Troubleshoot & Fix common problems with Word

Fixing common Problems with Word 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016

Troubleshoot & Fix common problems with Word

Word does not Start or is Slow (template corrupted)

A common problem Microsoft Word has is not being able to start Word or Word starts very slowly. Basically, when you open Microsoft Word and either nothing happens at all or it attempts to start and then presents an error screen. Otherwise, Word may open, but will do so very slowly and then have trouble opening or saving documents.

The above symptoms have common cause, and these are the steps to attempt a solution

  • Click Start –> Search
  • Click All Files & Folders
  • Type: normal.dot in the “All or part of file name” box or “find what” box.
  • Click “Hidden Files & Folders” in the Advanced section
  • Delete any files that the search finds (Word will make a new normal.dot when you open it (next step)
  • Test by opening Word and using it normally

Summary: normal.dot is the default template file that Word uses to setup a blank document’s options (margins, fonts, etc). When this template becomes corrupt, it can prevent Word from opening at all, or to open slowly.

Here I show you how to solve a number of common Microsoft Word problems, based on the following symptoms:

  • Word has missing toolbars
  • Word crashes repeatedly
  • Word freezes after opening
  • Any strange Word behavior unrelated to a particular document

There are three likely culprits: your Word 'Normal' template, a Word add-in, or a corrupt data key in your registry. Additionally, a build-up of temporary files can contribute to the problems.

Delete any temporary files:

When you open a document, Word creates a temporary file to store information about the document. Word usually deletes these temporary files when you close the document, but they can 'stay' when Word or Windows crashes.

The easiest way to delete your temporary files is from Windows Explorer:

  • Close any open Windows applications
  • Click an empty spot on the taskbar and press F3 to open the Search feature in Windows Explorer
  • Make sure you look in your primary hard drive and check <Include Sub-folders>
  • Type the following in the "All or part of the file name" box, as shown below:
    *.tmp;~*.do?;~*.wbk
    Click the Search button.
    Delete the files listed in the search results.

Windows Search

Searching for obsolete Office temporary files.

Notes: Before you delete all of the files returned by the search, first make sure they're really temporary files. If the problem persists, you need to check the templates Word loads when it starts.

How to start Word with a clean default slate:

Every time you start Word, your Normal template loads, along with any add-ins in your Startup folder. You can also tell Word to start up without loading any templates:

  • Start Word from the Start > Run menu by typing: winword.exe /a
  • Now press Enter. Note the space before the /a. This starts Word without any add-ins, global templates, or Normal.dot. If that fixes the problem, continue to step 3. Otherwise, skip ahead to the next section.
  • Close Word.
  • Use the Windows Search feature to locate Normal.dot:
    • Click an empty spot on the taskbar and press F3 to display the Search window again.
    • Make sure you're searching your primary hard drive and check Include Sub-folders.
    • Type Normal.dot in the file name box and click the Search button. Note: Depending on your version of Windows, Normal.dot may be a hidden system folder. In Windows Explorer, select Tools > Folder options, click the View tab, and check the "Show hidden files and folders" box.
  • Right-click Normal.dot in the search results and rename it Normal.old.
  • Restart Word.

When you delete or rename your Normal.dot file, Word creates a new one based on default settings. If the problem was fixed, you had a corrupt Normal template. If not, check any other templates that load when you start Word.

Disable other Word global templates and optional add-ins:

If your Normal template wasn't at fault, try your other global templates and add-ins next:

  • Find out what, if any, global templates and add-ins Word loads when it starts. To do so, locate your Startup folder
    (usually C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Microsoft\Word\Startup).
  • Move each of these out of the Startup folder
  • Close Word and drag each add-in back into the Startup folder, one at a time. Open Word, test, then close Word after each one. When and if the problem reappears, you will have located the add-in causing the problem. If the problem persists, you may have a corrupt data key in your registry.

Delete the Word Data registry sub-key

Most of Words frequently used options are stored in the Word Data registry sub-key. A common troubleshooting procedure is to delete the Word Data registry sub-key and allow Word to rebuild it by using the default settings.

Note: When you delete the Word Data registry sub-key, Word resets resets the "most recently used file" list on the File menu. Also, Word resets many settings that you may have customized in the Word Options dialog box.

To delete the Word Data registry subkey:

  • Close all Office Programs
  • Enter (type) regedit in the Search box (in Windows 10, Windows 8.1, or Windows 8) or in the Start Search box on the Start menu (in Windows 7), and then press Enter.
  • Locate the following registry sub-key, as matching the version of Word that you are using:
    • Word 2016: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Word\Data
    • Word 2013: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Word\Data
    • Word 2010: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Word\Data
    • Word 2007: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Word\Data
    • Word 2003: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Word\Data
  • On the Edit menu, click Delete, and then click Yes.
  • Exit Registry Editor
  • Start Word

If Word now starts and operates correctly, you had a damaged Word Data registry key. You may now need to change several settings to restore your old favorite options in Word (if any).

Delete the Word Options registry key

The Word Options registry key stores (any) options that you may have set in Word. These settings are divided into default and optional groups. Default settings are created during the program setup. The Optional settings are not created during setup.

To delete the Word Options registry key:

  • Close all Office Programs
  • Enter (type) regedit in the Search box (in Windows 10, Windows 8.1, or Windows 8) or in the Start Search box on the Start menu (in Windows 7), and then press Enter.
  • Locate the following registry sub-key, as matching the version of Word that you are using:
    • Word 2016: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Word\Options
    • Word 2013: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Word\Options
    • Word 2010: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Word\Options
    • Word 2007: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Word\Options
    • Word 2003: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Word\Options
  • On the Edit menu, click Delete, and then click Yes.
  • Exit Registry Editor
  • Start Word

If Word now starts and operates correctly, you had a damaged Word Data registry key. You may now need to change several settings to restore your old favorite options in Word (if any).

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