A digital safe is exactly what it sounds like: a safe which is secured with an electronic digital lock. You can contrast this with a safe which uses a mechanical dial lock. You can find UL-rated versions of both.
Before we talk in-depth about digital locks, have a quick glance at our product comparison chart below. We have done in-depth research into popular security safes which feature digital locks. We wanted to find the best safes with the strongest all-around features and the toughest locks. We did this research to save you the time so that you can quickly locate a digital safe that meets your needs.
How do you choose the right digital safe? First, it helps to know a little more about digital locking mechanisms.
What You Need to Know About Digital Locks
A digital electronic lock looks like a keypad with numbers you punch in. If you put in the right combination, the safe opens. Some digital locks may store just one correct combination, while others may allow you to add several different combinations for different users.
There are good things about digital locks and bad things. Many users find them much easier to use than traditional mechanical dials that you have to turn. If you really struggle with those dials, you may find it much easier to get inside your safe quickly in an emergency if you secure it with a digital lock. You also can usually change the combination yourself.
There are disadvantages too, though. What if you put in the wrong combination on mistake when you are programming the lock? You may have no way at all to guess the right combination, and then you will have to call in a professional to get you back into your safe.
Another possible drawback is the “lock-out” feature, which may be triggered if you put in a wrong combination. You may be given a five minute “time out” before you are allowed to try again (rather like websites that lock you out after too many password failures). It is easy to picture how this could happen in a crisis if you panic and your hand slips. Suddenly you are locked out of your safe when you need to get in the most.
“But can’t someone just hotwire the keypad by removing it?” Good question, but the answer is “no” if you buy a UL-rated lock. With this type of lock, the lock electronics are not built into the keypad. With non-UL-rated locks, manufacturers may cut corners that make your electronic lock vulnerable to hotwiring. This is exactly why a UL-rated lock is a must!
Some optional electronic lock features
A time delay
This is a delay you can set anywhere from one to 99 minutes. It prevents anyone from opening the safe more frequently than that. Think of it a bit like forum flood control you see on message boards. It’s a form of access control that deters thieves. Who can afford to wait around for 99 minutes just to take another crack at your safe?
This is an alternative to the time delay feature, where the safe can only be opened during certain times of day. All attempts even with the proper pass-code are ignored outside those windows.
We mentioned this feature earlier. If you put in the wrong password, you are prevented from trying again for five minutes or some other pre-determined time.
Dual code requirement
This is ideal for commercial environments. Basically, two inputs are required from two separate people in order to gain access to the safe at any one time. This is a way of placing internal checks within an organization and ensuring that any one person is unable to access the safe contents without someone else there to monitor them.
Some safes can store histories of successful and attempted openings, as well as the codes used.
Security system tie-in
You may be able to link up an electronic safe to a security system that sets off an alarm or calls the authorities automatically if the safe is being subjected to stress.
In short, make sure when you are shopping for a digital safe that 1-a digital safe is what you really want, not a mechanical dial safe; 2-that you always purchase a UL-rated lock, and 3-that you get all the extra features you want and none of the features you don’t want. Spend as much time as you need programming your safe and setting it up to work the way you want. If an emergency ever does arise, you will be prepared, and your valuables will be safe.