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9 Effective Ways to Fix PDF Preview Pane Not Working in Windows 10/11 File Explorer

There are many cases where we have multiple PDFs in our file explorer, and we don't exactly remember their contents. Opening each one to check its contents is not efficient. The file explorer preview pane feature can be very useful in such situations.

However, sometimes you may come across an unexpected PDF preview pane not working error. This error can be quite frustrating especially if you are habitual to using this feature for added productivity.

Since PDF preview pane feature is very useful, we will share the 9 most effective ways to get it to work again with detailed guides.

Part 1. Why is My Preview Pane Not Working for PDF in Windows 10/11 File Explorer?

The preview pane is a built-in feature in the file explorer in Windows OS that helps preview the contents of a file without opening it. It works for all types of files, including media, PDFs, and other documents.

However, often this feature fails to perform normally. It could be because of the following issues.

  • There is a software bug or glitch
  • You may have recently changed some settings on your PC
  • Your default PDF software is outdated, or it does not support this feature
  • Your PDF file is corrupt, and it is causing issues with the preview pane

Also Read: 5 Preview Apps for Windows: Fast and Powerful

Part 2. 9 Fixes for Windows 10/11 File Explorer Preview Pane Not Working for PDF

Now that you are aware of the different causes of this problem. Let's explore some effective solutions that you can try:

Fix 1. Enable Windows File Explorer Preview Pane

If the preview pane is not working in your file explorer window for any file, then most probably it is not enabled. The simple solution to fix this issue is by enabling the preview pane.

Here is how you can do it.

Step 1: Open File Explorer by pressing "Win + E". Now click "View" > "Show" > "Preview Pane", and it will be enabled on your computer.

pdf preview pane not working enable preview pane

Note: The preview pane may be unavailable for narrow file explorer windows even when it is enabled.

Fix 2. Enable The Preview Handlers

The preview pane may fail to function even when it is enabled. It is because the preview handlers are disabled. Since these handlers are responsible for showing the preview pane, you can enable them by following the steps below:

Step 1: Open File Explorer and click the "Options" button (3-dots).

pdf preview pane not working enable preview handlers

Step 2: Click the "View" tab and checkmark the "Show Preview Handlers" option. Now, uncheck the "Always show icons" option, then click "Apply" > "OK". Finally, you may restart the file explorer.

pdf preview pane not working enable preview handlers

Fix 3. Enable Adjust for Best Appearance

Users who prioritize performance in their system settings may accidentally face this error with the preview pane. Tweaking performance options for the best appearance can resolve the problem, and here is how you can do it:

Step 1: Click "Windows" > "Settings" > "System" > "About" > "Advanced system settings" > "Advanced" > "Settings" to edit your performance priorities.

pdf preview pane not working enable adjust

Step 2: Click "Adjust for best appearance" to select it and click "Apply" > "OK" to confirm.

pdf preview pane not working enable adjust

Fix 4. Restart File Explorer

Sometimes, it could just be a software glitch or bug in the file explorer that is causing the preview pane to fail for your files. Luckily, you can restart your file explorer to get rid of that glitch/bug and resolve this problem with these steps:

Step 1: Open the Task Manager by right-clicking the Start icon and clicking "Task Manager" > "Processes". Now, right-click on the Windows Explorer process and click "Restart".

pdf preview pane not working restart file explorer

Fix 5. Restart Your Windows Computer

If a software bug is causing an issue with the preview pane feature in your Windows PC, then restarting File Explorer alone may not help. In this case, you can restart the computer to clear the RAM and possibly remove any glitches with these steps:

Steps: Click "Start Icon" > "Power" > "Restart" and wait as your PC restarts. You must save any unsaved work before following this step since you may lose progress without saving.

pdf preview pane not working restart windows computer

Fix 6. Repair Corrupt PDF

If the preview pane is not working for your PDF document, then you can repair the PDF if it is a corrupted file.

It is because the preview pane may not work for corrupted documents. However, before you begin with this process, check if the PDF is corrupted or not by opening it in another PDF reader like UPDF.

If your PDF does not open, then it is corrupted, and you will need an online PDF repair tool to repair it.

Here is how you can repair your PDF documents online for free with iLovePDF.

Step 1: Open your internet browser and head to the iLovePDF PDF repairing website. Click "Select PDF File" to upload your corrupted PDF file.

pdf preview pane not working repair corrupt pdf

Step 2: Once your PDF is uploaded, you may click "Repair PDF" > "Download File". Now, your corrupted PDF will be repaired, and File Explorer will start showing a preview pane for this file.

pdf preview pane not working repair corrupt pdf

If the online PDF repair option fails, then you may ask the sender to send the file again or download it again. Otherwise, you may try to convert the file to another format for opening it.

You can use the UPDF Batch Convert feature, which allows converting PDF files to another format without opening them. Download UPDF software on your computer to use the batch convert feature with the steps below:

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Step 1: Launch the UPDF app with its desktop icon, then click "Batch" > "Convert" to access the UPDF Batch Convert feature.

pdf preview pane not working batch convert

Step 2: Click "Add Files" to add your PDF file. Now, you can set the output format of your choice using the dropdown on the top right and customize other layout settings. Click "Apply" and follow the on-screen steps to save the converted file.

pdf preview pane not working add file

After you convert it to another format, you can see the file in Windows File Explorer Preview Pane.

Except batch conversion, UPDF brings several other features with unique benefits, including:

  • UPDF AI assists you with its ChatGPT-powered capabilities to translate, explain, summarize, rewrite, and review PDF content.
  • UPDF Cloud syncs your work across your devices and provides dedicated cloud storage for your PDF files.
  • PDF OCR converts scanned PDFs and images to editable PDF documents with high accuracy.
  • Edit PDF offers in-depth image, text, and link editing capabilities.
  • Annotate PDF feature offers pencil, highlighter, stickers, text comments, and many other note-taking options.

Learn more about the AI and other PDF features offered by UPDF by reading this How-To Geek review article. You may watch the below UPDF video tutorial to learn about using its different features and download UPDF at the same time to test all its features on your device.

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Fix 7. Change the Default Open Software to UPDF

You might be facing the preview pane error if your default PDF software is not compatible with this feature. Changing the default PDF opening software to UPDF may resolve the issue with the following steps:

Step 1: Locate the file in File Explorer and right-click on it. Now, navigate the cursor to "Open With" and click "Choose another app."

pdf preview pane not working change default open software

Step 2: In the popup window, you must checkmark the "Always use this app to open PDF files" and select "UPDF", then click OK.

pdf preview pane not working change default open software

Fix 8. Compress the Large PDF into Smaller Size

If your PDF files are too large because of multiple images in them, then their large size may make File Explorer unable to preview their contents. If that's the case, you will need to compress that PDF to reduce its size using UPDF.

Step 1: Run UPDF software and click "File" > "Open" to open that PDF file. Click "Save as other" followed by "Reduce file size".

pdf preview pane not working reduce file size

Step 2: Select your desired document quality and click "Save As". Now, follow the on-screen steps to save the compressed file on your computer.

pdf preview pane not working compress pdf

Fix 9. Use Another PDF Preview Tool

Do you only want to use the Windows Preview Pane from File Explorer, and you are unable to solve the problem with the solutions discussed above?

If yes, then your only solution will be to use another PDF preview tool. PDF Preview for Windows 10 is our tool of choice since it is free and provides a reliable previewing experience.

Steps: Go to the Win10PDF website and click the "Download" button to download its preview tool. Once the setup downloads, you only have to follow the on-screen installation steps.

After its installation is complete, you may start seeing thumbnail previews for your PDF documents in File Explorer.

pdf preview pane not working use another preview tool

Final Words

When the preview pane in File Explorer stops working, it may cause productivity issues for you. Luckily, you can restore its functionality by trying one of our solutions discussed above. Remember that sometimes it is an issue with the software or file, while sometimes a change in settings causes the issue.

The solutions we discussed here cover every possible reason for this error. Hence, you can quickly fix the problem and get your preview pane working again. Since some solutions involve using UPDF, you must download it on your devices beforehand.

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