Use this fix-it tool to preview PDF files on 64-bit Windows

I guess today’s my day to write about Adobe. Over at ZDNet, I’ve posted detailed instructions on how to completely remove and reinstall Adobe’s Flash Player to stop crashes and fix slow performance in IE8.

Here, I want to circle back to a topic I bring up every few months, and that’s Adobe’s broken PDF Preview add-in for Windows Explorer Outlook. If you run 64-bit Windows 7, Adobe’s default installer configures itself incorrectly, which means you get an error message if you try to preview a PDF file in the Preview pane of Windows Explorer or in the Reading pane in Outlook 2007 or 2010. On a 32-bit system, both types of preview work perfectly, but both are broken on 64-bit systems.

Back in September, I pointed to a page that Leo Davidson had put together documenting the cause of the problem and providing a fix for Explorer previews. This week Leo asked me to test a fix that someone had passed along to him. I tried it on 64-bit Outlook 2010 running Windows 7 x64 and it worked perfectly.

It is really baffling to me how Adobe has allowed this behavior to persist for so long. I first wrote about it in May 2008, for heaven’s sake. Do they just not know? Can anyone at Adobe please help me understand what the problem is here?

At any rate, it’s nice to finally  have a simple (and free) fix for this annoyance. I recommend you read Leo’s backgrounder first (Adobe PDF preview handler 64-bit fix), paying special attention to the section about the Automatic fix tool. If you’re comfortable with it, then run the x64 fixer utility and click the Apply Fix button. Boom! Done. You can rerun the utility anytime to confirm that the settings are still correct (you will probably need to run it again after each update of Reader or Acrobat). Here’s what the settings look like on my working system:


And if you’ve been interested enough to read this far, then be sure to read Leo’s rant. Money quote: "I wish I could bill Adobe for my time fixing their mess."

Oh, and the community here should take a bow too. Leo says he unearthed some useful information and incorporated feedback from the comments on my last post back in September into the latest release of the fix tool. If you have any comments or suggestions for Leo, leave them here. I know he’s reading.

Seriously, Adobe, what’s up?

11 thoughts on “Use this fix-it tool to preview PDF files on 64-bit Windows

  1. Works great and very simple. The Adobe Reader preview handler x64 fixer v1.1.exe is well made, thank you Leo and Ed for sharing this.

  2. “Oh, and the community here should take a bow too.”

    Yes, thank-you again to Ed and the people who provided info/feedback/suggestions/confirmations in the comments before.

    That info helped to create the one-click fix tool which made the fix accessible to many more people.

  3. Now only if someone would fix/create a Flash driver for 64-bit! (Or MS would release a 64-bit Silverlight, then we’d be away from Adobe even more!)

  4. I tried your fix and regarding the preview it worked; but on the case of thumbnails, pdf thumbnails show only black pictures.

  5. Mart: Try doing a Repair install of Adobe Reader if you didn’t try it already.

    (If you do, note that you’ll need to re-apply the preview handler fix. There should be an item for it in your start menu; no need to run my installer again.)

    If it still doesn’t work, can you tell me which screenmode your desktop is in? The colour depth might be important (e.g. 32-bit, 16-bit)

  6. Leo: I reinstalled Adobe Reader and re-applied the fix and it didn’t do anything. Also my color-depth is in 32-bit.

    It seems that given a set of pdfs in my folder, some would have their correct thumbnails and some would have black pictures.

  7. Mart sent me a PDF and I was able to reproduce the problem, or what I think was the same problem.

    There’s an updated version of the installer on my website. (Make sure it says with the “_002”, if not hit Ctrl-F5 to force a refresh.)

    As far as I can tell, this was/is a bug in the Windows shell. I added a comment about the bug here in case it trips up other people:

    Thanks for the help, Mart!

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