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Trouble Opening Files from E-Mail or Disc/CD? Tips to Open .pdf, .xls, .doc Files

Updated on September 29, 2010

It can be incredibly frustrating when you're trying to open a file at work from a client or trying to view your grandchild's pictures. Sometimes, the files just won't open!

This article will discuss several ideas, tips & tricks that you can use to open up those stubborn files.

A Windows file extension list.
A Windows file extension list.

Most Common File Extensions

Some of the most common file extensions that you will run into problems with are listed below. Understanding what programs these files belong to are the first step to diagnosing your problem (maybe you don't have the appropriate document viewer or program). Don't worry, most document viewer programs are free. For example, if you are trying to open up a .pdf file, all you have to do is download the free document viewer from Install & view your document, simply as that!

Trouble Opening Microsoft Office Files

Ever since Windows Vista came out, the new Microsoft Office suite saves typical office documents such as excel files & word files differently. This can cause a wrench in some folks document viewing and editing!

Instead of using the typically .doc (Office Word) & .xls (Office Excel), these files are now saved as .docx and .xlsx. Opening these 'X' files can sometimes be difficult when it comes to compatibility. 

Quick & Simple Fix

One very simple trick that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't work is to simply change the file extension on a .docx file to .doc. I can't tell you why it sometimes works and sometimes doesn't, but it certainly is the easiest fix and you should try it first.

Download a Document Viewer Direct from Microsoft

This software will only allow you to view .xls and .xlsx files, you will not be able to edit them. In order to do so, you will have to purchase the latest edition Microsoft Office or consider using a free office suite software called 'OpenOffice'.

Excel Viewer 2007 

If you cannot download the software and change the extension, your last option is to simply contact the source that sent you the files and ask them to use the "Save As" feature in their version of Microsoft Office to save it in an earlier version format that will be compatible for you.

Look at all those file extensions!
Look at all those file extensions!

Have you ever had trouble converting files?

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Handy Dandy PDF File Converters & Editors

Trouble Opening Files from Disc

Opening files from CD or DVD discs can sometimes present a problem. Chances are, the disc itself wasn't burned correctly and the files are not accesible. Sometimes, certain computers can open burned CDs and some cannot. It all depends on your CD or DVD drive. So, before you contact the person who gave who the disc try the following solutions:

  • Instead of directly clicking on files in the disc's folder, drag those files to your computer's desktop. Then try opening them straight from your hard drive (this usually works!)
  • Clean the CD-Rom or DVD-Rom - Something as simple as a tiny scratch or greasy finger print can greatly affect the ability for your disc drive to read the disc correctly.
  • Try it on a different computer. Most households have two computers. Or, you could try it and a friends house.
  • If you burned the CD yourself - try burning it again and make sure that no programs are running while you are attempting to burn the image. Running multiple programs can sometimes ruin the quality of data that is burned to a CD or DVD.

Trouble Opening Files from E-Mail

Trying to download files from your e-mail can sometimes be very frustrating. Since there are many e-mail programs out there, here are a few generic suggestions that will help you open up e-mail in a variety of programs.

  • The file may be infected and your e-mail program is trying to protect you. Do you see a message anywhere stating the file isn't safe? (sometimes this message is hard to find or it could've tried to pop-up in a new window).
  • The 'Save/Open' dialog box might pop-up in a new window...make sure your pop-up blocking software isn't preventing this from happening.
  • You can't open your file if you don't know where you saved it to! Make sure that you use the 'Save As' feature when downloading the file instead of 'Run Now'. Save the file to your desktop so you can easily locate the file later. Otherwise, it might get saved in a temporary folder and you might waste a lot of time trying to find it.
  • Do you have the appropriate software to view the file? Many times, folks get confused as to why a .pdf file won't open and it's because they don't have the free pdf reader software installed on their computer. 


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    • R Burow profile image

      R Burow 8 years ago from Florida, United States

      I find it at times challenging, and often it is 'Greek to me'. Thanks for the help.

    • Candie V profile image

      Candie V 8 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

      I had to vote no because I don't do much techy stuff, maybe I'll learn then I'll see what's up! Thank you for being much more up on this than me and I shall bookmark it for later!