Is it possible to restrict download and print of PDF files in SharePoint online?

Copper Contributor



I have selected the view only permission level in SharePoint. This allows me to restrict downloads for MS office documents only. However, I want to be able to restrict download and print of PDF files.

Is there a way to do this or is it a limitation?


Thank You

17 Replies

Hi, this is a known issue/limitation:


"Any document that has a server-side file handler can be viewed in the browser but not downloaded. File types that do not have a server-side file handler (cannot be opened in the browser), such as video files, .pdf files, and .png files, can still be downloaded."


So it is working the way it is intended, unfortunately.


maybe you want to take a look at Azure Information Protection :
PDF is also supported.

best regards
Best you can do here is to take a lool to AIP, Sensitivity Labels and also Contional Access



As per my expierence, yes you can restrict the files download on SharePoint Online, by gaving view only permission, which prevent end user from downloading files on Sharepoint. 

View Only permission include view pages, items, and documents. Any document that has a server-side file handler can be viewed in the browser but not downloaded. File types that do not have a server-side file handler (cannot be opened in the browser), such as video files, .pdf files, and .png files, can still be downloaded.  for more Info, please refer to following article


unfortunately, his Option is available only on the Sharepoint root site, which means you can assign this permission level to the members on the root site, then inherit the permission. 


But as i saw, you want to restrict PDFs only, which can be achieved also using IRM SharePoint Policy.


IRM stand for Information Rights Management, and can use to restrict Office apps ex. prevent files from printing, Outlook ex. to prevent and protect specific emails from being forward for also Exchange Online and Sharepoint. 


Set up Information Rights Management (IRM) in SharePoint admin center:


Apply Information Rights Management (IRM) to a list or library


please let me know if i could help you :) 



Hi @Mahhus,


Thank you for your reply. I have tried out what you've mentioned already. When I enable IRM, I'm unable to view the PDF file in the browser. I get a message saying that no preview is available. Though the download and print is restricted, my main purpose is to be able to still view the PDF file and that isn't happening.


Please let me know if you know about this.


Thank You



Hi @SunilK90 


Have you tried to restrict downloading the office files like excel, or word using the IRM, if not please check and provide me your feedback. 

You mentioned also that you are not able to view the PDF in the browser, which is your main purpose, could you check if you can download the PDF file or not ?


could you try using another PDF ?


please provide me screenshot from the affected PDF which cannot be opend in the browser



Best Regards, 


Hi @Mahhus,


I've managed to restrict download and print for MS office files like word, excel and powerpoint using view only permission and IRM.

My main purpose is that a person under a group with view only permissions should be able to view the PDF file in the browser, but not download or print the file. 

I noticed that upon doing this the PDF file says it is protected and cannot be downloaded by another user with view only permissions.





protected file.JPG

Hi @SunilK90 


Thanks for your reply.. 


Normally if you used view only permission you will restrict the group members who have view only permission from downloading the files, so theres no need to use both view only permission and IRm policy. 

please cearte another test SharePoint site who has no view only permission and apply the IRM policy and check if you can open the file or not (try to use edit permission)

as per your screenshot, theres's blue hyper link Download combatible reader, what will happen if you clicked on it ?

what would happend if you opened a restricted work file (same screenshot ) or ?


Bet Regards, 




When we apply the view only permission to PDF files, we are not able to download the files using Edge and Chrome because with those browsers, the PDF files open in the browser by default.

So this seems to be a solution to disable the download for PDFs. 

Do you know if with other browsers or extensions, this behaviour can be different?



Neither View Only, Restricted View, or a Custom View will prevent a user from downloading things like PDFs, PNG, video files, and etc. 

This is the issue most of us posting are having but the same responses regarding View Only keep coming up. Hitting the three dots will always show the "download" link no matter what. View only does NOT work.

What I really want to understand, are answers such as this: "Any document that has a server-side file handler can be viewed in the browser but not downloaded. File types that do not have a server-side file handler (such as pdf files, video files, png files, etc.) can still be downloaded."

I am not sure what this means since you can clearly preview a pdf entirely within SharePoint. How is that not a server side file handler? Why can't SharePoint simply restrict access to "Preview Only"?

@EneaAntonicelli I don't get the download option with 'Restricted view'. You can see it yourself:


restricted view.png

@KM KTNN I do but it makes no difference. It's rubbish. It does not work as intended. The restricted view wont even let users access the library. This whole application is garbage to be honest. How long has this been around without Microsoft addressing basic issues. The movement of folders for example. It is absolute hell. Whether you do it in modern view, or in file explorer, you either cannot access parent directories, or files just vanish without the system generating a debuggable error. Microsoft is useless when it comes to questions such as this. It's infuriating.



You could create a new permission level 'Restricted Read' (View Items, Open Items, View Pages, Open) and apply it at the site level so users can access the library. Then apply 'Restricted View' (or 'View Only') per library or per folder. Not fun but it seems to work.

Already tried. it does not work. I am not sure if the people that give these suggestions out in the forums above (not you, the links) actually test their advice. I created a custom permission level and spent 3 hours individually trying different combinations of permissions. Again, microsoft stated this is a known issue due to the fact that PDFs and other files have no server-side file handlers. There is no way to do this and actually limit downloading. You can limit downloading for word files all day. but not for what I need which is PDFs. Thank you for your suggestions however.

And I have found, if you prevent the ability to download a PDfF you can still print it, which circumvents the download restriction as you can print it to another PDF etc etc.

Turning on Information Rights Management does stop the ability to print the PDF, but then you can not read it in the browser as someone else has pointed out above.

Office documents are fine, but PDF docs are a real issue, as people use PDF now for lots of valid reasons. 

@thayes2021 We have a restricted/limited site for a certain type of user and every file is a PDF file.


This is still an issue in 2023, no built in way to view PDF files even though modern browsers would support it.

Major miss by Microsoft on this. Stop catering to only Office type documents. We just had to use DropBox (blech!) to accomplish this.