What is Protected Mode?

Protected Mode was introduced with Adobe Reader X and continues to be Adobe's primary defense-in-depth security strategy for mitigating and preventing security vulnerabilities. Protected Mode protects you by limiting what malicious files can do and access. Protected Mode is enabled by default, and it is designed to run transparently in the background while protecting your hardware and data.

More information

This document lists what Protected Mode does not support as well as changes across releases. Protected View in Acrobat shares some of its behavior.

To learn more about sandboxing and protected mode, see the following:

Antivirus software conflicts

By default, Adobe Reader runs in Protected Mode. In certain situations Reader experiences compatibility issues with anti-virus software when that software intercepts some system calls for the Reader sandbox. In these cases, Reader could fail to open or crash after displaying an incompatible-configuration dialog.

For example, Protected Mode is known to be incompatible with:

  • Some Symantec Endpoint Protection configurations. Adobe recommends that users update to Symantec Endpoint Protection 11.0 RU6 MP2 or higher.
  • McAfee VirusScan Enterprise for certain actions in Reader. Known actions include the following:
    • Launching of some IME tools. Note: Disabling Buffer Overflow Protection can provide a workaround for many McAfee users.

Adobe is working with anti-virus companies to resolve these problems.


For XP only: Accessibility features sometimes doesn't work. The Read Out Loud feature is unsupported. Therefore, screen readers such as JAWS, Windows Eyes, and Windows Narrator aren't always able to read PDF content. Much of the Accessibility menu — involving things like quick check and change Reading options — is removed. Keyboard navigation is not implemented.

Note: When a screen reader like JAWS, Window-Eyes, or Narrator is running when Reader is started for the first time on XP, Protected Mode is disabled. On Vista and Windows 7, screen readers do work normally.

P11 smart card workaround

The installation of some smart cards doesn't work for Reader X users when in Protected Mode. Because Protected Mode sandboxes certain processes that make system calls, smart card installation can fail or result in the "unsupported configuration" dialog appearing. However, a simple workaround is available. Install the smart card software with Protected Mode turned off as follows: 

  1. Disable Protected Mode by going to Edit > Preferences > General and deselecting Enable Protected Mode at startup.
  2. Restart Reader. 
  3. Install the smart card software according to the provider's instructions. 
  4. Reenable Protected Mode. 
  5. Restart Reader.