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Starfield lockpicking: How to pick locks easily

Starfield's lockpicking minigame explained

A Starfield lockpicking puzzle layered atop a screenshot of a skeleton resting on a metal structure outdoors.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bethesda Game Studios

How does the Starfield lockpicking minigame work, and how can you pick locks more easily? Like previous Bethesda games, Starfield has a lockpicking minigame which you'll need to master if you want to unlock all those tantalisingly locked doors and containers throughout the Settled Systems.

But unlike Skyrim or Fallout, where picking locks was all about finding the "sweet spot", in Starfield it's much more like a mini puzzle which tests your spatial perception as you try to fit the right shapes into the lock's holes.

If you're struggling to understand how to pick locks in Starfield, you're not alone. But in this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through everything you need to become a lockpicking master in Starfield, exploring how the different levels of locks work, how to earn and use auto-attempts, and some tips on how to pick locks more easily.

In this guide:

Was Starfield worth the wait? Liam and Alice B discuss this question - and more - in the video above.Watch on YouTube

How to pick locks in Starfield

To pick a lock in Starfield, here's what to do:

  1. Have at least 1 Digipick on your person.
  2. Interact with the lock to open the lockpicking minigame.
  3. Select between your keys on the right-hand side.
  4. Rotate your chosen key around the lock until all blocks fit in holes.
  5. Hit "F" (or "A" on controller) to slot the key.
  6. Repeat the process with other keys until all holes are filled.

Lockpicking in Starfield requires a Digipick (a digital lockpick). As long as you have at least one, you'll be able to enter the lockpicking minigame.

In the minigame you're shown a set of concentric rings, and each ring has some little sections missing from their outline.

To the right of the circular puzzle are your "keys". Each key is made up of little blocks that you can slot into the holes in each ring. To pick the lock, you need to fill all of the holes in the rings so that they disappear. Select a key, and you'll be able to see it around the outside of the outermost ring. You can then rotate the key however you like to see if it will fit in the ring.

The challenge is that you can't make a key fill the holes unless every part of the key matches up with a hole. Think of it like putting your fingers in the holes of a bowling ball. You need space for all your fingers to go.

So, this wouldn't work:

A Starfield lockpicking puzzle, with the key in the incorrect position.
One of the key bits fits in a hole, but the other two do not. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bethesda Game Studios

But this would work:

A Starfield lockpicking puzzle, with the key in the correct position.
All three of the key bits fit in the holes of the ring. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bethesda Game Studios

Once you successfully use a key, the holes you filled in will disappear from the ring. The key will also disappear, so you can't use the same one twice. If you fill all the holes in the outer ring, the whole ring disappears, allowing you to start working on the next outermost ring.

Remove all the rings to pick the lock and open the door or container you're attempting to hack. If you succeed then you keep the Digipick you used to begin the minigame. If you fail or exit the minigame before it's fully complete, then you lose the Digipick

Here's an example of how to successfully pick a Novice-level lock in Starfield:

A partially complete lockpicking minigame puzzle in Starfield.
A partially complete lockpicking minigame puzzle in Starfield.
A partially complete lockpicking minigame puzzle in Starfield.
A partially complete lockpicking minigame puzzle in Starfield.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Bethesda Game Studios

Advanced, Expert, and Master locks

There are four levels of locks in Starfield. The easiest locks to pick are Novice locks, and you can attempt to pick them from the beginning of the game. But to unlock the ability to hack the more complex types of locks, you need to level up your Security skill in the Starfield skill tree.

Here's what you need in order to attempt to hack different levels of lock in Starfield

  • Novice locks - Always available
  • Advanced locks - Requires Security rank 1
  • Expert locks - Requires Security rank 2
  • Master locks - Requires Security rank 3

The higher a lock's level, the more challenging the minigame is to solve. Higher levels add more rings to the minigame and give you more keys to choose between, making it a longer process to hack the lock.

Some Starfield backgrounds will give you a point in Security to start with. So if you're playing as the Bouncer, Cyber Runner, Cyberneticist, or Industrialist, then you'll be able to attempt to hack Advanced locks from the beginning of the game.

What are auto-attempts?

To make hacking locks in Starfield a bit easier, you can also earn auto-attempts. If you use an auto-attempt while in the lockpicking minigame, then the game will automatically show you the correct key that fits the current ring you're working on. It won't solve the whole minigame for you, but it can be used to make tough rings much easier to solve.

To earn auto-attempts, you'll need to have put at least one point into the Security skill. Each subsequent rank of Security will increase the number of auto-attempts you can hold in reserve for when you need them.

  • Security Rank 1: 2 auto-attempts
  • Security Rank 2: 3 auto-attempts
  • Security Rank 3: 4 auto-attempts
  • Security Rank 4: 5 auto-attempts

As long as you have space for one, you'll automatically earn an auto-attempt each time you successfully hack a lock.

Standing in an alien temple in a Starfield screenshot.
Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios

How to pick locks easily in Starfield

There are several ways to make picking locks much easier in Starfield. Some of them are by unlocking abilities which physically affect the lockpicking minigame to make it easier. Other ways are simply tips to bear in mind while figuring out the right keys to put into the right rings.

Here are our top lockpicking tips in Starfield.

Invest in the Security skill

The most practical way to make lockpicking easier in Starfield is to upgrade your Security skill. Not only does it unlock more advanced locks and give you more auto-attempts to use, but Rank 2 of the skill will turn your selected ring blue if it can be slotted, and Rank 4 allows you to expend another Digipick in order to remove any "red herring" keys that aren't required to solve the puzzle and are only there to throw you off the scent.

Hoard Digipicks until you need them

Digipicks can be found all over the place in the Settled Systems, but it's better to refrain from using them until you really need them. If you hit Rank 4 of Security, don't just expend Digipicks for every lock to make it easier. Sometimes you might need those Digipicks for really difficult Expert and Master-level locks.

Look ahead beyond the immediate key and ring

Unlike the lockpicking minigames in Skyrim and Fallout, in Starfield you can actually solve the entire puzzle in your head just by looking ahead. And it's important to look ahead with the higher lock levels, because sometimes you might get a key that fits in a ring but is still the wrong answer, because it prevents you from using other keys in the right way to solve the puzzle.

Take your time and be methodical

There's no time limit with lockpicking in Starfield. Time stands still while the minigame is active, so feel free to take as much time as you need methodically rotating each key around 360 degrees to see where it might fit.

The puzzle changes if you come back later

Lockpicking puzzles aren't set ahead of time: they're procedurally generated the moment you begin the minigame. So if a particular set of rings and keys is completely flummoxing you, simply back out and try again. The bad news is you'll lose the opportunity to win back the Digipick you spent with the first attempt, but it could be worth it for particularly tricky locks.

That wraps up our definitive guide on understanding the lockpicking minigame and how to make picking locks much easier in Starfield. For advice on other illicit activities, check out our Starfield pickpocketing guide. Or you could learn to unlock the hearts of your Starfield companions with our guide on the various Starfield romance options.

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Ollie Toms

Guides Editor

Ollie is sheriff of Guidestown at RPS, and since joining the team in 2018, he's written over 1,000 guides for the site. He loves playing dangerously competitive games and factory sims, injuring himself playing badminton, and burying his face in the warm fur of his two cats.