Have you tried opening a PDF file on your iPhone or iPad without any success? We understand your frustrations. Especially if it’s an important document that you must respond to, or fill and send back.
We have compiled a comprehensive troubleshooting guide to use when you can’t open a PDF attachment on your iPhone or iPad.
It’ll help you avoid the inconvenience of not reading your PDF files because they can’t open.
How to open PDF files on iPhone and iPad
First, to open and read PDF files on an iPad or iPhone is as simple as clicking on the files. This is because the two devices have programs for processing PDF files.
Whether you’re opening the PDF through Mail, iBooks, or Safari (all of them are preinstalled apps).
In fact, iBooks has very dynamic controls for viewing PDFs and it acts as the default storage for PDF files.
That said, let’s check out why PDFs fail to open on iPhones and iPad.
Reasons PDF email attachment won’t open
There are several reasons your PDF files are not opening on your iPhone or iPad. They include:
- The PDF file is corrupted or it wasn’t downloaded properly.
- Your adobe reader (or any other pdf reader) is out of date.
- Your device’s iOS is outdated.
- System bugs and glitches.
- Installation of some third-party Apps
- You don’t have permission to view the file.
- Interference by Safari plug-ins or extensions.
- Interference by other PDF file readers.
How to fix iPhone or iPad not opening a PDF file
If you are having issues with opening PDF files on your iPhone or iPad, you may want to try out the following fixes:
1. Download the PDF file again
If your iPhone or iPad only has issues opening that specific PDF file, chances are that it’s corrupted, wasn’t downloaded properly, or you don’t have permission to view it.
The first thing to do is to download the file properly. Next, tell the person who sent the PDF file to resend it or grant you permission to open it.
2. Restart your device
A lot of system issues in iPhone and iPad are usually solved by restarting the device—including your iPhone or iPad not opening PDF files.
The basic shutdown procedure for all iDevice models is:
- Open “Settings”.
- Tap on “General”.
- Scroll down and tap on “Shutdown”.
- Wait for a few seconds then press and hold the power button until you see the Apple logo on the screen.
You can also use the following guides to reboot different iPhone models:
- iPhone X and later versions: Press and hold the volume up or down button and the side button at the same time until the power off slider appears. Slide the slider to the right then wait a few seconds for the iPhone to power off completely. Press the side button until you see the Apple logo.
- iPhone 8 and earlier models: press and hold the side or top button until you see the power off slider on the screen. Slide the slider to the right to shut down your iPhone. Wait for at least 30 seconds then press and hold the side or top button until the Apple logo appears.
- iPads with Face ID: Press and hold either of the volume buttons and the side button until the power off slider appears. Drag the slider to the right to shut down your iPad. Wait for a minimum of 30 seconds then press and hold the top button until you see the Apple logo.
- iPads with the home button: Press and hold the top button until you see the power off slider. Move the slider to shut down the iPad. Wait for about 30 seconds then press and hold the top button until you see the Apple logo.
The third option for rebooting your device is to force restart. This acts like a soft reset. Fortunately, it doesn’t remove anything. Here is how you should do it:
- iPhone 8 and later models and iPad models with face ID: Quickly press and release the volume up button followed by the volume down button. Next, press and hold the side button until you see the Apple logo.
- iPhone 7 models: Simultaneously press and hold the side and volume down buttons until the Apple logo appears.
- iPhone 6 and earlier models and iPad with home button: Press and hold the home and side buttons simultaneously until the Apple logo appears on the screen.
3. Update to the latest iOS software
A software glitch or bug could be another reason your iPhone or iPad is not opening PDF attachments. You can solve this by installing the latest software updates.
- Open “Settings” on your device.
- Tap on “General”.
- Tap on “Software Update”.
- If there are any updates, download and install then restart your device.
Try and view your PDF files to check if the problem is fixed.
If the problem started after an update, you can consider reverting to the previous iOS for your iPhone or iPad, until another update is released.
4. Uninstall problematic apps
The failure to open and read PDF files on your iPhone or iPad could be caused by certain third-party apps.
The common ones that were reported by other users include Alibaba, virtual speech, Aliexpress, and WinZip. In this case, you should remove the apps one by one while trying to open your PDF file after every uninstallation.
If you don’t have any of the apps we’ve mentioned, you should try to remove the latest apps you installed. Make sure you restart your device after removing the apps.
5. Sign out of iCloud then sign back in
Some users reported that signing out of their iCloud account then signing back in helped to solve the issue.
You should try it out. It’s simple and fast. Make sure you back up your files before signing out.
6. Clear your Safari history
When your PDF file can’t open in Safari for iPhone or iPad, clear your Safari history to see if it helps:
- Open “Settings”.
- Scroll down and tap on “Safari”.
- Select “Clear History”, “Clear Cookies”, and “Clear Cache”.
Additionally, if you have installed plug-ins and extensions, you can switch Off the former and Deny the latter, while trying to refresh the PDF file page.
Once you identify the extension or plugin that’s preventing your PDF file from opening you can remove it entirely.
7. Remove the email account or use the web version
If this problem is happening with your email attachments, you should log in to the web version of your email account and see if the PDF files will open.
Next, remove the email account from your device, restart the device then add the email account again.
To remove the account:
- Open “Settings”.
- Tap on “Passwords & Accounts”.
- Select the email you want to remove and tap on “Delete Account”.
To re-add the email account, follow the same procedure but when you get to “Passwords & Accounts” select “Add Account”.
Are you still unable to open the PDF file? Move to the next solution.
8. Troubleshoot iBooks
When using iBook and it fails to open your PDF files, you can solve the issue using the fixes below:
- Update your Books app in the App Store.
- Toggle books OFF then back ON in iCloud.
- Force quit the Books app and open it again.
- Uninstall then reinstall the Books app.
9. Use adobe reader and other PDF viewer apps
Since you can’t open PDF in Safari for iPhone or iPad, even after trying the troubleshooting solutions above, you should install Adobe Reader or any other third-party PDF reader app and use it to open your PDF files. You will find the apps in your App store.
After installation, follow the guide below:
- Launch the app.
- Go to the bottom menu bar and tap on “Files”.
- Find the file you want to open on your iPhone or iPad.
- Select the file and scroll through it as you read.
For this workaround, you’ll have to download the PDF files from your email, WhatsApp, or any other account to your local storage.
If you were already using the Adobe Reader app and now it can’t open any PDF files, try the following fixes:
- Force quit the Adobe Reader app for iPhone or iPad then reopen it.
- Install any available Adobe reader app updates from the App Store.
- Uninstall and reinstall Adobe Reader. Make sure you back your PDF files before removing the app.
- In all cases, restart your device before you open any PDF files.
To conclude, we hope one of these fixes works and you’re able to open and read your PDF files on your iPhone or iPad. Be sure to let us know how it goes in the comment section below.
Alex is an IT technician who shares his experiences with Apple devices occasionally. He has a collection of Apple devices (from iPhone 4) and has recently started trying out Android.
IG: @I M_Alex