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To help diagnose the problem, try a two-step approach. Separate downloading the file from opening the file with Adobe Reader and watch for error messages.

I'm running a Lenovo Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit OS. Why do I have to open my investment site in my Chrome browser to open PDF financial reports? I tried both 64 and 32 bit IE 9 which are both installed and neither one will download the reports even though I have the latest version of Adobe Reader installed. My security settings are at medium.

In this excerpt from Answercast #61, I look at problems in downloading and opening PDF files with Internet Explorer.

Failed PDF downloads

So, unfortunately, it's very, very difficult for me to help here because I don't know what happens when you try to download. Do the files download and Adobe not open? Is there an error message when the files are attempted to download? Exactly what is it that happens when you try to download a PDF in Internet Explorer?

I will tell you that Internet Explorer should absolutely be able to open PDFs - download and open PDFs.

Downloading and opening

And also, be aware. There's two things that we talk about here: Downloading a file and opening a file are two separate steps. The fact that you have Adobe Reader installed has nothing to do with your ability to actually download the file.

Test the download

So, the very first thing I would do in Internet Explorer is: right-click on the link to the PDF and say Save As. Save it to a folder where you know the file is supposed to reside and see if that simple act of downloading the file works:

  • That has nothing to do with what the file contains.

  • That has nothing to do with the fact that it's a PDF.

  • That's simply the act of downloading the file.

That's an important diagnostic piece of information because it tells you that, "Yes, we can download the file," and the problem is elsewhere; or "We can't download the file," and the errors that result from attempting that will tell us perhaps what's going wrong; why you can't download it.

Test opening the file

If you are able to download the file, then double-click on it in Windows Explorer.

If Adobe Acrobat opens, if Acrobat Reader opens, then you've got the file. If there's an error message or some problem opening the file, then you know that the problem is not downloading the file, the problem is opening the file for whatever reason.

Watch the error messages

Once again, the error message (or the behavior that happens when you try) will hopefully give us some clues as to exactly what's going on here. Unfortunately, the error report that you've given me here is just sort of, "It doesn't work." That's not nearly enough to try and diagnose what could be going on here.

So, if you can, try that two-step approach where you separate out the download of the file from opening the file with Adobe Reader. See if you can gather some more information about exactly which step in the process is failing and what happens when it fails.

Next from Answercast 61 - Is it safe to keep Outlook Express?

Article C5919 - October 15, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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4 Comments
Neil Lomas
October 16, 2012 9:14 AM

I have had the same problem, namely pdf files will not display from IE9. However, if I save the file to disk, then go into Windows Explorer, right-click the file, and select "Properties", it tells me the file is blocked because it originated on a different computer. After clicking "unblock", I can then open it OK.
I have the same problem displaying images in html files which have been emailed to me (I run a couple of websites where certain pages can be updated by others and sent to me to upload). IE will not display the images when I run the file from my disk, but will from the server when I have uploaded it. To get it to display properly from my local disk, I again have to unblock the html file.

Joe Rahall
October 16, 2012 12:51 PM

I have the same problem. The file downloads but never quite finishes. It never reaches the final file size. My solution is use Chrome or Firefox and have no problem.

Kaye M
October 17, 2012 9:59 AM

That was my Ask Leo question. What happens is that a gold-colored bar appears at the bottom of the screen asking me whether I want to download or save, with the "save" option to save and open. If I choose download, the computer will attempt the download, but after a few seconds I will get an error window saying "Unable to download." My Downloads folder also lists the file as 'Unable to download.' But visiting the site in Chrome and downloading from there gives me no trouble. This should not be a matter of the file coming from another computer, since I am attempting to download the PDF from the site. And there is nothing to open, since the file did not download to my computer. I will try right-clicking on the link, though, and see if that gives me any workable choices.
Thanks for advice and comments!

Kaye M
October 19, 2012 9:47 AM

This thing I was trying to download showed up in 'properties' as a file starting with 'FANWEB" and a long string of alphanumerics. I managed to 'print' it with a PDF creator and saved it from there as a PDF on my own hard drive. But opening it in Chrome in the first place is easier.

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