What to Do When Microsoft Word Files Won't Open

How to recover your files and keep working

Occasionally, Windows files can get damaged or corrupted, making it difficult to open them in Microsoft Word. If this happens to you, the below guide can help you recover the files and continue working.

The instructions in this guide are for Word for Office 365, Word 2019, Word 2016, Word 2013, Word 2010, and Word 2007.

How to Repair Microsoft Word File Associations

Windows file associations can change inadvertently. Follow these steps to fix the issue:

  1. Navigate to the file in Windows and right-click on it.

  2. Select Open With from the menu.

  3. Select Microsoft Word from the list of options. The next time you click on the file, it will open correctly.

    Open With dialogue box with Word highlighted

How to Open a Damaged Word File

If your file is damaged, try using the Open and Repair feature to recover it.

  1. Within Word, select File > Open > Browse and navigate to the file's location. Don't try to open the file using the Recent section.

    If you're using Office 2013, select the location, then select Browse. If you're using Office 2010, you don't need to select Browse.

    Browse icon in the Open section of Word
  2. Select the file you want, then click the arrow next to the Open button and select Open and Repair.

    Open and Repair command in Word

How to Avoid File Corruption

Files typically become corrupted when your computer crashes or loses power. If this happens, you can open a previous version of the file if you've turned on the AutoRecover feature in Word's preferences.

File corruption also occurs when the file in question is stored on a USB device that's disconnected while it's open in Windows. If the device's activity light is flashing, wait a few seconds after it quits blinking before removing it. If it doesn't stop, use the Safely Remove Hardware icon in the Windows taskbar.

Additionally, if you're using Office 365, you can store your files on OneDrive and use the AutoSave feature as an extra layer of protection.