Every major web browser—be it Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or Safari—features a built-in PDF viewer that automatically opens PDF documents you come across. While that’s a quick and seamless way to start reading them, you probably miss the advanced features in your preferred PDF reader or editor. Hence, you may prefer directly downloading PDFs instead.

The instructions below will show what you must do to disable the default built-in PDF viewer in Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. That forces your browser to download PDFs to local storage. Unfortunately, you can’t do the same in Safari, but a useful workaround exists that lets you download PDFs without opening them.

Table of Contents

    Disable the Built-In PDF Viewer in Chrome

    In Google Chrome, you have the option of downloading PDFs instead of opening them. That also deactivates the browser’s built-in PDF viewer.

    1. Open the Chrome menu (select icon with three dots at the top-right of the window) and choose Settings.

    2. Select Privacy and security on the sidebar.

    3. Select Site Settings.

    4. Scroll down and select Additional content settings.

    5. Select PDF documents.

    6. Select the radio button next to Download PDFs.

    That should disable the PDF viewer in Chrome. If you want to re-enable it later, repeat the steps above but select Open PDFs in Chrome in step 6.

    Disable the Built-in PDF Viewer in Firefox

    Mozilla Firefox not only lets you disable its built-in PDF viewer but also allows you to pick between downloading documents or having them open automatically in your computer’s default PDF viewer.

    1. Open the Firefox menu (select the icon with three-stacked lines at the top-right of the screen) and choose Settings.

    2. Under the General tab, scroll down to Files and Applications > Applications.

    3. Select Portable Document Format (PDF) and set the Action to Save File or Use macOS/Windows default application.

    You’ve disabled the PDF viewer in Firefox, and any PDF documents will download or launch in your PC or Mac’s default PDF viewer (depending on the setting you selected).

    If you want to re-enable the PDF viewer in Firefox, repeat the steps above but select Open in Firefox in step 3.

    Disable the Built-in PDF Viewer in Edge

    Just like with Chrome, you can configure Microsoft Edge to download PDFs to local storage. All that takes is a brief visit to the browser’s settings page.

    1. Open the Edge menu (select icon with three dots at the top-right of the screen) and choose Settings.

    2. Select Cookies and Site Permissions on the sidebar.

    3. Scroll down the screen and select PDF documents.

    4. Turn on the switch next to Always download PDFs.

    You’ve disabled the default PDF viewer in Edge. If you want to re-enable it later, repeat the steps above but turn off the switch next to Always download PDFs in step 4.

    Bypass the PDF Viewer and Force-Download PDFs in Safari

    Unlike other browsers, you don’t have an option to disable the PDF viewer on the Mac’s native Safari browser. But you can choose to download a PDF without opening it. 

    To do that, just hold down the Option key while selecting a link that points to a PDF file. Try practicing it here.

    However, if your Mac runs an old version of macOS (such as macOS 10.13 High Sierra or earlier), running the following command in Terminal will disable the built-in PDF viewer in Safari:

    defaults write com.apple.Safari WebKitOmitPDFSupport -bool YES

    Note: If you want to re-activate the PDF viewer later, rerun the same command, replacing YES with NO.

    Change the Default Download Location in Your Web Browser

    By default, every web browser saves PDFs (and other downloads) into the Downloads folder on your PC or Mac. Here’s a quick run-through to changing the download location in Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari. For more information, check out our guide to changing the download location in any browser.

    Google Chrome

    Revisit Chrome’s Settings page and select Advanced > Downloads on the sidebar. Then, use the Change button next to Location to specify a different directory. 

    Mozilla Firefox

    Open Firefox’s Settings page and scroll down to the Files and Applications section. Under Downloads, select the Choose button to pick a different download directory.

    Microsoft Edge

    Re-open the Settings page in Edge and select Downloads on the sidebar. Then, select Change next to Location to switch download directories.

    Apple Safari

    Select Safari > Preferences on the menu bar. Then, under the General tab, open the pull-down menu next to File download location and select Other to change the download directory.

    Change the Default PDF Viewer in Windows and macOS

    After downloading a PDF to your PC, double-clicking it will open the file in the default  PDF viewer on your computer (Microsoft Edge in Windows and Preview in macOS).

    If you prefer having a different program open your PDFs always, you must change the default PDF viewer.

    Windows

    1. Right-click any PDF file and select Open with > Choose another app

    2. Select the PDF viewer or editor from the list of programs.

    3. Check the box next to Always use this app to open .pdf files and select OK.

    macOS

    1. Control-click or right-click any PDF file and select Get Info.

    2. Open the pull-down menu under Open with and select your preferred PDF viewer or editor. 

    3. Select Change All.

    Note: If you can’t make any changes, try clicking the Lock icon at the lower-left corner of the Info window.

    Direct Downloads Help Save Time

    You can always download PDFs after opening them in your browser’s built-in PDF viewer, but automating the procedure saves lots of clicks in the long run. Don’t forget to try these top PDF utilities to view and edit your downloads.