How to Open and Read PDF Files on Windows

PDF aka Portable document format is widely used for sharing documents containing rich media content such a forms, buttons, links, videos or images, embedded fonts etc. If you have a file with .pdf extension and wondering how to open PDF file or read PDF on Windows then here is a comprehensive guide and different methods to open a .pdf file.

This guide is applicable for Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Windows Vista and XP. However, some software may not support older version of Windows such as XP and Vista. In that case, please refer to our online tools section to open PDF files.

Desktop Tools To Open PDF Files

Several free software and tools available for Windows operating system which we call them as a PDF viewer or PDF opening tools. All you need to do is install one of the following software on your Windows and start reading PDF files.

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC

Free software available from the creator of the PDF file format, Adobe Acrobat Reader DC (Document Cloud) lets you to open, view or print .pdf files on Windows. You can also annotate or perform text search options. Adobe Acrobat Reader DC also comes in Pro and Standard subscription wherein you can pay and get many extra features that you may need while working with PDF files on windows. That includes editing/converting or comparing two PDF files.

The only downside of the Adobe Acrobat Reader DC is its huge size and only available to download via Online Downloader.

Download Adobe Acrobat Reader DC.

Foxit Reader

Second most popular third-party PDF software which comes with lot more features as compared to the free version of Adobe Acrobat Reader DC. Foxit Reader comes with several plug-in which lets you to instantly convert Microsoft Office documents into PDF format. Built-in spell checker, shell extension and browser plugin are worth more than that you can get from a free software.

Download Foxit Reader.

A portable version of Foxit Reader is also available for download in case if you want to carry it in your portable USB drive.

PDF-XChange Viewer

One more free but powerful PDF reader tool which claims to be smallest fastest and most feature rich PDF tool available on the internet, the best part, it also supports the Windows XP. However, PDF-XChange Viewer has been discontinued and replaced by PDF-XChange Editor, which is also a free tool to open & reader PDF documents on Windows.

You can still download PDF-XChange Viewer and get your job done. Or you can download PDF-XChange Editor, which doesn’t require any license purchase to use its maximum features.

Download PDF-XChange Viewer.

Download PDF-XChange Editor.

Sumatra PDF

A multipurpose tool which not only lets you read PDF files but also supports many other file types such as ePub and Mobi an eBook PDF file format. Sumatra is a user-friendly, small and portable tool and does its job that is to open PDF documents very well. Sumatra PDF is available in 32-bit as well as 64-bit.

Download Sumatra PDF.

Cool PDF Reader

This PDF reader claims to be world’s smallest PDF viewer/reader (only 3.2MB in size). The Cool PDF Reader supports viewing and converting PDF files into different file types such as text, jpg, png, gif. You can also extract text from the pdf files using this software.

Download Cool PDF Reader.

Browser To Read PDF Documents

If for some reason you are not comfortable with installing above free software to open and read  PDF documents or you are using some else’s computer and want to open PDF document quickly then you may find the following list more useful.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome comes with builtin lightweight PDF viewer which can open large PDF files fairly smoothly. Even though it lacks many important features such annotations and highlighting but when you want to quickly open and read PDF document, Google Chrome can be a life savior for you. All you need to do is drag and drop PDF file from your desktop to Chrome tab.

In case if you are looking for more features then do checkout following Google Chrome PDF extensions,


Just like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox also has built-in PDF viewer with basic functionality like view document thumbnails or outline, print, change the size of the document and full screen or presentation mode. Just like chrome, just drag and drop PDF file to Firefox to open it.

You can also install following Firefox Add-on, Open in PDF Viewer.

Online Tools To Read PDF Files

Over the years many online website offering PDF related different features have come up, below is the list of some online services that are worth noting down when you are in hurry and want to open and read PDF document.

PDFOnlineReader (Beta)

This is an online service which lets you to view and annotate PDF files in your web browser. Simply upload the document with a .pdf extension on this website and you can start viewing, highlighting and adding annotations.


Yet another handy online service which comes with the bunch of much-needed PDF files related features. Starting from viewing and reading PDF files to converting PDF into word, editing, compressing, merging, extracting pages, splitting PDF, password protecting and much more.

A free online tool that allows you to view not just PDF documents but also Doc, XLS, PPT files from your PC or using an URL. The main advantage of this online tool is, it doesn’t upload documents/files to their server rather it works locally so your documents are safe and not leaked anywhere.


You can create or open PDF document less than 10MB in size or 100 pages using this online tool. The simple to use interface the only downside is free version is loaded with ads. The PDFescape also offers a desktop tool with which you can edit text and graphics from your PDF files.

Don’t judge this website from its look, even though its poorly designed and has less than two buttons on its page, but still it offers that you are looking for, ability to upload and read pdf document. Once the document is uploaded you will receive a shareable link which you can use to read your document online.

A word of advice, do not upload your confidential documents or PDF files on any of this online service, as it can be abused when your upload them to open/read it.

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