Cannot Open a PDF File - Causes and Resolution

There are different factors can be involved that prevent PDF file to open. Some factors include an out-dated version of Adobe Reader, damage to the Reader, damage to the PDF file, unrecognizable file type, PDF file is created with non-Adobe program, or no PDF reader is installed. Here are the solutions of all described causes that prevent PDF file to open.

No PDF reader is installed:
Before moving further first ensure that a PDF reader is installed on your computer.

Problem with Adobe or Operating System: If you have seen that a PDF reader is installed, then there is possibility that Adobe Reader is not up to date or it is damaged. Follow these steps to make sure that Adobe Reader is up to date and it is not damaged:
  • Update Adobe Reader.
  • Repair Reader.
  • Reinstall using latest version.
  • Make sure that operating system can recognize PDFs.

Update Adobe Reader: Sometimes latest update patch can fix the issue when PDF file can not be opened. To install latest update to Adobe Reader follow these steps:
  • Launch Adobe Reader.
  • Choose Help > Check for Updates.
  • Follow the steps in the Updater window to download and install the latest updates.
Repair Adobe Reader: It might be possible that Reader could be damaged and repairing installation may fix the issue.

Repair from within Reader- Open Adobe Reader > Go to menu Help > Now choose Repair Adobe Reader Installation.

Repair from Windows Control Panel- Follow these steps to repair Adobe Reader from Windows control panel:
  • First close Adobe Reader.
  • Click on Start and then Control Panel.
  • Double-click Add or Remove Programs (Windows XP).
  • Click Programs, and then click Programs and Features (Windows 8, 7, Vista).
  • Now select Adobe Reader from the list of Programs.
  • Click on Change and follow the instructions to repair the installation.
  • Click Finish when installation process is complete.
If it does not work, then try to uninstall the Adobe Reader and then install the latest version. You should as well make sure that your operating system can recognize the PDF file.

Follow these steps to configure Windows to open PDF files with Adobe Reader:
  • Right-click on PDF file, and then choose Open With > Choose Program.
  • Now select Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat from the list of programs.
  • Select Always Use The Selected Program To Open This Kind of File.
  • Click OK.
Problem with PDF itself: In some situations when a user faces this issue with PDF file, then there are chances that the PDF file has problem itself. The most common issues with a PDF file are as follows:
  • PDF file is not recognizable.
  • Non compliant PDF file.
  • PDF file is Password protected.
  • PDF file is corrupt.
PDF file is not recognizable- Sometimes when a user receives a PDF file through email, the file extension (.PDF) may be stripped that Microsoft Windows uses to key out the file. In this situation Microsoft Windows will not know how to open this file. To fix this issue, do followings:
  • Save the PDF file in your computer.
  • Open Adobe Reader and drag the saved PDF file to the Reader. If it is valid file, it should open.
Non compliant PDF file- If a PDF file is made with non-Adobe products then newer version of Adobe Reader does not always comply with the complete PDF specification and thus unable to open the file. In this situation if you trust the creator of the PDF or where it came from, then try to open your PDF file in earlier edition of Adobe reader.

PDF File is Password Protected- Sometimes the creator of PDF file adds password to a file to prevent unauthorized users to view it. In this scenario you would have to enter the password to open the PDF file and if you do not know the password then you cannot open the file. You may also use some software to crack the password.

PDF File is corrupt- Finally, if the above methods cannot open the PDF file, then it signifies that your PDF file becomes damaged or contains corrupt data that prevent to open it. If you have downloaded the PDF file from the web or obtain it from an email, then download the PDF again or request to sender to send it again. You have one more option to open your file, if none of the above methods work. Try to fix your damaged PDF file with Stellar Phoenix PDF Recovery software.

Note: If the above explanations do not puzzle out your issue, submit your sample file to Adobe support using the Adobe's Feature Request/Bug Report Form.


  1. Great article !!!
    I found this very helpful. I was getting error to open a pdf file that I had received through email. After updating my Adobe Reader, my problem gets solved.

  2. This article is awesome, great written and come with approximately all important information. Thanks in support of sharing such a pleasant opinion post Open PDF File.


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