Unable to open or read a PDF file

No PDF reader installed

Adobe Acrobat PDF iconBefore following any of the steps below, make sure a PDF reader installed on the computer is working. Click the Adobe PDF icon to the right, which should open an example PDF in a new window. If this example file opens successfully, the computer does not have issues with the reader.

If this does not work, consider an alternative free PDF reader and online readers that open PDF files without having to install any programs on your computer.

PDF file is not recognizable

In some situations when receiving a PDF in e-mail, the file extension Microsoft Windows uses to identify the file may be stripped away. If the file does not end in .pdf, Microsoft Windows will not know how to open this file. To determine if this is your issue, follow the steps below.

  1. Save the PDF file to your computer.
  2. Open your PDF reader. If Adobe Reader is installed, it should be listed under All Programs in the Start menu or, if using Vista or Windows 7, you can search for "Adobe Reader" in the Search field in the Start menu.
  3. Once your PDF reader is open, drag the saved PDF file from its saved location to the reader. If this is a valid PDF file, it should open with no problems.

Another possible cause of a PDF file not being recognized properly is due to having an older version of Adobe Reader on the computer. Upgrading to the latest version of Adobe Reader may resolve this issue.

File is corrupt

Finally, if the above example PDF opened, but the other suggestions did not help, it is likely the PDF is corrupt. Download the PDF file again or if this file is from an e-mail, request that the e-mail be sent again.

Note: If the PDF is corrupt, the PDF Reader will still open to a blank window. You may also see a warning or error message stating the PDF file is corrupt and cannot be opened.

Additional information

  • See the PDF definition for further information about PDF files, questions and answers, and related links.