How To Fix / Repair a Corrupt Word Document

There is nothing worse than having spent hours on a Word document, saving regularly only to have it corrupt. When you see those immortal words ‘Word experienced an error trying to open your file’, you know it’s going to be bad. Or is it? Can you recover a corrupted Word document? Is all lost forever? Yes and no in that order. It is quite possible to repair a corrupt Word document and this tutorial will show you how.

How To Fix / Repair a Corrupt Word Document

Whether it’s a thesis you spent months creating or a bucket list for the next five years, if you potentially lose access to a file you created, it is one of the most annoying experiences in computing. Hopefully, once you get to the end of this page you will know several effective ways to repair a corrupt Word document.

Before you try any of these fixes, make a copy of the file first. Even though the file isn’t working, it might end up being accessible and we wouldn’t want to spoil that by damaging it further during recovery. Try all of the following on the copy and not the original.

Repair a corrupt Word document

The reasons are many and varied but the result is the same. A Word document that cannot be opened normally. Word gives you two options within the error syntax, Open and Repair, or use Text Recovery.

Open and Repair gives mixed results. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. To access the tools, open a new Word document. Select File and Open and then Recover Unsaved documents at the bottom. Instead of selecting Open, select the radio button next to it and then Open and Repair. If Word can repair it itself, it will.

Text Recovery is accessible from the same dialog box and may or may not help.

Using Another Word Document

Microsoft gives us a few native tools to recover the text of a corrupted file. If you’re using a Windows PC or Mac, this is a quick and simple method to use. You can insert the corrupted file into a new Word doc.

  1. Open Word and create a new document.
  2. Select ‘Insert’ at the top. Then, select ‘Object.’
  3. Click ‘From File’ at the bottom.
  4. Locate and select the corrupted file.
  5. The text from the corrupted document should appear in the new blank document.

This is a quick and simple method to recover the text of a corrupted Word document. But, if for some reason this doesn’t work for you, we have other methods below.

Other ways to repair a corrupt Word document

If the internal repair tools don’t work, we have other options. We can use Previous documents, File History, or Windows Restore. There are a couple of other tools to try too.

Word Previous documents

The first place to look is to see if Word saved a previous version. Go to File and Managed Documents and select a previous version. If you closed Word or rebooted your PC, this option may not be available.

File History

Depending on your operating system, your files may be automatically backed up. If you use Windows 10, it uses File History to automatically back up certain files. You do have to configure File History if you don’t save your work on your C: drive but it can work if you do.

  1. Right-click on the Word document that is corrupt.
  2. Select Restore Previous Versions.
  3. Wait for the popup window to load any previous versions of the document and select one.
  4. Select OK to open it.

Try a previous or more recent version of Word

If you’re using an older version of Word, try it on a newer version. There have been steady updates to error handling so a new version of Word may be able to open or recover the file. If you don’t have access to another version, try Word viewer at Outlook.com. It may be able to at least read the file so you can copy and paste the text somewhere else.

Use Google Docs

You could try uploading the .doc file to Google Docs and opening it there. The two office suites do play somewhat nicely together. Google Docs may be able to do what Word itself cannot and see through the error. You can then create a Doc, save it and create a new Word file from the contents.

Use Windows Restore

Windows Restore may work depending on where you save your documents. If you save them in the default Documents folder, Windows Restore may be able to help. If you save them somewhere else that is included in Windows Restore, it may still be able to help.

  1. Type ‘restore’ into the Windows Search box and select Windows Restore.
  2. Select the closest restore point to the file corruption if you have multiple options.
  3. Select Next and Restore.

If you use Office for Mac, you could try Time Machine to do the same thing.

Use the Microsoft Office Visualization Tool

The Microsoft Office Visualization Tool is a technical piece of software originally designed for the inspection of the code behind a .doc file. It also has a useful repair utility.

  1. Download and install the Microsoft Office Visualization Tool.
  2. Open the app, select File, and Open.
  3. Select your broken .doc file.
  4. Select Tools and Repair and Defragment.
  5. Select File and Save Data File As. Give it a name.
  6. Open the new file.

The Microsoft Office Visualization Tool may take a little time to chew over the file but it might work. Make sure to Save Data File As and open that file using normal Word. You might be surprised at the results. Or not.

If none of those work, there are third-party tools that may do the trick. Good luck with it!

One thought on “How To Fix / Repair a Corrupt Word Document”

Avatar Frederick J Lanier says:
I had an entire book written and Lenovo did a firmware update and it corrupted my book file. I was able to open it in Google Docs and then copy and paste it back into my computer. I lost some header and footer references but I can redo that. I was really scared for a minute. Thanks for the help

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