How to Enable and Disable the Chrome PDF Viewer

Open and view PDFs in Chrome—or not

An image graphic of a PDF file on a laptop screen.

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Google Chrome has a handy, built-in PDF file viewer that might be convenient if you want to view the PDF as quickly and as easily as possible, but if you almost always prefer to download copies of PDF files that you select, you can disable the Chrome PDF viewer to make those downloads happen automatically.

Chrome's PDF viewer setting is typically enabled by default so PDF files open automatically in a new tab within the Chrome browser.

Reasons to Enable the Chrome PDF Viewer

  • You want fast and instant access to PDF files.
  • You don't always necessarily want to download every PDF file that you click on to view.
  • You don't plan on editing any of the PDF files you open and only need access to the basic options (download, print, zoom in, zoom out, etc.)
  • You don't favor any other PDF programs over Chrome's PDF viewer.

Reasons to Disable the Chrome PDF Viewer

  • You want a saved copy of the PDF files you open in Chrome.
  • You often forget to download PDF files after opening it in Chrome, then find yourself having to relocate the PDF file link at a later time.
  • You want to eliminate the step of having to view the PDF file in Chrome first.
  • You want to automate the download process.
  • You prefer to use a different PDF program to view files and/or edit them.

How to Enable or Disable the Chrome PDF Viewer

You can enable or disable Chrome's PDF viewer setting any time you want, as often as you want. The following instructions can be followed for Chrome users on all major operating systems, including macOS, Microsoft Windows, and Linux.

  1. Open your Chrome web browser and select the three vertical dots in the top right corner.

    You can do this from an already open Chrome window. Don't worry, you won't lose the web page you're on—everything will open in a new tab.

  2. Select Settings from the drop-down list.

    A screenshot of the Google Chrome browser.
  3. Select Advanced from the vertical menu on the left.

  4. Select Privacy and security from the submenu that opens.

    A screenshot of Google Chrome browser.
  5. Select Site settings.

    A screenshot of the Google Chrome browser.
  6. Scroll down through the Permissions list of options and select PDF documents.

    A screenshot of the Google Chrome browser.
  7. Select Download PDF files instead of automatically opening it in Chrome to enable or disable it.

    A screenshot of the Google Chrome browser.

    If enabled, the toggle should appear blue and switched on to the right. If disabled, it should appear gray and switched off to the left.

  8. To test the setting change, select a PDF document file in Chrome. If you enabled the setting, you should see the file download to your computer. If you disabled the setting, the PDF should open in a new tab Chrome.

    It's not necessary to close and reopen your Chrome browser for the setting change to work, but if you experience problems, you might as well try restarting your browser. If you still experience problems, make sure you've updated to the latest version of Chrome.

  9. If you disabled the setting so you download the PDF file instead of opening it in Chrome, the file will open in your default PDF program.

If you'd like to change your default PDF program, check out the best free PDF readers for Windows and Mac.