Preview Pane Not Showing PDF | Here’s How to Fix It

Windows’ user-friendly and attractive interface has made it the prime choice of customers for a very long time now. Other than that, Windows has many handy features that make your working over the system faster. But on the contrary, Windows also has certain issues that create a bad user experience. One such issue is Preview Pane not showing PDF.

Preview Pane Not Showing PDF

But worry not because we are here to discuss this issue and how you can solve it to get back to work hassle-free.

Preview Pane Not Showing PDF | Fixed

When you open the preview pane in file explorer, you can preview any document or image without opening it. But recently, many users have faced problems previewing PDFs while all other documents open smoothly in the preview pane. Many users also don’t have an idea how to access the preview pane on their system.

How to open the Preview Pane?

A preview pane is an option in your file explorer that lets you see any document on the screen without opening it. It is helpful as users can quickly jump on to the next document without wasting time opening and closing them. But the preview pane is not open in the file explorer by default. You have to enable it to show up on the screen manually.

Follow the steps below to open the preview pane

  • Open file explorer on your system.
  • Click on the “View” option, and a drop-down menu will open

Step 2

  • Choose the “show” option displayed at the end of the list; another drop-down menu opens
  • From the next drop-down menu, click on the “Preview Pane” option; click on the checkmark beside it

Step 4

  • Your preview pane is now open. It must be showing beside your documents in the file explorer

Step 5

This is how you can easily open the preview pane on your system. To close, once again, follow the above steps and uncheck the preview pane option.

Let us now know about the solutions you can adopt to fix the preview pane not showing PDFs problem on your system.

Fix 1: Using Adobe Acrobat Reader

Your system, by default, does not allow PDFs to be previewed. But you can do so by using third-party softwares like Adobe Acrobat Reader. When using a windows system, the default settings to open a PDF file are either by the chrome browser or through Microsoft edge.

We will have to change the default PDF opening option to Adobe Acrobat Reader to fix the issue. After this, we will make some customizations in Adobe Acrobat Reader to show the PDF previews in the preview pane.
Follow the steps below to install Adobe Acrobat Reader on your system.

  • Open the official website of Adobe Acrobat Reader on your browser
  • Click on the “Download Reader” option displayed on the screen
  • On the next screen, click on the “Download Acrobat Reader” option.
  • A .exe file will be downloaded to your system; double-click on it to install Adobe Acrobat Reader and allow any permissions asked by the system

After this, Adobe Acrobat Reader will be successfully installed on your system. It might take a few minutes to install the software.

After successfully installing Adobe Acrobat Reader, we will have to set it as our system’s default PDF reading software. Follow the steps below to do so:

  • Open the settings panel on your system.
  • Go to App>Default Apps inside the settings panel.
  • In the search bar displayed above, search for “.pdf.” The default app used to open PDFs on your system will be displayed here.
  • Now scroll down through the list of apps and open your default PDF reader. 
  • After this, look for the “.pdf” option inside the app (usually Microsoft edge or google chrome browser) and click on it.
  • Now change your PDF opening software to Adobe Acrobat Reader.

That’s it. Your default PDF opening software is now changed.

Now, we will have to make certain customizations in the Adobe Acrobat Reader settings to start seeing the preview of PDFs in the preview pane. Follow the steps below to do so:

  • Open the Adobe Acrobat Reader on your system
  • Choose the “Edit” option

Step 2

  • Now click on the “Preferences” option from the menu; a dialogue box will open
  • Go to the “General” panel inside the dialogue box

Step 4

  • Check on the “Enable PDF thumbnail preview in Windows Explorer” option in the general panel

Step 5

  • Click on OK to commit the changes

Now, reopen your file explorer, and in the preview pane, you can see PDF previews easily with the help of Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Fix 2: Using External .reg Files

Another way to see the preview of PDFs in the preview pane is by making changes to the default settings of your system with the help of an external file. Specific .reg files can be downloaded and given access to change system settings, after which you can preview PDFs in the preview pane.

Follow the steps below to see PDF previews using external files.

  • Visit the Windows 10 Free apps website and scroll down to download the ZIP folder of .reg files
  • Extract the ZIP folder to see a number of files with the .reg extension
  • Right-click on any file and choose the “Merge” option

Step 3

  •  Reopen your file explorer now, and you will be able to see the preview of PDFs in the preview pane

This is a much simpler way than using Adobe Acrobat Reader. Although, you must try this method at your own risk, as merging the external .reg files will grant them access to your system settings. This can be a pretty risky process, and you must try this method only if too necessary.

Why Are PDFs Not Previewed By Default? | Preview Pane Not Showing PDF

It is obvious to wonder why one has to go through a lot of pain to preview a PDF in the preview pane. Why can’t previews be available by default within a system? The reason behind it is that PDFs are files that are not meant to be changed. So, developers don’t grant the system permission to preview PDFs and make changes to them.

A third-party app like Adobe Acrobat Reader tends to manipulate the system settings, and thus it helps to preview the PDFs in the preview pane. On the other hand, the .reg files also make changes to the core settings of the system to preview the PDFs.

So, companies don’t allow PDFs to be previewed by default in the preview pane to create a safe environment for its users.

FAQs | Preview Pane Not Showing PDF

Why can’t I see the preview pane?

By default, the preview panes are not opened on the system. You will have to manually open it by using the View panel in the file explorer.

Why can’t I preview any file in the preview pane?

You cannot preview files without an extension. Make sure that the file you are trying to open has a suitable suffix attached to them to preview them successfully.


These were all the genuine methods to preview PDFs in the preview pane. While using Adobe Acrobat Reader is a safer option to adopt, you must use the external .reg files only when necessary, as it might be an unsafe process. Apart from these two methods, there is no other way to show PDFs in the preview pane.

If you cannot preview PDFs even after trying the above methods, check that a proper extension of .pdf is attached to your files. Try restarting your system and then you should be able to preview PDFs in the preview pane of file explorer.

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About the Author: Miles Greyson

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