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

Most of the time, when you insert a picture onto a PowerPoint slide, you have no problems in the future with that presentation forever showing that picture. The reason is that you have embedded the picture into the slide, so it will always be there.

The downside of embedding your pictures — particularly in a picture-heavy presentation — is that this can result in a large file size. To keep the file to a manageable size and still use a high resolution for your pictures, you can link to the picture file instead. That method, however, can cause its own unique problem: a missing picture.

01
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Where Did the Picture Go?

Picture is missing on shape on PowerPoint slide
Picture is missing on shape on PowerPoint slide. © Wendy Russell

Interestingly enough, only you or someone else who uses your computer can answer that question. That's because the picture that had been linked to has been renamed, moved from its original location, or deleted altogether from your computer. Therefore, PowerPoint cannot find the picture and instead displays either a red "X" or a picture placeholder (containing a small red "X") in its place.

 

02
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Finding the Original File Name of the Missing PowerPoint Picture

Rename the PowerPoint file adding .zip to end of file name
Rename the PowerPoint file adding .zip to end of file name. © Wendy Russell

With any luck, the picture file was simply moved at some point to a new location on your computer. If you don't know what that file name is, however, you still have a problem. One way is available to find out the original file name and whether you still have that picture file. This is a multistep process, but the steps are quick and easy. You'll start by renaming the PowerPoint file. Then:

  1. Navigate to the folder containing the PowerPoint presentation file.
  2. Right-click on the file name icon and select Rename from the shortcut menu that appears.
  3. The file name will be selected; type .zip (or .ZIP) onto the end of the file name. (Letter case is not an issue.)
  4. Click off the newly named file, or press the Enter key to complete the renaming process.
  5. Immediately, a cautionary dialog box will appear to warn you about changing the file name. Click Yes to apply this change.
03
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Locate the Missing Picture File Name in Your PowerPoint Presentation

Open the ZIP file to locate text file containing info about missing PowerPoint picture
Open the ZIP file to locate text file containing info about missing PowerPoint picture. © Wendy Russell

Once you have renamed the PowerPoint presentation, you will 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. Doubleclick on the zipped file icon to open the file. (In this example, the PowerPoint file name is text fills.pptx.zip. Yours will be something different.)
  2. Open ppt slides > rels.
  3. In the list of file names shown, look for the name that contains the specific slide that is missing the picture. Double-click on the file name to open the file. In the image shown here, Slide 2 is missing the picture, so you'd open the file named slide2.xml.rels. This will open the file in your computer's default text-editor program.
04
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Find the Missing PowerPoint Picture File Name in the Text File

Find file path to original picture on the PowerPoint slide3
Find file path to original picture on the PowerPoint slide3. © Wendy Russell

In the newly opened text file, you can see the full file path and name of the missing picture file that should be appearing in your PowerPoint presentation. This file might still present somewhere else on your computer. By doing a quick search, you will locate the new home of this picture file. Once you do, you have two options.

  1. Move the picture file back to its original location, or
  2. Insert the picture once again onto the slide, using the new location of this file.
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Rename the .ZIP File

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

  1. Remove the .ZIP from the end of the file name.
  2. Once again, click Yes when cautioned about changing the file name. The file icon will revert back to its original PowerPoint icon.
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If the Picture Is Really Gone...

If the picture file actually has been deleted from your computer, it will never appear in your presentation. Your options are:

  • Find a copy of the picture and reinsert it, or place that copy of the picture in the original file location; or
  • Choose a new picture and insert it instead.