12. PDF files won’t open in Windows 10

1. Quick solution: Install the latest version of 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If you are using an outdated Adobe Acrobat version, then it might not be well placed to open all your PDF files.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 releases security updates for Acrobat and Reader on a regular basis.

The latest update patch will most likely fix conflicts with your system. Therefore, follow the steps below to check your current version.

  1. Open Adobe Acrobat.
  2. Click the Help button, then select Check for updates in the drop-down menu.
  1. The Update dialogue box will appear, click Download to automatically update if there is a newer version available.
  1. Restart your computer.

2. Disable the Protected mode at startup

The core of this problem lies in the settings. If you are experiencing the same issue, follow the steps below to fix the problem.

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

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

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 or send it in a different format. Some Windows users reported that Microsoft Outlook won’t open PDF attachments in their emails; this seems to be a general problem.

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

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 in compliance with PDF standards.

So, when using the latest version of Adobe Reader, 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

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 causes 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.

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