Software

10+ ways to recover a corrupted Word document

Few computer experiences are worse than having a Word document blow up on you. But before you resign yourself to losing the document contents, check out these techniques for salvaging your text.

Few computer experiences are worse than having a Word document blow up on you. But before you resign yourself to losing the document contents, check out these techniques for salvaging your text.


If you've ever had an important document get corrupted, you know the despair that sets in. You've lost critical information and/or countless hours of work - or so it appears. But hang on: You may not have to accept data loss. Here are some things you can try when you're dealing with a corrupted Word document.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Don't assume that the document is corrupt

Automatically assuming that a document is corrupt can be a big mistake. It could be Word or even Windows that is having the problem. Before you start trying to restore a backup or repair a file, try opening other documents. Try opening your "corrupt" document from another computer. You may be surprised by what happens.

2: Make a copy of the document

This isn't really a recovery trick, but it is a crucial preliminary step. If you don't have a backup copy of the corrupt document readily available, make a copy of the corrupted file right away and store it on removable media. There's a chance that the corruption within the file could become worse over time or that you could destroy the file while trying to recover it. Making a backup copy of the file now may save you even more heartache later on.

3: Check your email

In many cases, you may have emailed a copy of the document to someone at some point. If so, a copy of the document may still be in Outlook's Sent Items folder, attached to the email message you sent. Try selecting the Sent Items folder and using Outlook's Search feature to look for the document's name.

4: Run CHKDSK

Try running CHKDSK against the volume containing the corrupted file. Your problem could be caused by corruption at the file system level, and CHKDSK may be able to fix the problem. If nothing else, running CHKDSK allows you to test the integrity of the file system, which allows you to determine whether the problem exists at the file system level or within the document itself.

5: Try exporting the file

If you can open the file in Word, try saving the file in an alternate format. Sometimes, using a format such as RTF or TXT will cause some of Word's codes to be stripped from the document, which often fixes the problem.

6: Extract the raw text

Although saving the Word document as an RTF or TXT file usually works pretty well, that technique does you no good if Word won't open the file. One approach is to use another word processor that supports Word documents. Alternatively, you can use a file editor (a hex editor) to manually extract anything salvageable from the file.

7: Use Word's text converter

You may also be able to recover the text portion of a document using Word's text converter. Click File | Open. When the Open dialog box appears, select the troublesome Word document. Then, choose Recover Text From Any File from the Files Of Type drop-down list and open the document. This filter will import straight ASCII text from any file. You will lose Word formatting and nontext items such as graphics, but you should at least be able to extract most of the text information from the file. Note that this method is limited to documents in the Word 97-2003 format (not docx or dotx files).

8: Use Open And Repair

Word XP and later offer an Open And Repair option, which you can use to force Word to attempt a recovery. Just select the file in the Open dialog box and choose Open And Repair from the Open drop-down list in the bottom-right corner. This isn't necessarily foolproof, but it does work on a lot of problematic documents.

9: Use a Vista shadow copy of the document

Windows Vista automatically saves shadow copies of some files to the hard drive. If a shadow copy of your document exists, it may be possible to recover a recent version of the document. To do so, right-click on the document and select the Properties command from the shortcut menu. When the document's properties sheet appears, select the Previous Versions tab. (This tab exists only for files stored on NTFS volumes.) The Previous Versions tab will show you any previous versions of the file that are available. For more on the shadow copy feature, see How do I... Configure and use shadow copy in Microsoft Windows Vista?.

10: Rebuild the file header

Although every Word document is different, Word documents that are created by a common version of Word have a common file header. I can't tell you exactly what this header contains, because it varies from one version of Word to the next. What I can tell you is that if you use a file editor to examine multiple known good Word documents, it will quickly become apparent which bits each of the documents has in common. Once you have determined which part of the file is the header, you can copy the header bits from a known good document and use the editor to paste those bits into your corrupt document, overwriting the existing header in the process. If the header was the portion of the document that was damaged, this technique will fix the problem.

11: Use a recovery program

Several third-party applications on the market are designed to recover corrupt documents. One of the best known products is OfficeRecovery. Another popular product is Ontrack Easy Recovery. Data recovery products like these can have a hefty price tag, and depending on the extent of the damage, they may or may not actually be able to repair your file.


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About

Brien Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP. He has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects.

52 comments
poldi456
poldi456

Great post! Congratulations! Once I had the same problem and solved it with this software in a few minutes http://www.word-fix.com/ It is true that most of the time the corruptions can be solved from the same Word, but I do not know.

Genecist84
Genecist84

Severely need help! Yesterday I wrote a song and Word said it had to be repaired. I then saved it again and today it says file can't be found, it was renamed, moved, or some other crap. I never touched it or three other songs that its doin the same thing with. Someone please help me!

alicejolly123
alicejolly123

You can  recover a corrupted file using MS Excel Repair Tool and can repair other related related errors too. For more information, please visit the site:

http://www.repairmsexcel.com

Gemmy Johnson
Gemmy Johnson

One of the software that you can make use to repair any of the Word file is Remo Word Repair. It provided me the same DOC file as it was earlier.

JosephGall
JosephGall

DOC Repair Kit is a comprehensive Microsoft Word DOC repair tool with immense potential and an interface that makes the entire procedure a snap. Based on a lightning-fast proprietary core, the program knows how to repair Word DOC files in situations when other tools appear completely helpless.


For more information: http://www.doc.repair/


If this way didn't work, try to find the answer here: http://www.filerepairforum.com/forum/microsoft/microsoft-aa/word/392-how-to-repair-word-after-the-file-is-corrupted-and-cannot-be-opened

zeb khan
zeb khan

Hi

Please help me. My all word files are corrupted. I am using Office 2010.

stevensmiith
stevensmiith

I have tried these methods several time..But at last I have searched online and found a Word Recovery tool which helps me to recover corrupt word file within just few clicks..I will also prefer you to use this tool. Source link: http://www.word-recovery.taskmanagerfix.com

kritchernos
kritchernos

You would first need to verify if the document in question is open protected (the password is only needed to open the document) or if the document is encrypted (which means the password is used to decrypt the document).

If it is the first then you may still be able to get the content extracted by recovering the text in Microsoft Word. If it is the latter then I'm afraid there is probably no way to recover the data. If the data is corrupted then decryption process won't work and there is no easy way to get the data back.

And use Recovery Toolbox for Word. Instructions on how to do that and other recovery options can be found here: http://www.repairword.recoverytoolbox.com/

techrepublic2013
techrepublic2013

If you cannot copy the corrupt files, first use CBD(Copy Bad Disk) to copy them to a good drive, then try other recovery tools to recover them. CBD also logs the positions of unreadable bytes.

rare_air
rare_air

As usual i was working on an important design document and word suddenly does not seem to open ... changing to .rtf worked like a charm ... thanks a lot your a life saver.

bertleen
bertleen

Try any third party word file repair tool, If above two methods fail to repair corrupt word document file then I will suggest you try Kernel for Word repair software to repair and recover corrupt and damage doc, docx file from MS office database.

socrtwo
socrtwo

Including this list's link I've got 11 groups of links of free ways for recovering Word 97-2003 docs and 14 groups of links to free ways to recover text from Word 2007 and 2010 docx files. It's here: http://socrtwo.info/word_repair.htm

datarecovery
datarecovery

so wonderful, the methods I have tried for several times. addition, I think use a data recovery tool is better.

datarecovery
datarecovery

I think Wondershare data recovery is better than the 11th.

JonathanPDX
JonathanPDX

"Don't assume that the document is corrupt" That's got to be one of the funniest things ever written! If it's Word, we automatically assume the document IS corrupt! We work with hundreds of Word documents every day and are never, ever surprised to learn that one is messed up in some way...especially if a table is involved in any manner. I am constantly amazed at how many ways a Word document can be corrupted by the very application that creates it. Then it won't even have the decency to open the file, leaving you to depend on some other, non-Microsoft application, to fix it. Someday, someone will create a word processing application that actually works to protect the content from corruption and where the CONTENT will be more important that bells, whistles and "ribbons".

jonc2011
jonc2011

Word up to version 2003 stores its formatting changes attached to the last paragraph end mark of each. So if the formatting gets corrupted, try copying the entire doc apart from the last para mark and pasting it into a new document. Haven't used this for a few years, but it used to work well.

mjacquet
mjacquet

N?1 might be a very efficient way to spread a virus around !! First scan the file with an efficient antivirus program.

mjacquet
mjacquet

Be careful about n? 1 : it's a nice way to spread a virus around!! Scan the document first with a reliable antivirus.

egutierrezg
egutierrezg

All you need is open the Word, Excel or PowerPoint file with Open Office, and the work is done!. Preferentially, keep the file in Open Office format.

linuxpete
linuxpete

This is the one and only thing you need for corrupt M$ office anything!

oscard
oscard

There is another way to recover a Word document that does not open: simply open a blank document and insert the damaged document in the blank one. In Word 2003, once the new blank document is open, go to Insert > File and select the document from the list. You may have to browse elsewhere to find the document. In Word 2007, go to this link: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word/HA101212521033.aspx The new document will now have all the information of the damaged document and you will be able to continue working with it. It is advisable to enable "Make backup copies." However, to use this feature, you need to close and reopen your document every hour to make sure that the changes become part of the backup copy. Another problem with Word is that tables information becomes corrupt with usage. Rather than copying an existing table to start a new one, either create one from scratch or keep an unused table to use it as a template. Since Word allows users to create their own table styles, it should not be that much of a deal to create a new table each time you need one.

hafizullah
hafizullah

There are many reasons a Word document can become corrupt, so no single approach will work all the time. Try opening Word with the command line winword.exe /a which causes Word to ignore the normal.dot (default template) file and default preferences (in the Registry). If there is a problem in the normal.dot or Registry, Word should open and perhaps your file will open normally, as well. Try "round-tripping" the file through RTF or HTML, i.e., Save As "Rich Text Format" or "HTML," and reopen it in Word. The formatting instructions in a Word document are binary, held in the bottom half of the disk image of the file. RTF import/export (RTF is essentially a text file with embedded formatting codes and minimal binary instructions) was designed to ignore any such instructions that it doesn't understand, and so can act as a filter when an instruction is telling Word to do something imnpossible. The same thing obtains by round-tripping the file through HTML. If there are graphics in the file and the round-tripped document is truncated, it may be that the next thing in the original file was a corrupted graphic and the export converter wrote-out the file up to that point and quit. This might help you identify the corrupt location in the document. I've noticed that the statistics application SAS can emit corrupt Word tables, which then behave capriciously when formatting them in Word. The solution to this is to cut the table and Paste Special as RTF, not HTML (which is the default paste format in recent versions of Office. The problem is that the end-of-row markers are not properly rendered coming out of SAS, and round-tripping through RTF fixes this. You can also try opening the file in WordPad. Each version of WordPad has a Word converter that will work for the version of Word that was current when WordPad shipped. You may lose some formatting if your document is complex, but you should get all the text back.

KaryDavis
KaryDavis

I had this happen to a user just the other day. I was able to open the word document in Wordpad...saved it as a Wordpad document, then reopened it in Word. It was a lengthy legal document and both the user and I were relieve that not only was the text saved, but the majority of the formatting as well.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

One of the disabled-by-default features of Word is the ability to preserve a backup copy of the document as it was before the most-recent save. In Word 2007, click the logo, choose "Word Options" button at the bottom, then click "Advanced" and scroll down to "Save". Check the "Always Create Backup Copy". It will make your save a little slower, and you will accumulate backup copies, but it's a lot easier to go back one revision than to try to salvage what's left after a corruption. Disk space is cheap, fix-after-the-fact is aggravating. Word "used to" keep backups by default, but that was many years ago. The feature is still available; it just needs to be enabled.

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