Troubleshoot common problems with Word

Microsoft Word - part of Office

[ Word Fix's ]
o Word 97
o Word 2000
o Word XP
o Word 2003

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:

  1. Close any open Windows applications
  2. Click an empty spot on the taskbar and press F3 to open the Search feature in Windows Explorer
  3. Make sure you look in your primary hard drive and check <Include Sub-folders>
  4. 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:

  1. Start Word from the Start > Run menu by typing: winword.exe /a
  2. 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.
  3. Close Word.
  4. Use the Windows Search feature to locate Normal.dot:
    1. Click an empty spot on the taskbar and press F3 to display the Search window again.
    2. Make sure you're searching your primary hard drive and check Include Sub-folders.
    3. 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.
  5. Right-click Normal.dot in the search results and rename it Normal.old.
  6. 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:

  1. 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).
  2. Move each of these out of the Startup folder
  3. 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.
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