How to Fix a Red 'X' Picture on a PowerPoint Slide

What to do when a placeholder image appears on your slide

When you insert a picture onto a PowerPoint slide, that picture will always be a part of the presentation. The reason is that PowerPoint embeds pictures in slides so they are always there. The downside of embedding your pictures, particularly in a picture-heavy presentation, is that it results in a large file size. To keep the file to a manageable size and still use high-resolution pictures, link to the picture file instead. That method, however, can cause its own unique problem: a missing picture.

Instructions in this article apply to PowerPoint 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010, 2007; and PowerPoint for Office 365.

Where Did the Picture Go?

Only you or someone else who uses your computer can answer that question. That's because the linked picture was renamed, moved from its original location, or deleted from your computer.

When this happens, PowerPoint cannot find the picture and displays either a red 'X' or a picture placeholder (containing a small red 'X') in its place.

Find the Original File Name of the Missing Picture

With any luck, the picture file was simply moved to a new location on your computer. If you don't know what that file name is, however, you still have a problem. To solve this problem, determine the original file name and whether you still have that picture file. This is a multistep process, but the steps are quick and easy.

Start by renaming the PowerPoint presentation file:

  1. Open Windows File Explorer, right-click on the presentation file that contains a missing picture and select Rename.

  2. Delete the PowerPoint file extension, enter .zip at the end of the file name, and press Enter.

    Rename PPTX file to ZIP file
  3. A caution appears and warns you about changing the file name. Select Yes to apply the change.

Locate the Missing Picture File Name

After the PowerPoint presentation has been renamed with the ZIP extension, you'll see a new icon for that file that looks like a file folder with a zipper; this is the standard file icon for a zipped file.

  1. In Windows File Explorer, double-click on the zipped file icon to display the contents of the file.

  2. Open the ppt folder, open the slides folders, and open the _rels folder.

    Missing Picture File Name Location
  3. In the list of file names shown, look for the file that contains the slide with the missing picture. Double-click on the file name to open the file in a text editor.

Find the Missing Picture File Name in the Text File

In the text file, find the full file path and name of the missing picture file in your PowerPoint presentation. This file may be present somewhere else on your computer. Do a quick search to locate the new home of this picture file. Once you do, you have two options:

  • Move the picture file back to its original location.
  • Insert the picture onto the slide using the new location.

Rename the ZIP File

Now that the picture is back safe and sound, rename the ZIP file back to its original PowerPoint presentation file name.

  1. Remove the .zip from the end of the file name and enter .pptx.

  2. Press Enter.

  3. Select Yes when cautioned about changing the file name. The file icon reverts to its original PowerPoint icon.

If the Picture Is Really Gone

If the picture file was deleted from your computer, it will never appear in your presentation. Your options are to either find a copy of the picture and reinsert it, place that copy of the picture in the original file location, or choose a new picture and insert it instead.