PDF won’t open? How to fix ‘PDF files not opening’ error

Madalina Dinita
by Madalina Dinita
Former Managing Editor
Madalina has been a Windows fan ever since she got her hands on her first Windows XP computer. She is interested in all things technology, especially emerging technologies -- AI and DNA computing in... Read more
Affiliate Disclosure
  • It is truly frustrating when PDF files won't open due to outdated Adobe Reader or damaged PDF files.
  • If you can't open PDF files after upgrading to Windows 10, check for Adobe Reader settings.
  • Also, make sure that Adobe Reader or Acrobat is the default program to open PDFs.
  • You can try to repair the program if the PDF file is not opening and you are sure is not corrupted.
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Did you recently upgrade your computer or installed Windows 10 and now you are having problems opening PDF files?

Then you have come to the right place. There are many factors that can prevent a PDF file from opening in Acrobat or Adobe reader, including Reader or Acrobat is out of date or the pdf file is damaged.

Also, you can have this problem if the files were created with non-Adobe programs or you are trying to open some suspicious PDF files. Furthermore, the program itself, Reader or Acrobat, can be damaged.

When trying to open a PDF file, the system does not give any error message nor does it open the file. Only a busy icon appears for a few seconds and then nothing, not even a blink of a new window/frame.

This issue can as well be termed as the mother of all PDF problems in Windows 10. In this tutorial, we are going to discuss the causes as well as give you solutions that might fix the issues. So let’s get started.


What can I do if I can’t open PDF files in Adobe Reader?

1. Install the latest version of Adobe Acrobat

grab Adobe Acrobat

If you are using an outdated Adobe Acrobat version, then it might not be well placed to open all your PDF files. Adobe updates its Acrobat and Reader apps on a regular basis.

That’s why we can only encourage you to download the software from Adobe’s official distribution page. While there, pick the current OS system version and hit the Download Now button.

Grabbing the latest version will most likely fix conflicts with your system. That will make a huge difference if the current one is corrupted.

Moreover, the latest fixes and security improvements will keep Adobe Acrobat running smoothly at all times.

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2. Disable the Protected mode at startup

  1. Open Reader. You can type Adobe in the search box for ease of access.pdf files
  2. Click the Edit button in the top left corner.pdf_files_2
  3. Scroll down the Edit menu until you see Preferences, then click on it.pdf files-preferences
  4. A new window will open with various categories. Select Security enhances by clicking on it.pdf_files_security-3
  5. Under the Sandbox protections, disable the Protected mode at startup by unchecking the box.pdf_files_5_protected_mode
  6. Many users reported of having fixed the issue by performing this procedure.

Note: The core of this problem lies in the settings. If the above procedure does not fix the issue, then read on to discover what might be the cause, and the possible solution to fix the problem.


Download a third-party universal file opener

If you cannot fix these problems, we would strongly recommend using a third-party tool. FileViewer Plus is a universal file viewer for Windows that can open and display over 300 different file types.

The new updated version offers improved PDF support for better rendering and converts PDF selectively page by page.

You can download a free fully-functional trial from the official website or buy it at an affordable price.

Download FileViewer Plus here


3. Ask the sender to resend the file if it is damaged

convert XPS to PDF concept logo

This is not a very common problem, but it’s possible that the program that was used to make the PDF file did not create it perfectly. At times, the PDF file may also contain corrupt data.

Moreover, if the file was transferred using a USB or website, chances are that it may not have transferred to the stick or uploaded to the website perfectly.

The easiest way to ascertain this is to try opening another PDF file and if it opens, then you’ll know that the file in question is damaged. The easiest solution is to ask the sender to resend the file.


We’ve written about damaged PDF files before. Bookmark this page in case you need it later.


4. Revert to an earlier version for non-compliant PDFs

adobe reader

At times you may try to open several PDF files on your Windows 10 PC and they fail to open because they were created from non-Adobe products.

PDF files created from non-Adobe products don’t always comply with the PDF standards and specifications hence do not open in Adobe Acrobat or Reader.

Also, earlier versions of Adobe Acrobat or Reader are not as strict as the newer versions. So, when using the latest version you might not be able to open a PDF file that you used to open in the older version of the app.

If you trust the creator of the file and its origin, then you should consider reverting to an earlier version of Acrobat or Reader to open the file.

Reverting to an older version will require you to first uninstall the version of the Reader or Acrobat currently on your drive.


5. Repair program installation

pdf_files_repair

Adobe Acrobat or Reader, or the resources they rely on could be damaged, hence unable to execute their functions effectively. The solution here is to repair the installation.

You can use the control panel to perform the repair procedure or open the program and choose Help > Repair program installation which is easier.

Most of the problems you will encounter when opening PDF files will be due to one of the cases discussed above. It’s also important to ensure that your operating system recognizes PDF.

For instance, Microsoft Edge is not only the default browser in Windows 10 but also the default PDF reader. You can change that so as to make Reader or Acrobat your default PDF reader.


The above solutions will help you address the issue with PDF files that won’t open after you have upgraded your system.

Did you find this article useful? Let us hear your thoughts in the comments section below.


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