the door will open. The drill bit doesn’t have to be very big, it just has to fit the slot where you put the key in.

The second method is to use a brutal approach: drill the whole center of the lock out. As there’s only a screw in the end which holds the metal plate, it’s possible to drill right through the middle of the lock. 

You will destroy the whole inside rotating part, and sometimes even the screw in the back. Sooner or later (usually sooner) the screw falls out and the metal part falls into the cabinet and the door will open.

Usually you don’t have to drill until you get all the way through the lock as about halfway through the lock will normally open as it’s sufficiently destroyed.

The inside part of a lock is made of soft metal so it isn’t too difficult to drill through. Even modern ‘security’ locks which have hard metal on the outside will normally only have a very thin layer before the metal gets soft.

It will take some extra time and often multiple drill bits to get through this harder layer if you have a newer lock but once you are through it you can easily drill the rest of the way through.

The good side of this method is that you only have to replace the lock, while the coin door itself (which is more expensive) will not be damaged.

How To Drill a lock of a slot machine

One important warning: you will need to be very careful when drilling the lock out of a slot machine. Drilling a lock of an arcade machine is simple: drill straight through the lock, there’s only a small metal plate in the back which will fall off, and the coin door opens.

There are several ways to drill a lock on a slot machine and they all work, but some are a bit ‘cleaner’ than others.

Take a large drill bit and completely destroy the inner rotating part. This is maybe a bit of an overkill, but it works.

Take a medium sized drill bit and drill all the way through the lock, until you get to the screw which holds the metal part which locks the door.

Finally, the cleanest way, if you can’t pick a lock, just take a small drill bit and destroy the small metal pins which make up the lock. Once these are broken you often can also turn the lock without any problem.

Do not drill through the lock and completely destroy the inside of it (the brutal approach mentioned above), you have to make sure there’s a part of the lock left which you can turn. If you can’t turn the lock anymore, it’ll be impossible to open the front of the slot machine, without damaging it. 

Here is a short video that shows a simple tool that will open almost any lock of almost any machine without a key.


With many different options to get into your machine without a key, we hope you found your way in. No matter what option you used, we are glad we could help.

Now that you know what works, you can help your friends or buddies if they are ever stuck without a key for their machines as well. So go ahead; be the superhero and save the day!