Portable Document File (PDF) is a very popular file type that most people are very familiar with, especially people that love to read books online, students and many more. In today's world. PDFs have had their places on the internet and even in offices. It looks as if every hardcopy has its PDF softcopy. Having said all that, issues can arise with opening PDF documents, even with the traditional and most used app, Adobe Acrobat Reader from Adobe Inc.

This post aims to shed more light on why we encounter such issues and how to remedy them.

5 Ways to Fix 'Can't Open PDF' Error on Windows/Mac

When you fail to open PDF files or don't have permission to access the file, don't panic, there is always a way to fix it. Read these 5 ways below to see if they could work for you.

Way 1 Update Your Adobe Acrobat App

One quick fix to the issue of not being able to open a PDF file on your PC is updating the Adobe Acrobat App.

Year in year out, Adobe keeps bringing new updates to all their apps, and it would only make sense that you as a user should be up to date. Apart from solving the "can't open pdf" error, you will solve other issues unknown to you and enjoy better benefits like newly added features. Also, the app will run more smoothly and efficiently on your system.

update adobe acrobat

Way 2 Repair the PDF file If It is Broken or Corrupted

If the issue is coming from the PDF file itself, it is advisable to fix it before opening the file again. In the event that the file is broken, you can simply get another copy of it. However, in the case that it is corrupted, and you are left with no backup, then you have to fix it. The good thing is that there are many PDF repairing tools that can help you do it. One good example is the iMyFone UltraRepair, available for both Windows and Mac users.

UltraRepair gives you the best solution to repair your broken files including images, videos, and documents. (Stay tuned for the function of repairing files! Coming up in the next version.)

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You May Want to Know: How to Repair Corrupted PDF Files?

Way 3 Downgrade Your Adobe Acrobat App

This method may not sound too plausible and sensible, but it can help when you are trying to open a PDF file that was created a long time ago, using an older version of Adobe Acrobat or another program entirely. So, assuming that you don't have the means to get your hands on an older version of Adobe Acrobat, you may have no other option than to downgrade yours, especially if opening the PDF is very important.

Also, bear in mind that you cannot update the version of an already created PDF file to match the version of the Adobe Acrobat app. In case you are worried about running an older version of Adobe Acrobat, who says you cannot re-upgrade the program when you are done viewing the particular PDF?

More tips in Adobe's official downgrade center.

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Way 4 Deactivate the "Protected Mode" at Startup

The recent versions of Adobe Reader (from version XI) have a protected mode as a feature. When in this mode, PDF files with malicious code that can possibly infect the Windows registry and system directories are kept at bay. This basically means that a PDF file suspected to be malicious will not open.

If you are sure you really want to disable the protected mode, follow the procedure below:

Step 1.Open the Adobe Acrobat app and hit "Edit" and scroll down to "Preferences".

Step 2.Choose "Security (Enhanced)" in the Categories list to the left

Step 3.Then uncheck the "Enable Protected Mode at startup" box in the Sandbox Protections section.

Step 4.A pop-up window will come up; click "Yes", then "OK".

Step 5.Restart the app for the changes to take effect.

deactivate protected mode at startup

Way 5 Try to Open the PDF File with Another Program

Adobe Acrobat may be the default and best PDF reader for many users, but NOT the only one. If you have tried all the methods above and none worked for you, you should try other PDF readers you can lay your hands on, like FileViewer Plus.

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What Brings About the 'Cannot Open PDF' Error Message?

Before we proceed to proffer solutions to the issues, let us first consider some of the reasons we may encounter the problem of PDF files not opening. After all, the best way to solve an issue is to understand what causes or triggers the issue. Below are some of the causes:

Unsupported File Type

If a file is saved as a type unrecognized by Adobe Acrobat, you are bound to have the error message. Most people assume that every file type can be handled by Adobe Acrobat so long it is a document, but that is not by any means true.

Outdated Acrobat or Adobe Reader

If your PDF reader is outdated, it may pop up an error message when you attempt to open a PDF file with it. The chances are very high that you will not be able to open a PDF document that was only created a few days ago with a PDF reader that you haven't updated since a few years ago.

PDF Files Created Using Non-Adobe Apps

One thing to note is that it is not only Adobe apps that can create PDFs. However, not many other programs can do it perfectly like it. Most of these other programs create PDFs without following the correct procedures and standards; therefore, opening them on other platforms becomes cumbersome and sometimes impossible.

Corrupt PDF Files

Before you stress yourself looking for solutions, it would be better to confirm if the PDF file in question is not damaged. Like any other computer file, PDF files can also secure damages due to errors in transmission, computer viruses, etc.

Corrupt Adobe Reader

If there is a problem with the Adobe Reader on your PC, it will most likely not open a PDF file.

FAQs: More Tips About Can't Play iPhone Videos

1 Why can't I open a PDF on my phone?

There are many reasons why you cannot successfully open a PDF file on your phone. It could be that the PDF is corrupted or damaged, or you are running a lower or higher version of the PDF reader relative to the PDF file. It could also be that there's a bug on your phone preventing the file from opening. In any case, it would be helpful to try opening the PDF file with different PDF readers or try your friend's phone.

2 Why can't I access PDF on Pages?

The PDF file may be damaged or corrupted. It could also mean that the PDF file just doesn't support Pages. When faced with this issue, you can try using Adobe Acrobat or other PDF editors from the App store.


There are many ways to fix the "cannot open pdf" issue. You can upgrade or downgrade the version of your Adobe Acrobat, or simply use another PDF reader, among a host of things you can do. However, When this issue arises, you should first try to know the exact cause before trying to fix it.