Software

Dealing with Word corruption


I had just finished a children’s nonfiction manuscript on Richard the Lionheart the other day when Word burped. It was awful. My system locked up, Word wouldn’t respond, and after waiting several minutes (just to make sure), I finally pushed the button… and prepared to cry. To make matters worse, I hadn’t made a backup. Unfortunately, I don't always practice what I preach. 

After rebooting, Word wouldn’t open the file. I tried both of Word’s repair options:

  • In the Open dialog, choose Recover Text From Any File in the Files As Type control.
  • In the Open dialog, choose Open and Repair from the Open button’s dropdown options.

Neither worked and I was gloomy. I had a hard copy, but reentering the entire manuscript would take time. I’m a fast typist, but not that fast.

On a lark, I opened the doc file in WordPad. All of the text was there. The formatting and bookmarks were gone. There wasn’t enough formatting to care about and the footnote text was still there and in order, but the numbers were gone—replaced by underscore characters. I spent a few hours renumbering all the footnotes and was fine.

I read about corruption problems in Office documents, but frankly, I’ve never suffered much from it. This was my first experiences with Word corruption.

I’d like to hear your corruption horror stories and how you recovered. Was there a better route than I chose? I feel fortunate to tell the truth. All I had to do was recenter some text and renumber the footnotes. It could've been so much worse.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

12 comments
rob_annable
rob_annable

Just set autosave to save every couple of minutes and before you start any document save it to a place you know you will be able to find later rather than opening a new doc and blitzing through for an hour only to find it crash and have to spend time trawling through countless temp files...

ltech
ltech

You can never be too careful. I was writing a grant application and had the version counter set. I would periodically save a new version, so had about four version saved and then would periodically save over the latest at roughly half hour intervals. That proved to be my downfall. About 15 versions in and four saved versions with multiple saves, I tried to re-enter the document and was greeted with an error message that the document was corrupted and could not be recovered. I tried the two methods of document recovery and finally got the text recovered, but all of my tables, illustrations, etc. had disappeared, although their text content remained. It took three hours to reconstruct the document (under a 12 hour deadline), but I finally got it redone. The only solution, apparently is to freshly save each version under its own name. When you finish, go back and delete all of those earlier versions and then defrag your disk.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

I did not tell the computer to freeze up but there it is!Save your work!After every major input of data make a save as file.In Paint Shop Pro it would be a PSP file.The PSP saves most of the data so you don't have to start all over when the computer once again senses your euphoria at the completion of a project.(You might even want to save your work to a memory stick or CD in case the whole system crashes.)

ssharkins
ssharkins

I know. :) You know, I'm just spoiled I think. I usually make copies of my work on a floppy or CD, and I have no excuse for myself. I had saved the document to the hard drive, I just hadn't created a backup on disk yet. Interestingly, I checked the recovered files folder and there wasn't squat, so not even that featured kicked in. :(

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

I have many times recovered a Word document that could not be opened by using Open Office to open the word file. It will also retain much of the formatting as well. I ran into this solution several years ago when I was 'toying' with open office and someone came to me with a bad file (only copy). Since then it has been standard practice for me to take a corrupt file, open it in OO, and save as MS Word. It works most of the time (at least until the Office 07 format).

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

Try running scandisk (chkdsk) and check for errors. Also, you can try a winternals defragmentor for your page file. defragment your drive if no errors are found. if it still continues, run a memory tester. Also, may want to look at increasing RAM if you run 512 or less.

sosborne17@cox.net
sosborne17@cox.net

I do not yet use Word 2007, but I've lost enough documents in other versions that I now always set "Tools - Options - Save Tab - Save AutoRecover info every:" to 10 minutes (or 3 minutes if the document is especially important or complicated). I've also recovered text (not formatting, usually) from TEMP files using NotePAD or another text editor or WordPAD. It's another good reason to keep the TEMP folder nearly empty (so the "right" TEMP file may be found with minimal effort).

kathy
kathy

I've had the same freezing occur ever since I loaded office Pro 2007. I want to save often when working but since I upgraded it the program frequently won't let me save. I get virtual memory errors (I've got set high enough) or read/write error issues or it just crashes. Totally frustrating and a time waster.

NoOneOfConsequence
NoOneOfConsequence

Not sure how common this really is, but even before I read the replies I was thinking, "She should have tried opening it with OpenOffice.org." That's my first recourse as well. Plus, I've been able to rescue corrupt .odx files by opening them w/ a ZIP program, and then editing the contents w/ Dreamweaver ... of all things! However ... nothing beats "Save early, save often!" for this stuff. Still, if you're on a writing binge ... hours can go by before you come up for breath! Probably the freeze up is what returned you to the "regular program in progress". ;-)

ssharkins
ssharkins

That's good to know -- I'll look into it. Thanks!

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