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How to set Google Chrome as your default PDF viewer

Posted by Sumpm On July - 10 - 2011

Google Chrome PDF

Google Chrome browser is probably the best PDF viewer I’ve used.  If you have Adobe Reader installed–as most PC users do, since it’s often included with other software, or even installed by your PC manufacturer at the factory–there’s a good chance it’s left you open to serious security risks.  I won’t bother linking to all the security issues it has going for it because a) I don’t feel like wasting so much time, because b) your security is your job, not mine.  But I will suggest you do a Google search for Adobe Reader security issues and do some reading.

One alternative many people began using after the Reader security flaws were made very public, is Foxit Reader.  It’s a great PDF reader, but also has a few security concerns, often the same ones as Adobe Reader.

So, why not get rid of both of those, and just use Google Chrome browser instead?  Late in 2010, Google announced every future version of Chrome would have PDF viewing built in:

A few versions later, it’s working better than ever, and I’ve yet to find a PDF it doesn’t render perfectly.  There’s just one small issue that we have to look at when it comes to setting Chrome as your default viewer:  how the hell do you do it?  Unlike most programs, Chrome isn’t in the Program Files folder of Windows.  Instead, it’s hidden way down in the AppData folder, which is, by default, invisible.  So, what I’m here to do is show you how to find the Chrome.exe file, and then set it as your default PDF viewer.

Obviously, before you proceed, you need to install Google Chrome, so do it here:

Once you’ve install Chrome, proceed…

First, open up My Computer (or just ‘Computer‘ on later versions of Windows), and click on Local Disc (C:).  Next, click on Users, and then on your name (or whatever you’ve named your account).  Inside this folder is AppData, but you probably can’t see it.

In Windows 7, click on Organize at the top-left of the window.  Next, click on Folder and search options, which will cause another small window to open.  Click the View tab, and then click the small circle next to Show hidden files, folders and drives.  Click OK and a bunch of folders will now appear in the window that were never visible before.

Find the folder called AppData, and right-click on it, then select Properties.  On the General tab, near the bottom, you’ll see there’s a checkmark next to Hidden.  Uncheck it, and hit OK.  A smaller window will open that gives you the option to apply this unhide action to all subfolders and files.  Make sure you click the small circle next to it, then hit OK.  Now, go back to Organize > Folder and search options > View tab > and click the small circle next to Don’t show hidden files, folders or drives.  All the other hidden folders will disappear again, but the AppData folder will remain.

Now, you need to go find a PDF file saved on your computer.  When you find one, right-click on it, then hover over Open with, and click on Choose default program.  You’ll see a Browse button at the bottom of this window, so click it.  Now, it’s time to find the Chrome.exe file, so you can set it as the defaul.

Click on Local Disc (C:) > Users > your name > AppData > Local > Google > Chrome > Application > chrome

Click on chrome and hit OK.  That window will close, leaving you back at the Open with window.  Be sure to put a checkmark next to Always use the selected program to open this kind of file, and hit OK.  That PDF will now open inside of Chrome browser, and the icons for all other PDFs will change to reflect that Chrome is now their default program.  You’re done.



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