Getting over the heartbreak of losing your work can be very difficult, especially when you’ve put in long hours of effort. Microsoft has worked hard to improve Word to avoid such sad stories, but they still find a way to occur.

Being here means that you’re dealing with a damaged Word file, which is a good thing because it shows you’ve not resigned yourself to losing the document for good. Luckily, some troubleshooting techniques have shown good results, and we’ll be walking you through them.

Before you start, you should know that the troubleshooting process is potentially lengthy, but you might be lucky and get your document back after applying the first few fixes. The time you’ll spend recovering the file shouldn’t be an issue when you consider how important it is.

So, stick with us as we show you how to recover corrupt MS Word files.

Why Word Files Get Corrupted

Document corruption is the result of certain unusual system activities. If Microsoft Word crashes or your system abruptly goes off in the middle of typing, you’ll lose recent changes you made to the job, but you can easily open the file if you saved it. You just have to start over from the point where it was saved.

Word is also configured by default to save backup copies of your document in case a crash happens. However, you’ll still have to return to the point where the last backup was made.

A Word document becomes corrupt when Word crashes or your system goes off while the application is saving the file or creating its backup. The abrupt crash, in this case, leaves the file partially written and broken as a result.

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The system’s sudden shutdown and the app’s abrupt crash could be caused by issues not related to Word, such as a malware attack, a battery problem, a software conflict, a hardware failure, or a system glitch. While you can take measures to prevent the issue from occurring again, such as installing and running a competent anti-malware program, the only thing that will bring true relief is recovering the damaged document or even a part of it.

How to Recover a Corrupt Microsoft Word File

If you have lost an unsaved file, you can easily retrieve it by opening Word and loading it from the Document Recovery pane on the left side of the window. But a corrupt Word document is a different nut to crack.

Don’t go assuming that the document is corrupt just because you can’t open it. The problem could be related to Word or Windows. So, try opening a different document. If another document opens, then you can safely work with the assumption that the Word file you’re dealing with is bad.

We’ll be showing you different methods to open a corrupt document and how to recover its content. But before you start, try updating Word and your operating system. You should also run a full malware scan on your PC, as the file might have been compromised by a malicious program.

Now follow the solutions that we’ve laid out in the order that they are arranged.

Guide 1: How to Fix a Damaged Word Document That Cannot Open

These solutions target those Word documents that are damaged to the point that they cannot open.

The First Solution: Open the Damaged Word File in Draft Mode Without Updating Links

The Draft Mode or Draft View is a watered-down version of the Print Layout, which is how you likely use Word. The view removes certain complexities and allows you to see your document the way it will appear on paper. Preventing Word from updating links allows the document to load in its original state.

Follow these steps:

  1. Launch Microsoft Word.
  2. Once Word opens, open a blank document.
  3. Go to the View tab at the top of the window.
  4. Under the View tab, navigate to Views and click on Draft.
  5. Next, head to the top-left corner of the window and click on File to open its menu.
  6. After the menu appears, click on Options at the bottom of the left pane.
  7. Once the Word Options dialog window opens, go to the left pane and click on Advanced.
  8. Next, scroll down to the “Show document content” section in the right pane and check the boxes for “Show picture placeholders” and “Use draft font in Draft and Outline views”.
  9. After that, scroll down to the General section and uncheck the box for “Update automatic links at open”.
  10. Click on OK in the Word Options dialog window, then close Word.
  11. Launch Microsoft Word again.
  12. Navigate to the top-left corner of the window and click on the File menu.
  13. Once the menu shows up, click on Open in the left pane.
  14. Click on Browse in the right pane, then navigate to the broken document and open it.

If the above method doesn’t work, head to the next solution.

The Second Solution: Use the Insert Option

This method involves inserting the broken document into a new document as a text object. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to the Start menu, search for Microsoft Word, and then launch the application.
  2. Once Word opens, click on File in the top-left corner of the window.
  3. Select New.
  4. Click on Blank Document, and then click on Create.

Tip: You can use the Ctrl + N keyboard combo to quickly open a new Word document.

  1. Navigate to the Insert tab at the top of the window.
  2. Go to the Text group and click on the arrow beside Object (the box icon directly under the calendar icon).
  3. Next, click on “Text from file” once the Object menu expands.
  4. After the Insert File dialog window opens, navigate to the damaged document, and then click on the Insert button.

The Third Solution: Create a Link to the Broken Word File

  1. Go to the Start menu, search for Microsoft Word, and then launch the application.
  2. Once Word opens, click on File in the top-left corner of the window.
  3. Select New.
  4. Click on Blank Document, and then click on Create.
  5. You can also tap the Ctrl and N keyboard buttons simultaneously to open a new document.
  6. After the new document opens, type “Test sentence”.
  7. Go to the File menu and click on Save or press the Ctrl + S keyboard shortcut.
  8. Select a folder and name the document “Recovery link”.
  9. Now, select the text you typed in Step 6.
  10. Go to the Home tab at the top of the window and click on Copy in the Clipboard group.
  11. You can also press the Ctrl + C keyboard shortcut to copy the text after selecting it.
  12. Click on File in the top-left corner of the window.
  13. Select New.
  14. Click on Blank Document, and then click on Create.
  15. Once the new document opens, go to the Clipboard group in the Home tab and click on the arrow under Paste.
  16. After the Paste menu slides out, click on Paste Special.
  17. When you see the Paste Special dialog window, select the radio button for “Paste link”, and then choose “Formatted Text (RTF)”.
  18. Click on the OK button.
  19. The text you copied will now appear as a link. Right-click it, hover your mouse pointer over Linked Document Object, and then click on Links in the expanded menu.
  20. When the Links dialog box opens, single-click on the linked Word file, and then click on the Change Source button.
  21. Once the Change Source dialog window appears, navigate to the broken Word file that you’re trying to repair, select it, and then click on Open.
  22. Click on the OK button in the Links dialog window.
  23. The contents of the broken Word document will now appear if any recoverable text or data exists.
  24. Now, right-click on the linked text that you pasted and select Linked Document Object >> Links.
  25. Make sure the file is selected once the Links dialog box opens, then click on Break Link.
  26. Click on Yes once the following message pops up:

“Are you sure you want to break the selected links?”

The Fourth Solution: Use the “Recover Text from Any File” Converter

Microsoft Word has a tool that extracts text from any type of document. The utility will pull out every undamaged piece of content once you force Word to use it. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to the Start menu and launch Microsoft Word.
  2. After Word shows up, click on Open in the left pane of the File menu.
  3. Click on the Browse button.
  4. In the Open dialog window, expand the drop-down menu to the right of the File Name text box.
  5. Once the menu’s contents appear, scroll down and select Recover Text from Any File(.).
  6. Now, navigate to where you saved the corrupted Word document and double-click it.

The recovered text will now appear, but there will be additional binary data that won’t be converted, and you’ll find it at the start and end of the document. In some cases, it will be scattered throughout the document. Make sure you delete it before you save the recovered document as a new Word file.

Guide 2: How to Fix a Damaged Word Document That Can Open

Use the solutions that follow if you can open the damaged Word document.

The First Solution: Change the Document’s Template

The issue could be caused by an incorrect template. This solution will show you how to apply the global template (Normal.dotm) to the document if it’s using a different template. However, if the document’s current template is Normal.dotm, it’s possible that the template file is corrupt. You’ll find out how to force Word to create a new one.

Follow these steps to check the document’s current template:

  1. Open the corrupt Word document.
  2. Go to the top-left corner of the window and click on File.
  3. Once the File interface opens, click on Options at the bottom of the left pane.
  4. After the Word Options dialog window appears, go to the left pane and click on Add-Ins.
  5. Go to the right side of the window, under “View and manage Office add-ins”, and expand the Manage drop-down menu.
  6. Select Templates.
  7. Click on Go.
  8. The Templates and Add-Ins dialog window will now appear. You’ll find the current template of the document in the Document Template box under the Templates tab.

If the document’s template is “Normal”, continue with the steps below. If it isn’t Normal, skip to the next guide:

  1. Launch the Run dialog box by right-clicking the Start button and selecting Run. You can also press the Windows and R keyboard buttons together to open Run.
  2. Once Run opens, type %userprofile% into the text box and hit the Enter key.
  3. Once your user account folder opens, navigate to the AppData folder and open it. If you can’t see the AppData folder, go to the View tab at the top of the File Explorer window and tick the box for “Hidden items” in the Show/Hide group.
  4. After opening the AppData folder, navigate to Roaming >> Microsoft >> Templates.
  5. Under the Templates folder, go to the Normal.dotm file, right-click it, and then select Rename from the context menu.
  6. Change the name of the file to “Oldtemplate.old” and hit the Enter keyboard button.
  7. A new Normal.dotm file will now be created.

Follow these steps to select the new Normal.dotm template. We will also show you what to do if the document isn’t using the “Normal” template. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the corrupt Word document.
  2. Go to the top-left corner of the window and click on File.
  3. Once the File interface opens, click on Options at the bottom of the left pane.
  4. After the Word Options dialog window appears, go to the left pane and click on Add-Ins.
  5. Go to the right side of the window, and under “View and manage Office add-ins”, expand the Manage drop-down menu.
  6. Select Templates.
  7. Click on Go.
  8. After the Templates and Add-Ins dialog window opens, click on Attach under Document Template.
  9. Once the Templates folder opens, double-click on Normal.dotm.
  10. Close the Templates and Add-ins dialog window by clicking on the OK button.
  11. Close Microsoft Word.
  12. Restart Word and open the corrupt document to check if the issue persists.

The Second Solution: Enable the Default Word Settings

The document’s strange behavior might be caused by certain changes made to Word. These changes might have been implemented unknowingly, or they could be the work of plugins or even other third-party applications. Some users were able to resolve the problem by launching Word with its default settings. You can easily do this by launching the application via the Run dialog box.

Follow these steps:

  1. Launch the Run dialog box by right-clicking the Start button and selecting Run. You can also press the Windows and R keyboard buttons together to open Run.
  2. Once Run opens, type “winword.exe /a” (don’t add the quotes), and then click on OK or press Enter.
  3. Once Word opens, go to the top-left corner and click on File.
  4. After the File menu opens, click on Open, then select the corrupt Word file.

The Third Solution: Use the Open and Repair Option

Microsoft Word can attempt to repair broken files. While this method doesn’t guarantee success, it can possibly salvage the situation. Follow these steps to force the application to attempt the repair process:

  1. Go to the Start menu, search for Microsoft Word, and then launch the application.
  2. Once Word opens, click on File in the top-left corner of the window.
  3. After the File interface appears, click on Open in the left pane.
  4. Click on Browse.
  5. Once the Open dialog window appears, navigate to the damaged file and single-click it.
  6. Go to the Open button and click on the arrow beside it.
  7. Once the context menu drops down, select Open and Repair.
  8. Microsoft Word will now attempt to repair the broken file.

The Fourth Solution: Reinstall the Printer’s Driver

Device drivers contribute to many ills in Windows. In this case, your printer’s driver might be causing the Word document’s irregular behavior. It’s hard to say how the driver directly affects the file, but the issue was resolved for some users after they reinstalled it.

The steps below will show you how to remove the driver and reinstall it:

  1. Open the search box in the taskbar by clicking on the magnifying glass. You can also press the Windows and S keyboard buttons together to open the search function.
  2. Type “control panel” into the search bar.
  3. Click on Control Panel in the search results.
  4. After Control Panel opens, click on View Devices and Printers under Hardware and Sound.
  5. Next, locate your main printer, right-click it, and then select Remove Device.
  6. Click Yes in the User Account Control dialog window. If your system is configured such that you need to enter your administrator password to proceed, enter it.
  7. Click on the Yes button if you’re prompted to get rid of every file associated with the printer.
  8. Once Windows removes the printer, restart your computer.
  9. After your computer boots up, go to Control Panel and click on View Devices and Printers under Hardware and Sound.
  10. Click on Add a Printer.
  11. Follow the prompts in the installation wizard to install the printer.
  12. Once you’re done with the installation, launch Word and open the problematic file.

If reinstalling the driver doesn’t work, try changing it. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the search box in the taskbar by clicking on the magnifying glass. You can also press the Windows and S keyboard buttons together to open the search function.
  2. Type “control panel” into the search bar.
  3. Click on Control Panel in the search results.
  4. After Control Panel opens, click on View Devices and Printers under Hardware and Sound.
  5. Once the Devices and Printers page opens, click on Add a Printer.
  6. When you see the Add a Printer dialog window, click on “The printer that I want wasn’t listed”.
  7. Under “Find a printer by other options”, select the radio button for “Add a local printer or network printer with manual settings”, and then click on Next.
  8. Select “Use an existing port” under “Choose a printer port” and click on Next.
  9. When you get to the “Install the printer driver” page, click on Microsoft under Manufacturer, and then select “Microsoft XPS Class Driver” or “Microsoft XPS Document Writer” under Printer.
  10. Click on the Next button.
  11. On the next page, click on “Use the driver that is currently installed (recommended)”, and then click on the Next button.
  12. Check the box for “Set as the default printer”, and then click on Next.
  13. Click on Finish.
  14. Restart your system and check for the problem.

The Fifth Solution: Save the Problematic Document in a Different Format and Then Change It Back to the Word Format

  1. Open the Start menu, search for Word, and then launch the application.
  2. Click on Open, then select Browse.
  3. Locate the problematic document and double-click it.
  4. Once the document opens, click on File in the top-left corner of Word and click on Save As.
  5. Click on the Browse button or select a folder you frequently use.
  6. Once the Save As dialog window opens, go to the “Save as file type” drop-down menu and choose Rich Text Format (*.rtf).
  7. Click on the Save button.
  8. Go back to the File menu and click on Close in the left pane.
  9. After that, head to the File menu again and click on Open.
  10. Locate the document you just converted to the Rich Text format and open it.
  11. After it opens, click File and click on Save As.
  12. Click on the Browse button or select a folder you frequently use.
  13. Once the Save As dialog window opens, go to the “Save as file type” drop-down menu and choose Word Document.
  14. Rename the document, and then click on the Save button.

If the document isn’t fixed, try saving it in a format other than Rich Text and convert it back to the Word format. Use the Webpage (.htm; .html) format, and then convert the file back to the Word format. Next, use another word processing format, and then use the Plain Text (.txt) format after that.

If the process doesn’t bear fruit, move on to the next solution.

The Sixth Solution: Copy the Entire Text Except the Last Paragraph Mark

With this method, you’ll be selecting the text in the document except the last paragraph mark by using the Ctrl + End and Ctrl + Shift + Home keyboard shortcuts.

Before you begin, note that you should only copy text between section breaks if your document has them. Copying the section breaks could mean carrying over the damage to the new document. The best way to avoid copying them is to switch to the draft view by clicking on View and selecting Draft in the Views group.

Follow these steps to fix the damaged document:

  1. Open the document and tap the Ctrl and End keyboard buttons together.
  2. When the cursor goes to the end of the document, press the Ctrl, Shift, and Home keyboard buttons simultaneously.
  3. Once the entire text is selected, go to the Home tab at the top of the window and click on Copy in the Clipboard group or simply tap the Ctrl and C keyboard keys together to copy the text.
  4. Use the Ctrl + N keyboard shortcut to open a new document.
  5. Switch to the new document and press Ctrl + P to paste the text.
  6. If the document’s strange behavior continues, head to the next solution.

The Seventh Solution: Change the Document View to Identify and Get Rid of the Damaged Content

If you notice that some pages in the document are not visible, switching the view can help you reveal the missing pages and remove the bad content. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Open the problematic document.
  2. Scroll down to the last page and take note of where the document ends.
  3. Go to the View tab and select Draft or Web Layout in the Document Views section.
  4. Scroll down to the page you marked earlier and check if anything is now appearing after it. Select the new content and delete everything.
  5. Return to the View tab and select Print Layout in the Views section.
  6. If the issue persists, switch views again, check for additional content, and delete it. Continue switching views until the document begins to behave normally.
  7. Save the file.

The Eighth Solution: Copy the Good Parts of the Document and Paste Them into a New Document

This method will help you salvage the parts of the document that are undamaged. Follow the steps below:

  1. Open the problematic Word document.
  2. Tap the Ctrl and N keyboard buttons to launch a new document.
  3. Switch back to the problematic document, and select the undamaged pieces.

Please note that if your document contains section breaks, copying them will be a bad idea because they could be damaged. The point of this solution is to build a new, clean document using uncorrupted parts of the old one. So, instead of including the section breaks, copy the text between them. The easiest way to do this is to switch the document view to Draft by clicking on the View tab and selecting Draft in the Views group.

  1. After selecting an undamaged part of the document, press the Ctrl and C keyboard buttons together.
  2. Switch to the new document and press the Ctrl and P keyboard buttons together.
  3. Repeat the steps for every undamaged piece of content until you completely reconstruct your old file in the new document.

The Ninth Solution: Open the Document with Notepad

If the solutions you’ve tried so far have failed to produce any result, try using Notepad to open the document. It’s possible for Notepad to retrieve the document’s content, but you have to sacrifice formatting such as tables, headings, and so on. If you can get your text, the trade-off will be worth it.

Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Open a File Explorer window by right-clicking the Start button and selecting File Explorer. You can also launch the window by pressing the Windows and E keyboard buttons together.
  2. After the File Explorer opens, head to the folder where you saved the damaged document.
  3. Right-click the document and hover your mouse pointer over Open With.
  4. Select Notepad in the extended menu.
  5. The document should now open in Notepad. You’ll find codes and extra text scattered around the content; make sure you delete them.
  6. Next, click on File and select Save As.
  7. Once the Save As dialog window appears, change the name of the document to avoid overwriting the corrupt one.
  8. Return to Microsoft Word and open the new document you created with Notepad. You can reapply every lost format and clean up the document.

Conclusion

We believe that the long journey has been worth it. Tell us about your experience in the comments section below and feel free to drop your questions.