What do I do when I can't open a PDF in Windows 7?
You'd think something as ubiquitous as PDF files wouldn't create so many headaches on Windows 7 PCs, but they certainly can. In fact, numerous things can keep you from opening PDF files, such as corrupt PDFs.
Windows 7 or a PDF reader such as Adobe Acrobat may produce an informative error such as "Can't open this file. There's a problem with the file format." These errors may be all the information you need to fix the problem.
However, if you're still unable to proceed, the next step is to uninstall and reinstall whatever PDF reader you're using. If you still cannot open the file, I recommend trying another PDF reader program such as Foxit PDF Reader.
Another reason why a user might not be able to open a PDF in Windows 7 -- or any version of Windows, for that matter -- is that a malware infection is preventing a computer's access to certain files. This is likely due to corruption in your PDF reader software or the Windows registry.
Run a full system scan with your existing antimalware software. Then run another scan with Malwarebytes, Microsoft Security Essentials or Webroot. I have found that Webroot can detect and remove more advanced malware than the other tools.
Also, make sure your antimalware software is not configured to block the opening of PDF files. You can disable your antimalware real-time protection to help with this -- just be careful! Don't do anything else on your computer, and be sure to re-enable it immediately after you've completed your test.
Finally, you can try opening the file on another computer. If it still does not open, you need to try to get another copy of the file from whoever generated it. Best of luck!
This was first published in December 2013