Guide: Fix ‘Chrome PDF View­er Not Work­ing’ Issue

Over the years, Chrome has offered tremendous convenience with the ability to open and view PDFs. And with the recent move from Adobe’s NPAPI plug-in to an internal PDF viewer, the browser now offers an even better experience in terms of both performance and security. However, things are far from perfect and you may run into random issues ranging from PDF downloading automatically and loading content incorrectly to scrolling issues. Fortunately, you don’t have to suffer through these annoyances or, worse, switch browsers. Most of the time, they stem from some really trivial reasons, and there are a number of ways to resolve them.

Chrome downloads PDFs instead of opening

The most common problem with Chrome’s PDF viewer occurs when PDFs are automatically downloaded, which can be quite annoying if you prefer to preview documents before saving them locally. However, it won’t take long for the problem to be fixed so let’s see how.

Turn off PDF downloads

Chrome has a built-in setting that forcibly downloads PDFs instead of opening them. While this setting is usually turned off by default, you may have accidentally turned it on or a third-party add-on changed it instead. To check if this is the case, take a dive into the Chrome Advanced Settings panel. Step 1: Open the Chrome menu and click Settings.

Step 2: Scroll down and click Advanced.

Step 3: Under the Privacy and security section, click Content settings.

Step 4: Scroll down and click PDF Documents.

Step 5: When enabled, turn off the toggle next to Download PDF files instead of opening them automatically in Chrome.

That is it. PDFs should now appear in Chrome instead of downloading automatically.

However, certain PDFs would still be downloaded …

It is rare for certain PDFs to download automatically, even if Chrome is configured differently. The reason for this is that such PDFs are actually instructed from the server side to download to your hard drive instead of opening in the browser. In developer lingo, this happens when the URL hosting the PDF has the Content-Disposition header set to ‘Attachment’, indicating that the download is great anyway. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do about this. There was an add-on in the Chrome Web Store that supposedly prevents these PDFs from downloading, but it no longer works.

Chrome cannot load PDFs

Aside from auto-downloading PDFs, there is another issue where the Chrome PDF viewer does not display PDFs resulting in a black screen similar to the one you see during the ‘loading’ phase. Barring a bad internet connection, this usually happens due to conflicting third party extensions or malicious browser-targeted code on your PC. So let’s take a look at how to get Chrome back to normal.

Work on Chrome without extensions

Certain extensions, usually those of a PDF-oriented nature, can prevent the Chrome PDF viewer from loading PDF documents. Try working in Incognito mode to determine if this is the cause of the problem. This will launch Chrome with all extensions disabled. Just click New Incognito Window in the Chrome menu to open an Incognito window.

If you find PDFs loading without any issues, chances are it really is an extension causing the problem. Now it’s just a matter of isolating the extension by enabling your add-ons one by one, or in batches if you have many. To do this, point to More tools in the Chrome menu and click Extensions.

Once you encounter the problematic plugin, consider removing it or keeping it disabled when using Chrome in normal mode.

Clean your computer

If the problem occurs even in incognito mode, there may be malware hidden on your PC that is interfering with basic browser functions. If you didn’t know, Chrome has its own malware detection and removal program built in specifically for such cases. Open a new tab and type. To go to the cleanup tool chrome: // settings / cleanup in the URL bar, then press Enter.

Click Search next to Find and remove malicious software to initiate a scan. Chrome takes a while to detect and clean up your PC.

Once it’s done, follow any onscreen prompts, and you should probably find Chrome’s PDF viewer loading your PDFs normally.

Chrome does not render pages correctly

Display problems will be clearly visible up at some point in Chrome’s built-in PDF viewer. You may find several instances of missing images, strange-looking text, or slow scrolling in certain PDFs – and rarely in all the documents you open. However, if you go through the following fixes, Chrome should render PDFs correctly.

Update Chrome

Google is pretty quick when it comes to fixing bugs and glitches, and while Chrome updates itself automatically, it’s always better to manually launch one yourself. You never know if you are using an outdated version of the browser due to a failed update in the background. To do this, open the Chrome menu, point to Help, and click About Google Chrome.

If an update is pending, Chrome should automatically detect and install it.

After that, check if you are still having trouble viewing PDFs. If they still occur, we will then try to clear your browser cache.

Clear the web browser and cookies

An outdated web cache is another common reason for PDFs to render incorrectly or malfunction, especially if the cache becomes corrupted or certain web elements change later on. Hence, clearing all locally cached data should prompt the browser to download new content and hopefully display your PDFs properly. Note: The following procedure also removes browser cookies. Therefore, you will then have to manually re-log in to the sites you are currently logged into. Press Ctrl-Shift-Del bring up Chrome’s Clear Browsing Data panel.

On the Basic tab, use the drop-down menu next to Time frame, then select Always. Then check the boxes next to Cookies and other site data and cached images and files and then click CLEAR DATA. Did that work? If not, we’ll see what’s on the cards next.

Hardware acceleration

If there are any incompatibilities between your video drivers and the Chrome PDF viewer, you will no doubt encounter all kinds of weird graphics anomalies. Chrome uses hardware acceleration by default, but stopping this should fix serious lag or flickering issues. Step 1: In the Settings screen, scroll down and click Advanced.

Step 2: In the System section, turn off the switch next to Use hardware acceleration when available. Then click RELAUNCH to restart the browser.

While disabling hardware acceleration should resolve most viewing problems, you may encounter slower performance when viewing some web content. Therefore, consider re-enabling the option later for other purposes or try updating your video card display driver to see if this fixes the problem permanently.

Reset Chrome

Most of the time, you would have resolved display issues by now, but if not, we may consider resetting Chrome. The procedure is very simple and not as awful as it sounds, but you will find that your cookies, browsing data and pinned tabs are gone for good. However, any saved passwords or bookmarks will not be deleted, so it should be fine in that department. Step 1: In the Chrome settings screen, click Advanced and then scroll all the way to the bottom. Under the Reset and Clean Up section, click the option labeled Restore Settings to Their Original Defaults.

Step 2: Click RESET SETTINGS to restore Chrome to its default settings.

That is it! Chrome should function just as new after that. Resetting your browser will also disable your extensions. When you re-enable them, make sure to keep unknown plugins disabled just for security.

Does it work now?

Hopefully, Chrome is back to normal and you can view your PDFs without any issues. Configuring your browser to open PDFs directly, clearing the browser cache, and turning off hardware acceleration are undoubtedly ways to get things back on track, while a browser reset should probably work as a last resort. If you’re still having problems, it’s best to temporarily switch to a browser like Microsoft Edge – which also has an excellent PDF viewer – until Google releases another update that will hopefully fix your problem for good.

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