How To Disable Chrome PDF Viewer And Open PDF In Adobe Reader

I’ll review how to disable the built in Chrome PDF Viewer and how to open PDF files from Chrome in Adobe Reader.

This should help Chrome users who report that they can’t open PDF files in Chrome. And the built in PDF Viewer functionality is quite basic anyway – using a full featured program like Adobe Reader is often a better alternative.

Problems With Chrome PDF Viewer

Chrome includes its own built in PDF Viewer so, in theory, you don’t need a separate program like Adobe Reader. But it sometimes stops working – and it is quite basic anyway so may not work well with more complex PDF files:

  • You can’t search by text to find a specific word
  • You can’t use some Chapters, section headings or page summaries to navigate the PDF
  • You can’t click on some interactive links in the PDF (in some cases you don’t even see the links, just blank spaces)
  • And the list of missing features goes on…

If the Chrome PDF Viewer has stopped working you can try to reset Chrome – if that doesn’t cure it you could try to reinstall Chrome. But I’m going to review below how to work around it by using Adobe Reader to view PDF files instead.

How To Open PDF Files In Adobe Reader

Since Chrome 67 was released, the old methods to work around issues with the built in PDF Viewer don’t work – the Viewer is no longer a plugin so if you see old ‘fixes’ on the internet that still recommend disabling the Viewer plugin, ignore them…

Nowadays, the way Chrome handles PDF files is poor – there is no way to just click on a PDF file and have it open directly into Adobe Reader. But there are 2 good options:

  1. Disable the PDF Viewer and configure Chrome to download the PDF file and automatically open it in Adobe Reader
  2. Leave the PDF Viewer enabled (which will display the PDF) but use an official Adobe extension to open the PDF file in Adobe Reader as well

I’ll cover each option in the following sections.

If you already have the free Adobe Acrobat Reader DC installed, and it is up to date, skip to the next section.

If not, first install or update it directly from Adobe here – if you want to use Option 2, make sure you tick the box to ‘Install the Acrobat Reader Chrome Extension’.

1. Disable Chrome PDF Viewer and Open PDF Files In Adobe Reader

  • Click the 3 dots in the top right corner of Chrome then click on ‘Settings’ from the menu
  • Scroll down to the bottom and click on ‘Advanced’
  • Near the bottom of the ‘Privacy and security’ section, click on ‘Site Settings’
  • Near the bottom of the Site Settings, click on ‘PDF Documents’
  • Enable (slide right to make blue) the ‘Download PDF files instead of automatically opening them in Chrome’ setting as shown below:

disable Chrome PDF Viewer

You have now disabled the Chrome PDF Viewer and set PDF files to download to your computer instead.

Whenever you next click on a PDF file you should see it appear in the download bar at the bottom left of Chrome as shown in the example below:

Chrome download bar

Now click the up arrow next to the filename:

Chrome file open

If you choose ‘Open’ the file would open in Adobe Acrobat Reader DC but you’d have to do that for every PDF file, which is a waste of time.

So I’d recommend choosing ‘Always open in Adobe Reader’ instead – this configures Chrome to automatically open all future PDF files in Adobe Acrobat Reader DC as soon as they have downloaded.

This is the closest thing to a one-click ‘open directly in Adobe Reader’ solution in Chrome – the only drawback is that the PDF files are downloaded to your computer as well.

But you can delete those saved files every so often if you like (note that you can’t delete a file whilst it is still open in Reader).

Tip: if you chose to ‘Always open in Adobe Reader’ and you ever want to reverse that choice, see the Appendix at the bottom of this article.

2. Use An Extension To Open PDF Files In Adobe Reader

This method requires an extra click to open a PDF file in Adobe Reader but it does have the advantage that PDF files are not downloaded to your computer as well.

First, you need to check that the Chrome PDF Viewer is enabled:

  • Click the 3 dots in the top right corner of Chrome then click on ‘Settings’ from the menu
  • Scroll down to the bottom and click on ‘Advanced’
  • Near the bottom of the ‘Privacy and security’ section, click on ‘Site Settings’
  • Near the bottom of the Site Settings, click on ‘PDF Documents’
  • Disable (slide left to make grey) the ‘Download PDF files instead of automatically opening them in Chrome’ setting

You have now enabled the Chrome PDF Viewer so you can use an extension to open PDF files in Adobe Reader:

If you already have the Adobe Acrobat extension installed you’ll see its icon in the extension bar as shown below:

adobe acrobat extension

If you haven’t got it yet, install it from the Chrome Web Store here now.

Once installed, whenever you click on a PDF file, it first displays in Chrome’s PDF Viewer – but the extension then pops up an overlay menu as shown below:

adobe PDF menu

Select the ‘Open in Acrobat Reader’ option and, as long as you have Adobe Acrobat Reader DC (or Adobe Acrobat XI 11.0.09 or higher) installed, the PDF will open up in Adobe Reader.

Appendix – Disable the ‘Always open files of this type’ Setting for PDF (or other) Files

If you selected the ‘Always open in Adobe Reader’ choice in Option 1, PDF files will open automatically after they have downloaded. So you will no longer see the up arrow next to the filename and will not be able to select a different option like ‘Open’ or ‘Show in folder’ instead.

But what if you no longer want to automatically open PDFs in Adobe Reader? Or what if you only want to download the file, or revert back to choosing for each file whether to open or show in folder instead?

Fortunately there is a way to disable the ‘Always open files of this type’ setting in Chrome (for PDF and other types of file) – but it’s not easy to find ;-)

  • Browse to chrome://settings/content/pdfDocuments
  • Enable (slide right to make blue) the ‘Download PDF files instead of automatically opening them in Chrome’ setting
  • Now browse to chrome://settings/?search=downloads
  • Under the Downloads section, click the ‘CLEAR’ button next to ‘Open certain file types automatically after downloading’

This will disable the ‘Always open files of this type’ setting for PDF files (and other types of file) – in future you should see the up arrow again next to the filename in the download bar and can select a different option like ‘Open’ or ‘Show in folder’ instead.

Note: you won’t see the ‘Open certain file types automatically after downloading’ option with its CLEAR button unless you have both enabled the Download PDF files option and have actually set Chrome to always open PDF files in Adobe Reader. This makes sense as, if you haven’t, there is no automatic setting to clear…

Conclusion

Option 1 is a good one-click way to open PDF files in Adobe Reader from within Chrome, but it does save the PDFs to your computer which may be annoying and takes up storage space.

Option 2 doesn’t save the PDF file but does require an extra click to open it in Adobe Reader – in my opinion it’s not the most elegant solution either as it means displaying the PDF in Chrome’s own Viewer first and then also in Adobe Reader.

It’s a shame that Chrome doesn’t just have a simple menu option to choose which program you want to use to open PDF files, but both Options workaround this limitation quite effectively.

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21 Responses to: "How To Disable Chrome PDF Viewer And Open PDF In Adobe Reader"

  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:

    Hi,

    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?

    Thanks

    • 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 – https://techlogon.com/adobe-reader-xi-released-enhanced-tools-and-security/ – 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:

      http://www.google.com/support/chrome/bin/answer.py?answer=95472

      • 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