Problems Viewing PDF Files In Google Chrome

How to fix problems viewing PDF files in Google Chrome. Updated December 2012 for the latest Chrome and Adobe Reader XI. Many users of the Google Chrome web browser report that they can’t open PDF files in Chrome. Just like the ‘Shockwave Flash crashes’ in Chrome we reported earlier, these PDF problems are typically caused by an integrated plugin in Chrome – in this case it is Chrome’s PDF viewer plugin.

Unlike most other web browsers, Chrome includes its own built in PDF viewer – so (in theory) you don’t need a separate PDF viewer like Adobe Reader. However, this can lead to occasions where you can’t open a PDF file properly in Chrome.

There are several problems with Chrome’s PDF viewer because it is exceptionally basic and doesn’t work with some PDF files:

  • Chrome’s PDF viewer automatically takes precedence over any other PDF viewer you may have installed. E.g. if you try to open a PDF with interactive links it will open in Chrome’s PDF viewer (where you can’t see the links) – even if you have Adobe Reader installed :-(
  • You can’t search by page number to jump to a specific page or search by text to find a specific word.
  • You can’t use Chapters, section headings or page summaries to navigate the PDF.
  • You can’t click on interactive links in the PDF (in some cases you don’t even see the links, just blank spaces).
  • You can’t rotate the page – and the list goes on…

How To Fix It – If you can’t open a PDF file in Chrome or it doesn’t format properly, you need to have a proper PDF viewer installed.

If you already have Adobe Reader and it is up to date, skip to the next step. If not, install or update it now – see our guide on the new Adobe Reader XI – after installation is complete, proceed to the next step.

  • Open Google Chrome and type   about:plugins   into the website address bar at the top then press the ENTER key to display Chrome’s Plugins page
  • Look down the list of Plugins for ‘Chrome PDF Viewer’ and click on ‘Disable’ to disable it – the plugin is now greyed out as shown below
  • Now look through the list of Plugins for your own PDF Viewer plugin e.g. ‘Adobe Acrobat’ and click on ‘Enable’ to enable it – the plugin is not greyed out

Using Adobe Reader instead of Chrome PDF Viewer

  •  Close Chrome and then reopen it – PDF files should now open properly in your own PDF viewer where you can navigate, view and work with the PDF properly.
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21 Responses to: "Problems Viewing PDF Files In Google Chrome"

  1. J.R. says:

    I have google chrome and the pdf is greyed out with always allowed to run. There is no way to disable it and it will not open any pdf files or even let me copy and paste it on my desktop. Even if I enable adobe it still will not work. Everone chrome pdf is on but when greyed out I cannot disable as it shows no disable so any and all suggestions do not work. Please help as I love chrome but may have to change as this has been going on to long. I update chrome everytime and it still is not working thanks

  2. Deloris says:

    trying to open a PDF e document; keep saying I am not connected to the server. I am able to open other programs; such as email; internet, etc. Do you have a fix remedy? Thank you.

  3. Sheila Lowe says:

    I have the Chrome PDF viewer disabled and the Adobe one enabled. All worked well until a couple of days ago. Now it crashes. What do I do next???

  4. Cathy says:

    Great! My problem fixed! Thanks very much!

  5. Clarke says:

    I’ve followed these instructions, but PDFs on certain websites will not open using Adobe reader through Chrome, although they can be downloaded. These same PDFs on these same websites open correctly using IE and Adobe reader. On other websites, Chrome and the Adobe reader open PDF files just fine. Any ideas?

    • Joe90 says:

      maybe those few sites try to open the pdf in a popup which may work in IE (depending on your settings) but not in chrome?

      chrome popup blocker is in settings\advanced\privacy\content settings – change to allow all sites to show popups (or better yet, add exceptions) and see if it works then?

      • Clarke says:

        Thanks, but I’ve already tried that. I’ve also checked with coworkers who use Chrome. They have the same issue with PDFs on the same websites. Since Chrome and IE use different systems to render webpages, perhaps there is something in the html coding for the webpages making the difference. If that is the case, perhaps things will change in the future since Chrome has frequent updates.

  6. Emma says:


    I am having issues in viewing PDF’s from a website. My Adobe Reader (v11) is enabled and Chrome reader disabled, but still I can’t view the PDF’s.

    Any other ideas?


    • Roy says:

      @Emma – is it just the one website? If so, it’s their problem, not yours. If not, can you save a PDF and open in Adobe Reader directly? If not, Reader is corrupt, reinstall it.

      If you can, afraid I don’t have any other ideas (other than a full Chrome reinstall which is kind of a nuclear option) – presumably you tried disabling Adobe Reader and enabling Chrome PDF viewer and that doesn’t work either?

  7. Roy says:

    Cool ;-) Maybe the adobe reader plugin was an old/corrupt one?

    Adobe Reader 11 was released a couple of weeks ago – – worth upgrading to it for best security unless you plan to uninstall it completely (in which case you will need a different PDF reader if you ever want to view PDFs outside of Chrome)

  8. kaitzi says:

    Thanks for this. I was having problems viewing this so I went to my plugins and saw my Adobe plugin was enabled but my Chrome pdf plugin was not. Turning off the adobe plugin and turning on the chrome one fixed my problem. My problem actually turned out to be the OPPOSITE of what you said it would be – but I wouldn’t have known how to do it without this site, so thanks a bunch! :-)

    • Mike says:

      I had the same problem. I was trying to open The Mobile Security for Androids manual from the Kaspersky website and the pdf file opened fine in IE but would not open in Chrome. I went in and disabled Adobe Reader and enabled the Chrome pdf viewer and it opened OK in Chrome.

  9. Cindy says:

    Thank you so much! I couldn’t figure out why some of the pdf’s would open and some wouldn’t. Thanks to you, I can now open anything!

  10. Vic says:

    Thank you so much! It’s weird though, Chrome Viewer has been working forever until today

  11. Tiny says:

    Thx man

    Worked like a charm, I had both plugins enabled

  12. Carol G says:

    Today, I encountered the problem with Google Chrome not opening .pdf files from a trusted website. I could open these same files using Internet Explorer. I followed the instructions to type into the Google Chrome browser line about:plugins . I discovered the problem was that Adobe Acrobat was disabled and the crummy Chrome pdf viewer was enabled. Turned on Adobe, and Chrome pdf viewer disabled. Closed Google Chrome then went back on – yeah! I can open and move through pdf documents now on websites….THANKS for these clear instructions.

  13. Mark W. says:

    Yesterday I made Google Chrome my default browser. Previously it was Mozilla’s Firefox. Today, I attempted to view and download a PDF file by clicking on a button on a web site but nothing happened. It was no problem to download the file in Firefox but as mentioned previously I want to switch over to Chrome. I followed the steps outlined above but I was still not able to view or download the PDF file. Then I happened to look at the address bar and noticed an icon with an X in it. I clicked on it and it said that pop-ups were prevented from being shown. I trust the site so I allowed pop-ups. Now I’m able to view and download the PDF’s from at least that web site.

    • admin says:

      Hi Mark, thanks for including how you fixed the problem – should help other new Chrome users too.

      The X icon is due to Chrome’s default setting of blocking all popups but should only be an issue if the website offers the PDF file via a popup (e.g. with a ‘download’ button) – fortunately most don’t because they know popup blockers are so common.

      If you wanted to allow popups by default for all websites (not recommended due to lots of popup adverts/dodgy webpages etc) please see the official Chrome help page below for instructions – it also explains how to manage popups in Chrome:

      • Mark W. says:

        Thanks for your follow-up and additional information. I found the pop-up stuff under Options (“under the hood”) and then privacy section (content settings… button). I look forward to reading and commenting to your posts in the future.

  14. Joe90 says:

    Chrome PDF viewer never worked properly for me either – though I would use Foxit rather than Adobe’s bloatware