RED X instead of graphics
You open a PowerPoint presentation and find that some or all of the graphics on your slides have been replaced with a large red X icon or a blank rectangle with a small red x icon in the upper left corner.
In other cases, you may see a red or blue X in the thumbnail pane on the left. This is a different problem but it may share some of the same causes, especially the memory-related ones, so it's worth giving the troubleshooting suggestions below a try.
First of all ...
If you see a red-x in a file that was fine the last time you looked at it, DO NOT SAVE THE FILE BACK TO THE SAME FILE NAME. That could make a temporary problem permanent, causing missing pictures to be removed from the file permanently. SAVE THE FILE TO A NEW NAME. Otherwise, you run the risk of overwriting a possibly still-good file with a known-bad one.
The red X is PowerPoint's way of telling you "I can't display this graphic". Unfortunately, it doesn't tell you why. Or at times it gives you misleading information.
You may see the red x when:
- It's a linked image and the link is broken (ie, the image isn't where the link says it should be)
- The link points to an image on a network drive or the web, which PowerPoint considers "unsafe"
- Memory/resource limitations or other problems prevent PowerPoint from displaying the image
"Memory" in this case is most likely video card related. Memory problems are most likely to occur with shared video memory ... memory that's shared between the video system and normal system RAM; this is a common arrangement on laptops and cheaper desktop PCs.
If you're got a case of Red-X-itis, here are some things to check (remember, do NOT save the file to the original file name):
- Check the black text next to the red x; it may give a hint as to why PowerPoint isn't displaying the image.
- If you have PowerPoint 2013, try this: File | Options | Advanced. Scroll to Display. Put a check next to "Disable hardware graphics acceleration." Click OK, close and restart PowerPoint to see if the problem's solved or not.
- If you have PowerPoint 2007 or 2010, try this: Office Button | PowerPoint Options | Trust Center | Trust Center Settings | Message Bar. Choose "Show the Message Bar ..." rather than "Never show information about blocked content". Click OK Close PPT. Then try opening your file again. If you see a notification on the message bar, click "Enable".
- PowerPoint 2007 will not display linked images if they're pathless and include spaces in the file names. Rename the images to remove spaces and relink or check PPTools FixLinks for an updated version that solves this problem. Note: this bug is fixed in PowerPoint 2010.
- Don't use CMYK images in PowerPoint. An attendee at the October 2003 PowerPoint Live conference mentioned that they'd researched the problem at their advertising agency and found that when they could locate the original image that went Red-X on them in PowerPoint, it was a CMYK file in most if not all cases.
- Check to see whether the image is linked to a file, and if so, whether the file is where it's supposed to be. Links to image files break easily. Earlier versions of PowerPoint used a different icon to indicate that a linked graphic was missing, but current versions use the same Red X for all "can't draw it" image problems.
- If your version of PowerPoint has a Fast Save option (Tools, Options usually), turn it off. Do it NOW. Never turn it on again. It's evil.
- Make sure your copy of Office is up to date with service packs.
- Reduce the number of Undos. More Undos take more memory, so the higher the Undo level, the more likely you are to run into red-x problems.
- Never save to/open from diskettes or other removable media, and avoid opening from/saving to network drives (especially if you're on a Novell network or using NFS mounted drives). Instead, copy the file to your local hard drive, open it from there. When done working with it, save back to your hard drive and then copy the file back to the network or removable media.
- Running a Visual Basic macro that saves a presentation (including some MS-supplied ones like Pack and Go) can cause the Red-X problem. Microsoft has corrected this particular problem in Office Service Release 2 (SR-2) of Office 2000 and presumably in later Office versions.
- Lack of resources can cause Red-X problems. Windows uses a fixed pool of GDI resource memory, totally unrelated to the amount of physical RAM and HDD space you have. If this runs out, all manner of odd things can happen. If you suspect this might be the cause of your Red-X problem, restart Windows, then try the problem file again in PowerPoint with no other programs running. Changing your video display settings (resolution, color depth) may also help - in fact, it can't hurt to try all of the suggestions in the general problem-solving FAQ.
Other possible causes: The Marvin The Martian Theory
There's also Rich Weil's explanation, which seems as likely as any of the others:
I'm pretty sure the problem is Martians that have invaded my laptop, and they are apparently copulating, or whatever it is Martians do, and the red X is their version of our NC-17 movie rating. Essentially they don't want me looking, but clicking on the X and opening and closing the data sheet multiple times makes their ride bumpy and they stop. I am satisfied with this explanation for the moment, but if anyone has any brainier ideas about what's going on, I'd appreciate hearing about it.
Along the same lines as Rich's suggestion, MS suggests trying Office 2013 in the 64-bit version rather than the 32-bit version, at least as a test. Theoretically, the 64-bit version won't run out of resources as quickly as the 32-bit version. On the other hand, if you rely on add-ins, understand that they may not work in the 64-bit version.
The Red-X problem is one of the most intractible ones we've seen in PowerPoint - there's no reliable solution for it, because so far there's been no reliable way to deliberately provoke the problem. Until you can provoke it, you can't figure out what's caused it, and until you know the cause, you can't fix it.
How to get example files to Microsoft
Microsoft has been able to identify and fix some causes of Red-X graphics, but the problem still occurs. You may be able to help solve it once and for all. Microsoft needs presentations and steps to reproduce the red-x problem. Specifically they need:
- A copy of the presentation BEFORE the red-x appears.
- A detailed list of the steps needed to reproduce the problem, starting with a presentation in which the graphics appear correctly and ending with one in which the red-x appears.
- Copies of any graphics, sound or video files that you inserted between the time the red-x wasn't there and the time it appeared.
- A diagnostic information (NFO) file. See Using System Information to gather troubleshooting info to learn how to create one. The tool is built into PowerPoint and only takes a minute or two to use.
For the information and files to be useful, you must be able to reproduce the problem on demand. If you can do this, please let us hear from you on the PowerPoint Answers forum.
If can reproducibly provoke red-x, PLEASE visit the Answers forum (see above) and let your fellow PowerPointers in on the secret. The MVPs will make sure the info gets passed along to the right people at Microsoft. There are thousands of people out there just waiting to be eternally grateful to you. This is worth LOTs of karmic bonus miles, folks.
But in the meanwhile, practice safe computing and keep the Martians annoyed.
And have a giggle here. Hover your mouse over the RedExed graphic.