Why can't I open a PDF

Many factors can prevent a PDF from opening in your browser or on your computer using Acrobat Reader or Acrobat. Try the suggestions below to troubleshoot the problems.

Note that you cannot repair a damaged PDF itself. However, if you have the source file, you can re-create the PDF using an Adobe product, such as Acrobat or Photoshop Elements.

Can't open PDF in your browser

Most modern web browsers can easily open PDFs. If you’re having trouble opening a specific PDF on a web page, try the suggestion below.

  1. Right-click (Windows) or control-click (Mac OS) the link to the PDF file.

  2. Choose the appropriate save or download option for your browser:

    • (Google Chrome) Save Link As
    • (Internet Explorer) Save Target As
    • (Firefox) Save Link As
    • (Safari) Download Linked File
  3. Make sure Adobe Acrobat Document is selected for the file type, and save the file.


    If you don't see a Save As dialog box, your browser may have downloaded the file automatically, possibly in a separate downloads window.

  4. Locate the saved PDF, and double-click the file to open it. If your browser opened a downloads window, double-click the PDF in the downloads list.

Can't open PDF on your computer

If you can't open a PDF on your computer, try the suggestions below in the order they appear.

If you have Acrobat Reader or Acrobat installed on your computer, skip to the next step.

Acrobat Reader is the only free PDF viewer that can open and interact with all types of PDF content – including forms and multimedia.

  • Go to the Adobe Acrobat Reader download page, and then click Install Now. For step-by-step instructions, see Download and install Adobe Acrobat Reader for Windows or Mac OS.

    After the installation is complete, follow the steps in the next section.

Your system may not be set up to automatically open PDFs from the desktop with Acrobat Reader or Acrobat. Here's how to set it up:

Windows users

  1. Right-click the PDF, choose Open With > Choose default program (or Choose another app in Windows 10).

  2. Choose Adobe Acrobat Reader or Adobe Acrobat in the list of programs, and then do one of the following:

    • (Windows 7 and earlier) Select Always use the selected program to open this kind of file.
    • (Windows 8) Select Use this app for all .pdf files.
    • (Windows 10) Select Always use this app to open .pdf files.
    Windows 10


    If you have both Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer, choose Adobe Acrobat.

  3. Click OK.

Mac OS users

  1. Click the PDF file's icon in the Finder to select it.

  2. Choose File > Get Info.

  3. Click the triangle next to Open With, and choose Adobe Acrobat Reader or Adobe Acrobat from the pop-up list (if your preference is not on the list, choose Other to select it).

  4. Click Change All.

Adobe releases regular security updates for Acrobat Reader and Acrobat. Installing the latest updates might solve the issue.

  1. Open Acrobat Reader or Acrobat.

  2. Select Help > Check for Updates.

  3. If the Updater dialog box appears, click Yes. The update will automatically install.

  4. Restart your computer.

Acrobat Reader or Acrobat—or the resources they depend upon—could be damaged. Try repairing the product using the step below.

  1. Run repair from within Acrobat Reader or Acrobat: Choose Help > Repair Installation

Symptom or error

TechNote or solution

Can't open a password-protected PDF

Opening suspicious PDFs: Reader and Acrobat block PDFs that do not conform to certain industry-specific PDF standards, or may contain potentially harmful content.

Be cautious. These PDFs can pose a security risk to your system. Double-check with the source of the doc, such as the person who sent it to you or the website you downloaded it from, to make sure the document is safe to open.

You get an error message when trying to open a PDF created in InDesign or Illustrator.


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