Steps to Troubleshooting Word


The first thing you should do is learn about your file in Word. This makes Word ever so much easier to understand and helps you to resolve problems so much more quickly. Please read About in Microsoft Word. It'll only take a couple minutes. Then come back here to take the troubleshooting steps.

Some people may tell you to do a system restore. Though it may very well work, I feel that it's a pretty drastic measure to take to fix Word. That doesn't mean it's not necessary, but you won't likely hear it from someone who knows Word. We have no idea how much or how often you use your computer, or what you've done recently that we'd be undoing by advising a system restore.

Many will tell you to start Word using Start Run and type: winword.exe /a or to start Word in "safe mode". That really only lets you know that Word will run once the problem is taken care of. Use the steps below to get right to the source of the problem. More about Word Command-Line switches, which you might find interesting, can be found here.

If Word opens files fine, but you can't launch Word with the icon, the shortcut could be bad. Just find winword.exe and create a new shortcut.

Windows 2000 Update

Apparently, there's a known issue about the Windows 2000 Update (when combined, I believe, with Word 2003) that makes Word crash when saving to a floppy drive (which you shouldn't do anyway, see this article). The only fix I'm aware of at this time is to uninstall the update.

Norton AntiVirus

If you are running Norton AntiVirus, then you may first want to check the Microsoft TechNet support article at

Adobe Acrobat

If you are running Adobe Acrobat, you may first want to check the Microsoft TechNet support article at

Printer Must Be Installed

Believe it or not, you must have a printer installed for Word to perform properly, even if it's only Acrobat's PDF to Word writer. Word just doesn't know how to act without a printer driver. (Thanks to Barb for asking me a question at, which reminded me to add this to my article!)

Step 1. Check Word's Startup folder.

The Word startup folder can generally be found under:

C:\Documents and Settings\Your Name\Application Data\Microsoft\Word\Startup

Check it for the existence of files that perhaps don't belong there or conflict with Word. You could temporarily place them elsewhere and re-launch Word to see if it helps.

Step 2. Rename or delete your file.

If Word runs for you at all, first close it. If you've really been having troubles, you may want to hit Ctrl+Alt+Delete and ensure that winword doesn't appear in your Applications list or in your Processes list. If it does, End task on it.

From the Windows Start button, choose Search, then choose For Files or Folders. Type the following into the All or Part of the File Name box:

Tip: You must be searching for hidden files and folders, so make sure your other search options are looking there. You must also ensure that you are viewing hidden and system files by going to My Computer, then hit Tools Folder Options, and ticking the appropriate choices, as shown below. If you aren't viewing them, you may also want to untick hiding of extensions for known file types, too.

If you cannot find your file during a search, rest assured that if you've ever successfully launched Word, you do have one. If you're in a network environment, it may not reside on your hard drive. If you are able to open Word at all, go to Tools Options, File locations tab, and double-click User templates. This is the location of your file.

If you have customized your Word application to any degree, rename the file when you find it. Right-click the file's name, and choose Rename. Call it If you have not customized Word, just delete your file. If you find more than one file, rename or delete all of them.

Now you can try launching Word again. Word should create a brand new for you, and you're all set. Most people will not need to venture beyond this point.

Step 3. Run Detect and Repair from the Help menu.

Some people might have you do this step first. Not me. This is not usually as helpful as Step 1, but you should try it, at least if you're able to open Word. If you are, just go to the Help menu dropdown and choose Detect and Repair.

Note:  Someone named snizborski reported to us on the newsgroups that he placed his installation CD in the CD Rom drive and ran Detect and Repair, and this did not help. He called Microsoft and learned that he shouldn't put the CD in until prompted, and this enabled the Detect and Repair to find the "bad" file that caused his problem.

Step 4. Dump the Windows Word registry key.

There are many people who would rather that I didn't tell you how to do this. But any adult that's paying any attention can follow my steps. What we're doing is removing Word from the Windows registry. When you launch Word again, it will re-register itself, so you can expect it to take a little longer to launch than usual.

Hit Start Run and type regedit and hit enter. Browse, just like you would in Windows Explorer or My Computer, to the following folder:

My Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\X.X\Word

X.X will be as follows, depending on your version of Word:

  • Word 2000 is 9.0

  • Word 2002/XP is 10.0

  • Word 2003 is 11.0

Once you find it, right click the Word folder, and choose Rename. Rename it to OldWord. This is a quickie method of backing up your registry. Close the Registry Editor.

Launch Word.

Step 5. Uninstall and Reinstall Word.

If the above steps don't fix Word, you'll need to completely uninstall and reinstall it. Office 97 uses Eraser97 to completely remove Office. Office 2000 uses Eraser2K to completely remove Office. Or you can remove it manually.