Issues Uploading Documents - Common Errors, Causes and Solutions


This article will help you diagnose and resolve common issues when uploading PDF’s or other document types via DocuSign’s web application

Notes: The issues and solutions presented here are meant for troubleshooting issues when uploading documents using DocuSign's web application. If you are having issues with document upload via API, please see the documentation resources available at the DocuSign Developer Center .

Secondly, before reading on please ensure the file you are uploading is supported by DocuSign. Please see Supported File Formats.

Jump to a known issue:

Issue: Document Upload Error or An Error Occurred

"Error uploading [filename]. An Error Occurred."

NDSE Document Upload Error

Cause: The document is corrupted

Your file may simply be corrupted—meaning there are metadata issues in the file which occurred during the original document generation, scanning, or some other conversion process has produced an invalid PDF (i.e. one that doesn’t conform to PDF structure standards).


  1. Save as a new PDF file: Programs such as Adobe Reader®, Adobe Acrobat® and Foxit Reader® have a built in ability to correct any PDF structure/metadata issues. Simply opening your PDF and saving it as a new file will remedy this.

  2. Print the document to a new .PDF: This option is supported by owners of Adobe Acrobat Professional® (paid) or Foxit Reader® (free). You can do this by opening the file in either program, going to File > Print, and selecting “Adobe PDF” or “Foxit PDF” as the printer. Choose the option to "Shrink to Printable Area" and click Ok. This will “print” the document to a new .PDF file and reduce the file size. Keep in mind that if you have active form fields in your document, they will be flattened. Detailed instructions can be found here.

  3. Use .PDF optimization: This is a tool included with Adobe Acrobat Professional® (version 8 and up) which will re-sample and compress the document, resulting in a reduced file size. If you do not have this tool, then you will need to re-scan the document using the tips above or use a free online optimizer--though we do not recommend uploading confidential documents to such free services 

  4. Use the DocuSign Print Driver to upload the document The Print Driver is a useful tool provided by DocuSign which often remedies this problem as well as many other file corruption issues. This tool allows you to send the document to a DocuSign envelope directly from your .PDF or word processor software.

Cause: The document contains macros

Macros are commonly used in Microsoft Word® and Microsoft Excel® documents. While documents with macro-intended file extensions are supported (i.e. .xlsm, .docm, .pptm) and macro-enabled documents may upload successfully, DocuSign does not technically support documents with macros. You can check to see if your document contains macros by opening the document in its respective program going to View > Macros.


  1. Remove the macros: Open the document in its respective program, go to View > Macros and delete them.

  2. Save the file as a PDF before uploading: This is accomplished by the Save As function in Microsoft Word® and Microsoft Excel®.

Cause: Document is password protected or secured

There are two passwords that affect a PDF document. Both are optional; a PDF document may have one, both, or neither. Unfortunately, a variety of adjectives exist to describe these passwords; there is no consistency in usage. These are:

  • the access (a/k/a read, "document open," or user) password, necessary in order to be able to decrypt and open the document; and
  • the owner (a/k/a edit or permissions) password, needed in order to change permissions, or to create, update or delete the access password. (Permissions include the ability to print the document or make changes to it.)

DocuSign does not support access-password protected documents. If you try to upload such a document, you should see a specific error stating "this file is password protected."

"Error uploading [filename]: Unable to load the document ([DocumentId]: Password Protected [filename]). Document is password protected, please remove password protection before using the document."

NDSE Password Protected Error

Note: You may only see general error message (pictured previously).

Note: DocuSign *does* support PDF documents containing owner passwords and custom permissions settings.


The following steps depict a third-party product, and may not match your personal experience. If these steps do not work, please consult the help documentation for your preferred PDF Editor program for further assistance.

  1. Remove the access password protection: Open the document in the program which created it. Under its respective security options, remove the access password. For example, in Adobe Acrobat, go to File > Properties > Security (or type Ctrl-D).
    Remove Access Password in Adobe 1

  2. By pressing "Change Settings," you can remove the access password by unchecking the box labeled "Require a password to open the document." (If the document has an owner password, you must supply it to this dialog in order to make changes.)
    Remove Access Password in Adobe 2


Issue: Timeout during upload or an error regarding file size

"Error uploading [filename]: File exceeds size limit of 25MB."

NDSE 25MB Error

Cause: Document file size is too large

The file size limit for a single document uploaded to DocuSign's web app is 25MB (25,000KB). However, you may encounter timeout issues with documents as small as 5MB (5,000KB), depending on your internet connection. You can check the file size of your document by locating it on your computer, right-clicking and selecting Properties. Best practice is to keep the file size under 5MB (5,000KB).

Note: This limit is enforced in all web upload features. Therefore you may see similar errors when uploading a Signer Attachment during signing or from an external source (i.e. Box, DropBox, Google Drive, OneDrive)  


  1. Adjust your scanner settings: Make sure you are not scanning in “full color” or “photo quality.” Grayscale is normally acceptable but Black & White is even better. If you must use color, adjust the resolution down to 100 to 200 dpi (sometimes called “ppi”). Most scanners even have a have a preset setting called “Document Quality” which will set these options for you.

  2. Try solutions from Issue #1.

Issue: Broken thumbnails, pages won't render, "page cannot be displayed"

Your document uploads successfully, however the page thumbnails show broken icons and in the tagging window or during signing, the pages do not render or you see a red box with the error "This page cannot be displayed, please clear your cache and try a refresh."

Page Cannot Be Displayed Error

Cause: Document dimensions are too large

Some scanners have a tendency to “blow up” or increase the dimensions of a printed document. This can cause rendering issues in signing and sending. You can diagnose this problem by opening up the document in the program that created it and looking at its properties. Look for the dimensions. Are they outside of standard document page sizes? Another way to check is adjusting the zoom/view so you can see one page as a whole, then looking at the zoom percentage value needed to get you there. If the percentage reads less than 75% (commonly somewhere between 30%-50%) then that means the document far too large in dimension.


  1. Update the software/drivers for your scanner and rescan the document: Updates can be found in the support section of the manufacturer’s website. Make sure you have the latest software and drivers available. 

  2. Adjust your scanner settings: Set the default page layout properties to ensure your scanner is saving the file in a standard document size.

  3. Try solution 1 from Issue #1.

Cause: Layered images and/or annotations

PDFs contain layers. Sometimes this poses a problem in the rasterizing of the page image. Non-PDF documents with images can also cause this issue.


  1. Try solution 2 from Issue #1 to "flatten" the file and remove the layers.

Issue: PDF form field data is missing

When uploading a PDF with form fields and choosing Apply/Assign, some form data is missing in the resulting DocuSign fields; or when choosing Cancel/Flatten, the field's value is lost.

Dynamic XFA PDFs will automatically be rejected. You'll see the following error.

NDSE Dynamic XFA Error

Cause: PDF is an Active XFA Form

XFA PDFs are form fillable PDFs produced by popular applications such as Adobe LiveCycle® and Thunderhead®. While either Static or Active XFA PDFs will upload successfully, DocuSign only supports XFA PDFs that are rendered as “Static.” DocuSign will display a warning upon uploading such a document and you may lose some form field recognition and/or field values altogether.


  1.  Flatten the PDF: If you do not intend to convert the PDF fields to DocuSign fields, try solution 2 from Issue #1 to "flatten" the file and data first.

  2. Convert to Static XFA: Use the application which created the PDF and save it as a Static XFA instead of Active.

Issue: PDF form fields load vertically (aka appear rotated 180°)

When uploading a form field PDF and choosing Apply/Assign, all fields converted to DocuSign fields appear vertical as if they have all been rotated by the system. 

Vertical Fields Issue Example

Cause: PDF is in landscape mode or appears to be in portrait mode but its pages actually have rotation properties

Some PDFs, most often those in landscape mode have rotation properties in their pages and/or fields themselves. This is done to make the PDF more easily viewed and filled out within a given reader program. DocuSign does support landscape documents. However, to remain consistent across the many different PDF types a given customer may upload, DocuSign does not change the orientation of fields / pages when converting based on the file's underlying orientation properties. 


While DocuSign's tagger allows rotation of document pages once uploaded, we do not rotate the fields, nor adjust the text rotation within them--text field values are always entered left to right, right side up.
Options to fix:

  • Correct the orientation prior to upload using a PDF editor or the tool that created it. Rotating the pages, changing orientation properties of the fields and re-saving the file in portrait mode is your best bet.
  • Manually re-size and reposition the fields within the tagger


Supported File Formats - New DocuSign Experience
DocuSign REST API Documentation - Resource Limits
SOAP API Guide - File Limitations