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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.

Possible solutions

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:

"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.

Troubleshooting steps

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):

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.

Wrapping up

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:

  1. A copy of the presentation BEFORE the red-x appears.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

How do I join the PowerPoint Answers group?

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.

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RED X instead of graphics
Last update 29 June, 2013