In the Harry Potter universe, there is a spell that unlocks things. In the books and movies, there are many occasions where the main characters use this spell to open doors in wizard buildings (such as the door leading to where the Philosopher's Stone is hidden, or a door in the Magical Congress Of USA headquarters). Hermione knows the spell in her first year, which seems to indicate it's pretty easy to learn/cast, especially for the average adult wizard.

What I'm wondering, then, is why do wizards lock their doors when it's so easy to unlock them? And if it's so easy to unlock locked doors, why aren't there more doors locked with enchantments?

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    The same reason my bathroom door closes but you can open it with a screwdriver, to prevent casual intrusion
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 17:24
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    @Oriol Considering Alohomora has been working for 50 years, it seems like the wizarding world has been pretty slow at upgrading. Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 17:42
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    What's the point of locked doors in the real world when you can pick the lock or break through the door? Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 0:08
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    @AnthonyGrist Latter makes noise and makes tampernig obvious. Former may still leave traces visible to a naked eye and takes time. Except for really simple locks that can be bumped, that is (but many people don't know that the technique exists). There is no lock that can, unsupervised, keep anyone out for indefinite time. Your analogy would be more correct if people were using code locks but master-code was taught at school. Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 0:24
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    Did you just say that Hermione is average ? Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 6:59

5 Answers 5


Well what's the point of any lock? At first glance you would say, to keep someone from getting in. But that is not the whole truth.

Any lock can be broken, picked or circuumvented somehow. The question is, how much of an obstacle should a lock be. Even in our non-magical world there are different kinds of locks.

  • On a bathroom door, you just have a simple lock, for the purpose of telling everyone that it is occupied.
  • In your house, you might have simple locked doors to prevent children from getting into rooms they should not.
  • Then you have a rather sturdy lock on your front door, that should be too much of a hassle for a thief to get in. It only needs to be strong enough so that is about the same effort to break that lock like smashing a window.
  • If you have valueables at home, you lock them in a safe in the hope that you would get home before someone breaks that lock (or rips the safe out of the wall).
  • A bank stores its valueables in a rather large safe with a complex lock, so that armed robbers don't get in too easily.

The question should not be "What is the point of having a lock that can easily be broken?" but "What do you want to protect from whom with a simple lock like that?" and "Can it deter an offender from trying to break it?".

In the magical world, obviously, a mundane lock could only provide simple privacy from someone who is not willing to open the lock.

If you want to secure something better, you will have to put charms and wards on the lock, so that the unlocking charm will not work. Obviously, then you could just use bombarda and blast away the door (or the wall next to the door). However you'd at least have a clear sign of breaking and entering then.

If you want it to be even more secure, you would then have to protect against THAT threat and so on... Like in our mundane world, it is simply a question of how much effort will you believe someone is putting into getting past a barrier you've set (like is it worth blasting open a wall to get an inexpensive item behind it).

Allright, obviously that doesn't even work well in our world, since thiefs will be willing to cause several times the damage in property to what their loot is worth in the end. But it is just the same compromise you will have to make.

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    The difference between a "home safe" and a "bank safe" is mostly that its quite easy to extract the home safe and pick it at the safety of your "hideout" (I have friends who came home one day just to find the wall broken by a jackhammer to move the safe). Bank safes are much too heavy and large to do that - unlike, say, ATMs, which are now stolen in pretty much the same way as home safes :D Robbing a bank by walking through the front door is rather ineffective nowadays.
    – Luaan
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 11:52
  • That's a lot of words to say, "a lock keeps honest people honest". :) (+1 anyway)
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jun 12 at 12:39

Because, upon finding a locked door, the majority of people would not attempt to unlock it without authorization. Just because one can unlock a door, doesn't mean that they should.

A locked door serves a purpose, in a similar way that a door itself serves a purpose. It isn't to prevent people from getting in, as there are obviously quite simple ways around that. It's to prevent people attempting to get in. It signifies that whoever locked the door doesn't want anyone going through it.

There are many ways that a door can be more carefully secured against other wizards who know the alohamora charm (Fidelius Charm, password protected like Dumbledore's office, whatever Flitwick did to the door to lock it in Philosopher's Stone). Sometimes it's just a bit too much trouble to go through for something that people should know to stay out of anyway if they attempt to open it and find it locked.

It should also probably noted that Hermione was an exceptionally gifted witch, who knew many more spells than anyone else of her age did. She fixed Harry's glasses on the train, before they had even reached Hogwarts, whilst Ron didn't even know the most basic of spells despite growing up with a wizard family.

I'm not entirely sure just how advanced the unlocking spell is, but presumably it's not something the average first year would know.

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    My father taught me "locks are to keep the honest people out; a professional criminal will have tools to get past them." If you're picking a lock, it's not simple trespassing or some kind of innocent mistake. It's Breaking and Entering. What's behind that lock determines what other security measures you should employ against the professional criminals. Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 22:46
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    > it's not something the average first year would know one of first spells to be taught to first years. Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 0:33
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    My own house (and the previous one too) has "locks" like this on interior doors, such as bathrooms and bedrooms. The "locks" can easily be opened from the outside with a fingernail, but they serve as a notice that someone is using the room and wants privacy.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 5:27
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    @T.E.D. Which actually has another important purpose - locks get jammed, keys get lost... So when you're just using a lock as a "do not entry sign", a simple lock is exactly what you want - if it jams, you just bypass it.
    – Luaan
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 11:48
  • She fixed Harry's glasses on the train, before they had even reached Hogwarts – that’s from the movie, I guess?
    – chirlu
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 18:33

Its just like someone seals something (building, lock, safe etc.). Its not like no one can break the seal, but its just gives the impression that its something you should not be looking in unless you have authority (key)

Anybody could break that seal, but seal says you should not be trying to read that letter or face consequences

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    Seals are designed to be tamper-evident: they discourage message-carriers from reading because the correct recipient will notice the seal has been broken. Locks aren't as trivial to break, and are used in different circumstances. With the right equipment and/or training, though, they are pretty easy to bypass if you don't care about leaving evidence of tampering. But this answer only works as a good analogy if Alohomora also leaves evidence of tampering. Seals are a bit more than just a "please don't open" request. Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 15:50

In a legal sense, locking down something shifts liabilities. If I lock a bike, you take it and drive against a wall because the brakes don't work, it's your fault. If I don't lock the bike, it's mine. Similarly, should you be caught somewhere you're not supposed to be after picking a lock, you can't really make any excuses anymore.

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    If someone harms himself by misusing your stuff, you'd take the liability? There's a whole category of items you may be interested in. Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 0:27
  • In some cases, conspicuous failure to secure objects that can be abused may constitute "attractive nuisance". Even if one would ultimately found not to be liable, one may still incur legal expenses defending against law suits. Making an effort to secure items helps to limit how far such suits can get, and consequently the expense required to fight them.
    – supercat
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 6:05
  • @Daerdemandt, supercat this is the reason "suicide barriers" are erected at such locations. I don't know about legal liabilities in case of such buildings, but closing dangerous parts of them off has an effect on the number of suicides because now a far stronger impetus is required to even go to these places.
    – MauganRa
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 8:47
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    In the UK, someone rides your bike, falls off, everyone laughs about it and no one gets sued.
    – Prinsig
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 10:43
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    @Prinsig, Are you talking about the same UK where it is common for burgulars, or the police, to sue/charge homeowners when the burglar is injured in the commision of their crimes? telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1430314/… , mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/… dailymail.co.uk/news/article-474025/… dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1356388/…
    – Mike Vonn
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 15:29

It's a world of magic. Laws of nature don't really apply. And if things seem strange to you, then that's probably because you're just a mere muggle ;). So, concerning locks. There are ways to make locks on which spells don't work. Probably this is quite some advanced magic - else every lock would have this. There are most probably also ways to tell a lock has been opened using a spell. So it comes down to the simple sollution as mentioned before. Locks are there to let wizards and witches know they shouldn't enter without permission. They can enter (just like a burglar can), but they shouldn't! And obviously, it does stop the average muggle from entering....

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