How to Repair Corrupt Microsoft Word Files

By Carolyn Rumsey

According to Microsoft Support Online, a damaged file will be "displaying odd behavior such as repagination, incorrect layout and formatting, unreadable characters, error messages, and even the inability to load or view the file at all." When you've written a document to prepare for work or school, the last thing you want is to be unable to open it or read it. However, an initial error message on a document doesn't mean you'll never be able to open it again.

How to Repair a Corrupt File You Can Open

Step 1

Force Microsoft Word to repair your document. In the "File" menu choose the option "Open." A dialogue box will open where you can choose the name of your file. Click once on the file and then click on and hold down the "Open" button at the bottom-right hand of the screen. A drop down menu will display. Choose "Open and Repair" from the options.

Step 2

Save the document as another file format and convert it back to a Word document (.DOC) file. First try saving the document as a "rich text format" (.RTF) or as a web file (.HTML). These file types will preserve formatting. After you save it as one of these types, close the file and reopen it in Word. Re-save the file as a .DOC file again. If one of these two file types do not work save it as another word processing format or a text only file (.TXT).

Step 3

Insert the document into another Word document. Open a new document and from the "Insert" menu choose "File." Find the corrupt file and double-click on it to insert it. It may open the file, but you will loose any tracked changes and you may loose your Page Setup settings.

Step 4

Use another application to open the corrupt file. You can try opening the file in another word processor such as word perfect, text pad, or Open Office (though this may cause you to loose your formatting and graphics). You can also try to open the file on the Pages program on a Mac, especially if it was originally created in this program.

Step 5

Copy undamaged portions of text into a new document. This option is most useful if you are able to determine what is causing the corruption. For example, if you believe a certain graphic, chart or table is making the file corrupt you can copy everything else into a new document and re-save it. The new file should be undamaged, even though you loose some of your project.

How to Repair a Corrupt File You Can Not Open

Step 1

Open the file in draft mode without updating the links. After opening Word click on the "View" menu and choose "Normal."

Step 2

Choose "Options" on the "Tools" menu. A dialogue box will open with a variety of tabs to choose from.

Step 3

Click on the "View" tab and make sure there is a check mark in the boxes besides "picture placeholders" and "draft font."

Step 4

Click on the "general tab." Make sure the "update automatic links at open" is unchecked.

Step 5

Click "OK" at the very bottom of the "Options" screen to close the box and save the settings. Open the document to see if this has repaired the damage.

Tips & Warnings

  • If none of the above options work search for "recovery" after opening Microsoft Office Word Help.
  • Before trying different repairing methods on your file, make a back up copy just in case something happens. If the file is very important you can always take the original file to a professional recovery service.