PDF files are used for a wide range of documents including manuals, brochures, pamphlets and so on. A PDF viewer is an essential utility and the obvious one is Adobe Reader. It works well, but it does have drawbacks, one of which is using a considerable 260MB of disk space.

See also: How to edit PDFs for free

If you've upgraded to a solid-state drive for its performance benefits, you might be struggling for disk space because they have smaller capacities than traditional hard drives. In addition to this, Adobe Reader adds startup items that load automatically with Windows. This sincreases the startup time and reduces free memory, which should be avoided if the PC doesn’t have a lot of RAM installed. Both low-spec PCs with limited memory and high-spec PCs with SSDs will benefit from an alternative lightweight PDF viewer, so here are a couple of possibilities.

How to install and configure alternative PDF viewers

Step 1

If Adobe Acrobat is installed on your computer, it won’t be needed by the time this tutorial is finished. Go to Programs and Features in the Control Panel, uninstall it and restart Windows. It will free up over 260MB of space on the disk drive.

How to view pdfs step 1

Step 2

Start a web browser and go to portableapps.com. Click Get Apps, select the Office section, and click Foxit Reader Portable. This is a special version of Foxit Reader (foxitsoftware.com) that doesn’t need installing. Download the file and run it.

How to view pdfs step 2

Step 3

When the file is run, it looks like it is installing, but really it is just a self-extracting archive and it needs to know where to extract the files to. This must be a writeable location, so don’t put it in C:\Program Files. It‘s OK stored in Downloads.

How to view pdfs step 3

Step 4

Open an Explorer window and double click a PDF file. Choose Select a program from a list of installed programs. Alternatively, right click a PDF and select Open With, Choose default program. Windows 8 users should use this method.

How to view pdfs step 4

Step 5

A list of programs is displayed which may or may not be suitable for opening the pdf. These aren’t what we want and Foxit Reader isn’t displayed on the list because it isn’t installed, just extracted from an archive. Click the Browse button.

How to view pdfs step 5

Step 6

An Open with… window appears and you must go to the folder where Foxit Reader was extracted to in step 3. Select FoxitReaderPortable.exe and click the Open button. This is the program that will be used to open the PDF file that was selected.

How to view pdfs step 6

Step 7

After choosing the portable edition of Foxit Reader, it now appears in the programs list. Select it and tick the box at the bottom, Always use the selected program to open this kind of file. This saves the setting. Click OK to continue.

How to view pdfs step 7

Step 8

Foxit Reader portable runs and automatically opens the PDF file. This is an excellent PDF viewer with a good range of features. It is only 93MB, which is a saving of 167MB over Adobe Reader. All PDFs now open in it when they are double clicked.

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Step 9

We can go even further and if you have Google Chrome installed then you don’t even need Foxit Reader, saving another 93MB. Right click the Google Chrome shortcut on the desktop and select Properties. Note where it is stored on disk.

How to view pdfs step 9

Step 10

Right click a PDF file and select Open with, Choose default program. Repeat steps 5 to 7, but select Google Chrome, the location of which was revealed in step 9. (Windows 8 users click More options and click, Look for another app on this PC.)

How to view pdfs step 10

Step 11

After setting Chrome as the default PDF handler, all PDFs open in the browser. A mini toolbar appears in the bottom right corner with useful functions on. With Chrome on your PC, no PDF reader needs to be installed, saving 260MB compared to Adobe Reader.

How to view pdfs step 11