Mechanical vs Electronic Safe Locks

Which is Better? A Digital or Combination Dial Safe Lock?

Do You Even Need to Decide Between a Mechanical & Digital Lock

The debate between with safe lock is better, a mechanical lock or a digital lock, is strong. One is entirely mechanical; the other much easier to use. But there are myths associated with both.

Which safe lock is better? A mechanical or a dial?  ACME Locksmith recommends upgrading mechanical safe locks to UL Type 1 digital safe locks due to their ease-of-use. If you are ordering a new safe, get the digital safe lock.

This only applies for Type 1 electronic locks and not the very inexpensive safe locks you find on many low-end, big box store safes. Those safes, in general, are not secure, and have no part in this discussion.

The digital safe lock is better than the combination lock because:

  • You get in fast. If you need to access the safe quickly, there’s no better way than a user code.
  • If a dial fails, you’re drilling the safe and replacing the dial. If an electronic lock fails, many times you can simply replace the key pad to get in. No drilling. A much less expensive option.

I find I am a great test for which lock a customer will prefer. I was born in 1968. Computers arrived at my high school when I was in the 12th grade. People older than me, like the mechanical dial. They don’t particularly trust the electronic safe locks. People younger than me though, that grew up with electronics, generally prefer the ease of use of the electronic lock.

If you are considering a replacement safe lock and thinking about an upgrade to a digital lock, we’ve got all the information here you need to make an informative decision based on your needs and what you are comfortable with.

If you are already ready for an electronic safe lock upgrade, check out our article on Electronic Safe Lock Features available on on our blog page. Or Shop our Electronic Locks if you’re ready to buy.

Safe Lock w/ Audit Trail

Myth: Mechanical safe locks don’t fail.
Reality: False. They do. Without regular maintenance the combinations of those locks tend to drift with time and at some point, the owner can no longer get in. For example, if one of your numbers is “45” and you notice you have to dial “45 1/2” instead of “45” it’s time to get your safe dial serviced before it’s too late.

Myth: If my batteries die, I’m locked out of a safe with an electronic lock.
Reality: False. Most new safes have the batteries placed in the face plate on the outside of the safe. Those that don’t either have a key override or a temporary way to get power to the keypad.

Myth: Electronic locks fail too often, and I’ll be in for costly repairs later.
Reality: False. We see both types of safe locks fail. The main advantage for an electronic safe over a mechanical lock is that if the electronics on the keypad do fail, most can simply be swapped out by the owner of the safe. You don’t even need a locksmith in this case. If a dial fails, you are definitely hiring a locksmith to drill and repair the safe.

EMP Rated Safe Lock

Myth: An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) will wipe out my electronic lock.
Reality: False. You can now get EMP-rated electronic locks that can withstand EMPs.

Myth: Biometric lock technology is poor.
Reality: True but Improving. Biometric safe lock technology has been improving for years, but it’s true, we still don’t like them, and we don’t recommend them in many cases.

We see them often result in false negatives (a registered user not being able to get into the safe) or false positives (a non-register user getting into the safe). You see biometric locks a lot in the cheaper brands of safes. If you’re paying $300 for the entire safe how good do you think the finger-scan technology can be?

The only exception we have seen to this are biometric safe locks from a German company called Burg Wachter. They use biometric safe locks in their high-end jewelry rated safes. These locks require two successful biometric scans to pass before opening the safe in order to reduce false positive results. It also requires that the finger have a pulse, to reduce…well…you know.

These are the only safes we sell that come with a biometric safe lock pre-installed, but we do install them by request when asked. Biometric locks  should always have another method of entry, such as a pin code, so you can get in even in the event of negative biometric scans.

Mechanical & Electronic Duel Lock

Myth: You need to choose between a dial lock and an electronic safe lock.
Reality: False. You don’t! Not any more. There are multiple safe locks that contain both keyed entry and a dial combination. If one fails, no matter which one, you can use the other method to get into the safe.

Changing a safe lock is something you will want to hire a profession safe repair service to do. You don’t want your lock installation failing because you’ll need to hire someone to drill the safe to get you back in.

If you do try this on your own, never close the safe door without thoroughly testing your safe lock installation and proper operation of the safe several times.

Ready for an electronic lock? Check out the features available on digital safe locks on our blog page Types of Safe Locks.

Or Shop our Electronic Locks if you’re ready to buy.