Modern viruses can infect all sorts of files and use them to propagate, infecting the entire system and spreading across the network. Can you get a virus from a PDF? Yes, Viruses in PDFs are the most common ones. And since they are popular, hackers use them to infect users' devices intentionally.

As a countermeasure, you can learn how viruses infect PDFs and how to scan PDFs for viruses. Fortunately, all the relevant information you need to protect your devices and data is only a few scrolls down.

In this article
    1. 👀Learn to Recognize Phishing Attacks
    2. 📃Get a Reliable PDF Reader
    3. 💻Regularly Scan Your Computer

How PDFs Get Infected With a Virus

How does a virus end up in a PDF file? A PDF is a file format, and as such, it contains specific elements. Hackers can exploit these elements to inject viruses or harmful Image names that lead to sites filled with cryptojackers (viruses that use your hardware to mine cryptocurrency for hackers).

The easiest way for hackers to get scams going is to publish PDFs containing deceptive Image names. Besides infecting your PC with viruses, the sites these Image names lead to can also download malicious software.

There can also be a virus in the PDF file. These viruses are carefully coded to exploit known vulnerabilities in systems and infect all available devices on the same network. They can be coded in JavaScript, which executes once you open a PDF file. Harmful scripts can do local damage or initiate a malicious software download in the background without you even noticing it.

malicious pdf file

How to Check if a PDF Has a Virus

If you download a PDF file from a suspicious website or get one as an attachment via email, scanning it before opening is best.

You never know. There can be a virus in that PDF; scanning it before opening it is paramount. So, how do you check if a PDF has a virus?

Email service providers usually scan PDFs in emails for viruses. You can do the same after downloading them, just to be sure.

The best protection against viruses is antivirus software. Therefore, use one and enable real-time scans. Fortunately, Windows operating systems have Microsoft Defender, an excellent virus protection software solution. Here are the steps to complete to check if a PDF has a virus:

  1. Navigate to your download folder.
  2. Find the downloaded PDF file.
  3. Right-click the file and click Scan with Microsoft Defender.
    checking if a pdf has a virus
  4. Read the report.

    The report will read “No current threats” if there is no virus in the PDF. If there is a virus, Microsoft Defender will offer you an option to clean the virus or quarantine the file.

    reading the virus scan report on pdf

How to Protect Yourself From Malicious PDF Files

Can opening a PDF be dangerous? While you can do nothing to purge all malicious PDF files online, you still have the power to protect yourself and keep malicious PDFs at bay.

Below are the three best practices regarding protecting yourself from malicious PDF files.

👀Learn to Recognize Phishing Attacks

Email is the most prevalent phishing attack vector. In other words, hackers will try to infect your system by emailing a virus-infected PDF. The ultimate goal is not to open these emails. Downloading and opening attached PDF files is out of the question.

These emails often appear to be from a trustworthy brand or organization. For instance, it can be an email from a bank with a new package PDF brochure as an attachment. Phishing attacks often come with free and attractive perks. It's best to call the sender to check if they sent the email to ensure you download a safe file.

📃Get a Reliable PDF Reader

It may be surprising, but your PDF reader can protect your PDF files against viruses. Several crucial differences make popular and reliable PDF readers like Adobe Acrobat better than other options.

Top-notch PDF readers have enhanced security. First, you can set them up so they don't launch non-PDF attachments with external apps. This option protects you from malicious apps even if you've downloaded them with a PDF file.

Reliable PDF readers also turn off the JavaScript option and read PDFs in the cloud to provide additional layers of security.

💻Regularly Scan Your Computer

Finally, regularly scan your PDF files and computer for viruses. Prominent antivirus apps, including Microsoft Defender, have enabled frequent scans by default. They can help you identify a virus before it spreads and deletes more of your precious files.

How to Recover PDF Files Deleted by a Virus

Are PDF files safe even if you do all of the above? Sadly, there is no 100% protection. If a virus slips through the cracks of your security practices and antivirus software, you might end up with a deleted file. That might cause stress if it's a critical file. However, there is no room for panic. You can recover the deleted PDF files.

Many professional data recovery tools like Wondershare Recoverit can help.

Free Download
Free Download

Here is a list of the steps you must complete to recover PDF files a virus deleted:

  1. Download and install Wondershare Recoverit.

    Visit the official Wondershare Recoverit website to download the software. The installation takes under a minute, and your file recovery software will be ready for use in the bImage name of an eye.

  2. Scan your drive.

    You can see all your mounted drives once you launch the app and click Hard Drives and Locations. Select the one with your deleted PDF files and wait for the program to scan the unit.

    scanning for deleted pdf files
  3. Recover PDF files a virus deleted.

    The scan can take a while, depending on the size of your drive and whether it is an HDD or SSD (it generally goes much faster on an SSD). Once the scan is complete, find the PDF files you wish to recover. Click Recover and find the right path to save it.

    recovering deleted pdf files

Besides PDFs, the Recoverit data recovery tool can completely restore lost emails, audio files, videos, photos, and more from virus-infected devices. It can be your lifesaver if you are getting into trouble.

Free Download
Free Download


Can opening a PDF file be dangerous? Yes, it can. PDFs from online resources and those you receive via email can contain a virus. A virus in a PDF can infect your computer, delete the PDF in question, and wipe other files on your system.

Fortunately, you can curb the risk of it happening. Scan your PDF files and computer for viruses, learn to recognize phishing attacks, and get a reliable PDF reader. If you lose your PDF files to viruses, you can use professional data recovery tools like Wondershare Recoverit to retrieve them.

Free Download
Free Download


  • Are PDFs safe to open?
    PDFs are safe to open if you get them from trusted sources like academic research papers, portals, or official company sites. However, downloading PDFs from other sources and receiving them via mail can be dangerous.
  • How can I safely download PDF files?
    Since downloading a PDF can be dangerous, you must practice caution. Download PDFs from online libraries that require user registration, check for correct author name and title spelling, use cloud PDF readers, and scan PDF files before opening.
  • Which PDF files often contain viruses?
    Ebooks often contain viruses. However, that's not the case with ebooks from trusted sources. Many malicious sites offer free ebook titles from world-famous authors. This practice is an elaborate scam to attract many consumers willing to get books for free and infect their devices with viruses.
Alex Nappi
Alex Nappi Jul 17, 24
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