How to make Adobe Reader 7.0 load faster

Like most other techies, whenever I install Adobe’s Acrobat Reader I also uninstall most of the pointless plugins, to speed up its dog-slow startup process. If you want to learn more about speeding up Adobe Reader 6.0, just ask Tim or Chris or Greg or Omar or Kevin (“ adobe reader” is a wonderful search term!).

Now that the even-shinier Adobe Reader 7.0 is out (via Mike Gunderloy’s excellent Daily Grind), I thought I’d document my steps for optimizing this new version. So here’s what I just did on two of my machines:

  1. In Edit-Preferences, do the following:
    • General tab: turn off “Automatically save document changes”
    • Internet tab: turn off all three checkboxes
    • Page Display tab: turn on “CoolType”
    • Search tab: turn off “Enable fast find”
    • Startup tab: turn off “Show messages and automatically update”
  2. In View-Toolbars, turn off “Rotate view” and “Search the internet”. Under “Show button labels”, turn them all on so you can figure out what the heck those icons means.
  3. Fire up Windows Explorer and do the following:
    • Navigate to C:\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat 7.0\Reader\
    • Right-click to create a new subdirectory, and call it plugins_uninstalled
    • Move all the .api files from the plug_ins subdirectory to your new plugins_uninstalled subdirectory, except for AcroForm.api (for form-filling) and EScript.api (dependency of AcroForm.api).
  4. Finally, go to Start-Run-All Programs-Startup, and right-click and delete the “Adobe Reader Speed Launch” link that Adobe silently added to your startup process.

What, you wanted to actually know what all those plug-ins did so that you can make up your own mind? Move them back again, launch Acrobat Reader, and go to Help-About Adobe Plugins to learn what each plug-in does and what its dependencies are. Oh, and if you sped up Adobe 6.0 by removing some plugins, the update process will have left some subdirectories under C:\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat 6.0\, so if you’re tidy-minded you can delete those too.

Of course, if all this seems like too much hard work, you can just wait – I’m sure the good folks over at will update their “PDF SpeedUp” freeware utility to work with v7.0 before too long  (Update: Yep, they have - you can get it here)

Update: a couple of readers have suggested that most users will also want search functionality, in which case you can keep Search.api and Search5.api in your plug_ins directory.

Comments (44)
  1. Travis Owens says:

    How disgusting… so Acrobat 7 loads faster not because it’s more efficent or anything, but merely because it loads it’s 30+ meg bloated self into ram on bootup?

    Remind me to NEVER install Acrobat 7. I thought it was bad enough when Acrobat left itself memory resident after viewing a PDF frow within IE, but this takes the cake. There is much better use for this ram. Adobe is going to way of Real, now they just need to add in some annoyware that nags you that you are running the free version, oh and hide the free download on their website.

  2. Thank you Jonathan, you were been very useful for me!

  3. peterb says:

    I’m still using Acrobat Reader 4 (I had to stop myself from typing "Acrof**k", which is how I generally refer to it in conversation), because as near as I can tell the only advantage to higher numbered versions is that they get slower, so you get less work done, so you’re less likely to burn out.

  4. Anonymous says:

    » How To: Optimize Adobe Reader 7.0  InsideMicrosoft – part of the Blog News Channel

  5. Israel says:

    Great article, went from a forever load to an almost instantaneous one. The new splash screen in version 7 sucked compared to the version 6 one (not that it matters now that I turned it off).

    Thanks Jonathan!

  6. Ok, only tried on one machine, so take with a grain of salt, but…

    Remove, then re-reinstall Reader 7.0. Leave everything default. I noticed no difference in loading time even on a very large document. (Load up one of the Patterns and Practices from MS… 600-900 pages)

    Removing the plugins didn’t seem to make a difference in memory footprint on loading speedup.

    The only place I noticed I difference is if you choose *not* to let it load the PDF in the browser, but put it stand-alone. It’s actually slower if you don’t uncheck all three options <grin> and, if you do have it display in the browser, unless it’s hiding a process somehwere else, it only stays resident as long as the browser is open. When the browser is no longer displaying the page, it’s memory footprint drops significantly, and once the browser is shutdown, it closes down Acrobat’s process in about 3 minutes.

    So really, this is all unecessary, and doesn’t give Adobe credit for actually getting it right this time.

  7. Chris says:

    Nice guys at released a new version of PDF SpeedUp just yestoday. PDF SpeedUp v1.42

  8. Thanks for the pointer to the new PDF SpeedUp

    In my experience, removing the plugins definitely makes a difference in cold-cache startup time. Are you sure you’re not testing a "warm-cache" case. where the plugin DLLs are still hanging around in the NTFS file cache? Gotta make sure you reboot between tests to be sure 🙂

  9. Yep. Cold boot. Reader 7.0 took about 5 seconds to start viewing Actually, I’d just done a full Ghost restore so there was nothing in the cache.

    <shrug>With 6.0, Acrobat was a dog, PDF speedup was going to be necessary if we were going to continue to use PDFs for our clients. Now, the Acrobat Reader 7.0 defaults are fine by me and my boss. </shrug>

  10. dsawyer says:

    Reader Speed Launch is designed to speed up launch by causing virus detection software to precheck Acrobat. It does this by doing an open/close (no reads) of each Acrobat component in the background. Once it has completed all the Acrobat files it quits. If you have no virus checking software installed or virus detection software that remembers which files have been checked, this won’t speed up launch, but it also won’t do any harm.

  11. Julio Bosch says:

    Just followed your instructions. First results are unbelievably fast! Thanks.

  12. calculaDoru says:

    Hey ya, good work there, except you forgot to mention that, once you do all you kindly wrote, when you start Adobe it will go through another 20 seconds of ‘installing this and then something else’, and it manages to reinstall AcroForm, Annotations, ImageViewer, Multimedia, PictureTasks and VDKHome – which are all folders with some sort of rubbish in them or another.

    Sigh. Why are these people doing this to us?

  13. calcula – that’s because you moved *everything* out of the plugins directory, not just the .prc files 🙂 Looks like Adobe Reader wants those six subdirectories so much that if you delete or move them, it recreates them!

  14. calculaDoru says:

    ah yes, that sounds fair (well, in a matter of speaking…)

    however, the "Adobe Reader Speed Launch”too was back on my start-up menu this morning 🙁

  15. Hmmm – time to give PDF Speedup from a try?

  16. Link: Jonathan Hardwick : How to make Adobe Reader 7.0 load faster.

  17. Mick says:

    Dont know if this is still an "open" topic, but I have both Acrobat 7 (full) and the reader (also v. 7). The full version is slow to open files and when I go to change the default "opener" to the Reader (via Tools -> Folder Options -> File Types), it always reverts back to the "full" version to open files!

    How can I fix this???

  18. Aby Varghese says:

    You have recommended that "In Edit-Preferences, Internet tab: turn off all three checkboxes"

    I would suggest that you turn ON atleast the ‘Display PDF in Browser’ checkbox because some website try to display PDF and for better user experience it is always good that the PDF opens in the same window rather than in the Adobe Aapplication window sperately.

  19. GilbertZ says:

    In Firefox, this procedure may cause you to lose your ability to open PDFs and get an error message. To fix go to tools->options->downloads->Select "PDF" filetype"->click on "change action" and browse to the reader file called AcroRd32.exe

  20. TheCaptain says:

    that is awsome. thank you so much

  21. Martin Mack says:

    > In Firefox, this procedure may cause you to >lose your ability to open PDFs and get an error >message. To fix go to >tools->options->downloads->Select "PDF" >filetype"->click on "change action" and browse >to the reader file called AcroRd32.exe

    In Firefox, you may choose to add and extension that allows you to choose what to do with PDF files. linky below.

  22. Peter Whysall says:

    I followed your advice, with amazing results.

    And I’m on a Mac!


  23. Sancy says:

    Thank you very much, it’s going much faster.

  24. RDickson says:

    Used the tweaks on my PC (WinME-with 5.0) and MAC iBook (OS X -with 7.0) really is faster loading up. Thanks.

  25. Dr. N. Haraprasad says:

    Thank you very much Jonathan. It is really very miraculour for me. It just almost loads in a jiffy. Your protocol is very useful

    Thanks a lot

  26. mark says:

    Excellent! Slow startup and large footprint were the only reasons i didn’t want Acrobat 7. Thanks.

  27. BGilly says:

    I wonder if that guy up there works for adobe.  because nothing he is saying is holding true on my end.

    BTW I got a techra M-4 stripped down without all the BS.

    2G RAM

    3.~ GHZ

    blah blah blah…it’s not the machine.

  28. Rod says:

    Just wondering, if it’s such a pain, why are any of you using V7 anyway?

    Wouldn’t it be simpler to just stick with V4 or 5, and skip all the futzing? Unless of course, you enjoy futzing, which is fine if you’re in the mood.

  29. Tams says:

    In case you’re not into this much fuss and can tolerate a little worse rendering plus some glitches then you might want to take a look at Foxit Reader, a free PDF viewer. It works without an installer. Not too fascinating, but it can be a viable alternative if you’re in a hurry.

  30. Bocondo says:

    I hate Adobe for installing all those crap which I don’t want like yahoo toolbar, updater and this plugin crap. Thanks to you now it start lot faster then ealier.

  31. Ed Davis says:


    You can also diable the buttons in a javascript file.

    I named mine adobe_config.js and put the following code in it.

    //This hides the Yahoo toolbarbutton.






    //This hides the menu item View>Toolbars>Search the Internet




















    Oh ya, and you place the file in Program Files/Adobe/Acrobat 7.0/Reader/Javascripts.

    I haven’t found out how to disable the edit buttons yet, that was what I was looking for.

    Any comments or suggestions you can get a hold of me at



  32. Ping says:

    Documents look a little less nice now, but it’s definitely worth the faster startup.

  33. Kris says:

    According to Adobe:

    "Note: These files are only opened and closed; they are not executed in any way. The Speed Launcher process does not remain in your computer’s memory; it quits as soon as these files have been opened and closed. "

  34. sam chan says:

    Do you know how to disable the spell check button in the acrobat 7 plug-in ? thx.

  35. guy says:

    to the guy who said that the plugins actually made it faster…what are you high, do you have any idea computationally what happens when those modules are loaded?  maybe your running a dog ass machine, but i see significant speedup when getting rid of extra crap that i dont want moved into mem.

    dont try to be an adobe poster boy without knowing anything about what your talking about

  36. D.S says:

    I downloaded that program to optimise and it worked like a charm.

  37. Howard says:

    Easy as pie. Uninstall. Go to Reg edit and clean out the adobe reader stuff if you are feeling adventurous, otherwise leave it alone (poor software practice of uninstall to leave all this behind, but hey its ADopey). Install Foxit Reader from Add the java console and PDF writer beta. Total size under 4 mgs. And you get a free beta pdf writer. Goodbye adobe, you have opened 10 instances and crashed me for the last time.

  38. asmaa mostafa says:

    i need it to make my work very easy

  39. asmaa mostafa says:

    i need it in my work it will make it so easy i wish that dobe reader 7 will be better than reader6

  40. asmaa mostafa says:

    sunday August 24 2008 11:39 am

    i download that program to optimise and it worked like acharm .

  41. Jasir says:

    Foxit reader is the answer if you’re really looking to load PDF files faster

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