Preview: The File Couldn’t Be Opened, Fix

Yesterday I had this problem while using my Mac. The Preview app stopped working suddenly. When I tried to open photos or PDF files, the file did not open and I was getting the same message saying “The file “macReports” couldn’t be opened.

File could not be opened

Preview on Mac is the default image and PDF viewer app that lets you view and edit various file types including; PDF, JPEG, PNG, PSD, and TIFF.

See also: PDF Won’t Open: “Please Wait…” Message, How To Open

If you’re having trouble opening some of your photos or PDF files using Preview, and this article may help you.

Preview not opening files

Please try the steps below and after each step test to see if your issue is fixed:

Before doing anything, make sure that your Mac is up to date. Here is how:

  • On your Mac, click Apple menu > System Preferences and then Software Update. If there is an update available, click the Update Now button and the new software will be installed on your Mac. If you prefer, you can check the “Automatically keep my Mac up to date” to have your Mac update automatically.

1. Quit the Preview app and then re-open it. Here is how:

  • Open the Preview app
  • Click Preview in the menu bar
  • Click Quit Preview

Quit Preview

Then now try to open a file that you could not previously open. If Preview does not quit, or if you could unable to quit the app, try force quitting the app. Note that doing so may cause you to lose unsaved changes if any. Here is how:

  • Click the Apple menu in the menu bar
  • Click Force Quit or you may press the Option, Command, and Esc (Escape) keys together
  • This will reveal the Force Quit window
  • Select Preview in the window
  • Click the Force Quit button.

Force quit

2. Restart your Mac. This fixed my problem. After restarting my Mac, I was able to open my files again using Preview. You can restart your Mac by going to Apple meu and Restart.

Restart your Mac

3. Restart your Mac in safe mode. Here is how:

  • Turn off your Mac
  • Turn on your Mac and immediately press and hold the Shift key.
  • Keep holding the Shift key until you see the login screen, then release the key
  • Log in (you may need to log in a few times)
  • Now your Mac is in safe mode. Try opening a file using Preview in safe mode, does it work?
  • Either case, exit safe mode by restarting your Mac normally (do not press and hold the Shift key)
  • And test again if the Preview app is working or not.

4. Open Disk Utility (Applications / Utilities) on your Mac. You can also use Spotlight to find and launch the app. Select your disk from the left menu and then click First Aid and then click Run. This will fix volume errors. Please note that this process may take more than one hour.

Disk Utility

5. You may be having this problem because your Preview preferences files might become corrupt. Here is what you can do:

  • Quit Preview if it is running
  • Go to Finder
  • From the menu bar, click Go and Go To Folder
  • Enter the following and hit enter
  • Now drag this file to Trash
  • Restart your Mac
  • And try opening your file.

Dr. Serhat Kurt worked as a Senior Technology Director. He holds a doctoral degree (or doctorate) from the University of Illinois at Urbana / Champaign and a master’s degree from Purdue University. Here is his LinkedIn profile.

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4 thoughts on “Preview: The File Couldn’t Be Opened, Fix”

  1. this was very helpful… i could not open any of my files… i opened Preview and then opened a file from within the app and everything seemed fine… i’ve never had this issue before and hopefully it doesn’t come back… now i can open all my files from the finder… 🙂

  2. I found this post via a search as I was having this same problem but it was only those files on my desktop. All file types, pdf, numbers, pages, png and jpg to name a few. Files in other folders were opening fine.

    I made it to Step 2 above (the restart) and it started working again.

    Thanks for the tip!

  3. I have a similar problem with Xcode. Xcode crashes the system several times every day. After some crashes Xcode refuses to open any Xcode project file in the file system or at icloud. There are several ways to fix this problem.The most consistent fix is to reboot the the system at least once more after the automatic reboot following the cash. Possibly the automatic restart may be causing the problem. So far, I had about 20 to 40 system crashes while using Xcode. Most caused Xcode to refuse to open project files. I have reported the bug to Apple about two weeks ago.


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