What to Do When Microsoft Word Files Won't Open

Corrupt Files and Lost File Associations Prevent Word Files From Opening

Low Polygon Computer Security Illustrator with Splashing Rocks and Documents

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Occasionally, Windows users have difficulties opening Microsoft Word files. Typically, the files can be opened from within Word, but when clicked from Windows, they won’t open. The problem isn’t with Word; instead, it's most likely a problem with file associations or file corruption. 

Repairing File Associations for Word Files

Windows’ file associations can change inadvertently. This can be remedied easily by following these steps:

  1. Right-click a Word file.

  2. Select Open With from the popup menu.

  3. Click Microsoft Word...

The next time you click on a Word file, it will open correctly.

How to Open a Damaged Word File

Word offers a Repair feature that may be able to repair a corrupted file so that it can be opened. Here's how to use it: 

  1. In Word, click File > Open. Go to the folder or location of the damaged document. Don't use the Open Recent option.

  2. Highlight the damaged file to select it.

  3. In the drop-down menu next to Open, select Repair.

  4. Click Open.

How to Avoid File Corruption

If your computer crashed or lost power, you can open a previous version of the file if you've turned on AutoRecover in Word's preferences.

File corruption also can occur when the file in question is on a USB device and the device is disconnected while open in Windows. If the device has an activity light, wait a few seconds after it quits blinking before removing the device. If it doesn't stop, use the Safely Remove Hardware dialog box. Here's how to access it:

  1. Press

    Windows + R
  2. Type in or paste

    rundll32.exe shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL hotplug.dll
  3.  (Case-sensitive). The dialog should then pop up.