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PDF (Portable Document Format) files are widely used to create and share documents, as the PDF will keep formatting intact regardless of the viewer's operating system and software. Because it is a different kind of document file, it requires special software in order to open. Nearly every device will be able to open and view PDFs with the right software.

Method 1
Method 1 of 5:

  1. 1
    Download Adobe Reader. This is a free program that can open PDF files so that you can read them. Adobe Reader can be downloaded from You cannot use it to edit or create PDF files.
    • To learn how to edit PDF files, click here. You can edit PDF files online also.
    • There are a variety of other free PDF reader programs if you don't want to install Adobe Reader.
    • Windows 8 comes with a PDF reader installed if you don't want to use Adobe Reader.
  2. 2
    Decline the McAfee offer. When installing Adobe Reader, a box will be automatically checked to add McAfee to your computer. Most users likely will not want this, so make sure to uncheck the box.
  3. 3
    Double-click a PDF file after installing Adobe Reader. For most users, Reader should open automatically, displaying your PDF file.
  4. 4
    Enter the password if required. PDF files can be password-protected by the creator, so you'll need the correct password if one is required.
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  1. 1
    Windows asks for a program to open the file. If you have Adobe Reader installed but PDF files won't open, you may need to associate Reader with PDF files.
    • Right-click on the PDF file and select "Open With".
    • Select "Adobe Reader" from the list of programs.
    • If Adobe Reader is not listed, you will need to browse for it on your computer. It is usually installed at C:\Program Files (x86)\Adobe\Reader
  2. 2
    PDF requires a password. If the PDF file requires a password and you don't have it, the only way to open it will be to ask the creator for the password or to use a password cracking program. If the password is strong, a cracking program could take hours or even days to recover the password.
    • One of the highest-rated PDF cracking programs is Advanced PDF Password Recovery by Elcomsoft. You'll need the Pro edition to access all the password recovery tools, and it will set you back $99.
  3. 3
    PDF won't open for compliance reasons. Adobe may refuse to open a PDF for not complying with PDF standards. This is most often the case for PDFs created with non-Adobe software, or if you are opening a really old PDF with a newer version of Reader.[1]
    • Try installing a third-party PDF reader. There are a variety of PDF readers, with Foxit Reader being one of the more popular options.
    • Upload the PDF to Google Drive. You may lose some of the formatting, but there's a better chance that you will be able to open it.
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Method 2
Method 2 of 5:

  1. 1
    Double-click the PDF. OS X comes with Preview, a tool that opens a wide variety of files, including PDF files. Preview allows you to read PDF files, but not edit them.
  2. 2
    Change the program that OS X uses to open PDFs. If you have a different PDF program and no longer want to use Preview, you can set all PDF files to open with the new program.
    • Select a PDF file in Finder but don't open it.
    • Click the File menu and select "Get Info".
    • Expand the "Open with" section.
    • Select the application you want to use in the drop-down menu.
    • Click Change All...
  3. 3
    Enter the password if required. PDFs can be password protected to prevent unauthorized readers from opening the file. If you don't have the password, the only way to open the file is by cracking the password.
    • If you need to crack the password, iStonsoft PDF Password Remover for Mac is one of the more highly-rated options. If the password is strong, it may take hours or even days to crack.
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  1. 1
    PDFs won't open in Safari. This is typically caused by an error with the Adobe plugin after updating Safari. You can fix it by manually deleting the plugin and restarting Safari.[2]
    • Open /Library/Internet Plugins/ and delete AdobePDF.plugin
    • Open /User/Username/Library/Internet Plugins/ and delete AdobePDF.plugin
    • Restart Safari and try to open the PDF again.
  2. 2
    "Adobe could not open PDF name because...". This error typically occurs if you save a PDF file using Safari's "Save As" or "PDF Export" option.
    • Reopen the PDF in Safari.
    • Click the Disk (Save) button at the top of the window or in the from the menu that appears when you move your mouse to the bottom-center of the page.
    • Save the PDF file to your computer.
    • Open the newly-saved file.
  3. 3
    PDF files aren't downloading in Firefox. If you are trying to download PDF files in Firefox and nothing is happening, you may be having a problem with the Adobe Reader plugin.[3]
    • Click the Firefox menu and select "Tools".
    • Select "Add-ons" and then "Plugins".
    • Find "Adobe Acrobat NPAPI Plugin" and Disable it.
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Method 3
Method 3 of 5:

  1. 1
    Download an app that supports PDF files. While Android does not have "built-in" support for reading PDF files, there are a large number of free apps that will easily open your PDF files. You may even have one of these already installed:
    • Google Drive
    • Quickoffice
    • Adobe Reader
    • Foxit MobilePDF
  2. 2
    Find the PDF file you want to open. Typically, when you download a PDF file, you can open it from your Notification bar by tapping the completed download. If you need to open the PDF file later, you can do so from your Downloads folder.
    • Open the "My Files" or "File Manager" app on your device. If you don't have a file manager, you can download one for free fro the Google Play store.
    • Open the Downloads folder. This is the default location that any downloaded files will be stored in.
    • Tap the PDF file to open it. If you've chosen a default app, it will open automatically. If you just installed an app to open PDF files, or you have more than one app installed that can read PDFs, you will be prompted to choose the app you want to use.
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  1. 1
    "Can't open file" message appears when opening a downloaded PDF file. There are a couple of different things that could be causing this problem.
    • Try using a File Manager app to open your downloaded file. You can find it in your Downloads folder. If you can open the file using a File Manager, you'll want to reset your browser.
    • Reset your browser by opening your Settings app, selecting "Apps" or "Applications", finding your browser in the list of apps, and then tapping the "Clear data" button.
  2. 2
    PDF attempts to open in the wrong app. if your PDF is trying to open in an app that doesn't support PDFs, you may have the default app set wrong.
    • Open the Settings app.
    • Select "Apps" or "Applications".
    • Select the app that attempts to open your PDF files.
    • In the "Launch by Default" section, tap "Clear defaults".
    • Try opening the PDF file again. You should be prompted to select the app you want to use.
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Method 4
Method 4 of 5:

  1. 1
    Tap the PDF that you want to open. iOS has a built-in PDF reader which can be used to open PDF attachments in emails or PDFs that you find online.
  2. 2
    Tap the open PDF to open the menu. This will allow you to select another app to handle the PDF.
  3. 3
    Tap "Open in..." or the Share button. If you are viewing the PDF in your Mail app, you will use the Share button. If you are viewing the PDF in Safari, you will use the "Open in..." button. This will display a list of apps that support PDF.
  4. 4
    Select the app that you want to use. You can add your PDF files to iBooks, or open it in Adobe Reader or any other PDF application you have installed on your iOS device. The PDF will open immediately in your selected app.[4]
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Method 5
Method 5 of 5:

  1. 1
    Transfer the PDF file to your Kindle. There are a couple of different ways that you can do this.
  2. 2
    Open the file on your Kindle. Once the PDF file has been transferred, you can select it from your Kindle's library.
    • There aren't many options for interacting with the PDF on a Kindle, as you can't add additional functionality with other apps.
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Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • Question
    I have an Android, but my phone didn't have Google Drive. I downloaded it, but it refuses to install in my phone. What could be the problem?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    Check to make sure you have enough free space on your phone for the app to install. As your version of Android may be incompatible, you could try updating. You could also try restoring your phone to factory defaults, or you can try to contact Google Tech Support.
  • Question
    I downloaded my PDF files to my laptop, but I cannot open them. What should I do?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    You first need to download a PDF reader, like Adobe Reader or SumatraPDF. Or, you could even open them using Google Chrome. Then, you should easily find the print option.
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      About This Article

      wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, 17 people, some anonymous, worked to edit and improve it over time. This article has been viewed 433,202 times.
      How helpful is this?
      Co-authors: 17
      Updated: March 29, 2022
      Views: 433,202
      Categories: Mac
      Article SummaryX

      To open a PDF file on a Windows computer, you’ll need to download Adobe Reader from However, make sure to uncheck the box that adds McAfee to your computer, since you don’t need it to open a PDF. Once Adobe Reader is installed, double-click a PDF to open it. If it doesn’t automatically open, right-click the file, select “Open With,” and choose Adobe Reader. To open PDF files on a Mac computer, double-click the file and it will automatically open in the Preview app. If you have another program you’d rather use to open PDFs, select the PDF without opening it, click the File menu, then hit “Get Info”. From there, expand the “Open with” section and select the application you want to use. For more help, like how to open PDF files using Android devices, scroll down.

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      Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 433,202 times.

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