Software & Apps MS Office What to Do When Microsoft Word Files Won't Open How to recover your files and keep working by James Marshall Writer James Marshall is a pro journalist who covers technology and computer troubleshooting. He is also skilled with Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, and other word processors. our editorial process James Marshall Updated on December 04, 2019 reviewed by Michael Barton Heine Jr Lifewire Tech Review Board Member Michael Heine is a CompTIA-certified writer, editor, and Network Engineer with 25+ years' experience working in the television, defense, ISP, telecommunications, and education industries. our review board Article reviewed on Sep 17, 2020 Michael Barton Heine Jr MS Office Word Excel Powerpoint Outlook Tweet Share Email Occasionally, Windows files get damaged or corrupted. This makes it difficult to open these files in Microsoft Word. If this happens to you, the below guide can help you recover the files and continue working. Instructions in this article apply to Word for Microsoft 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: Open Windows File Explorer, navigate to the folder that contains the file, then right-click the file. Select Open With. Select Microsoft Word from the list of options. The next time you select the file, it will open correctly. How to Open a Damaged Word File If your file is damaged, use the Open and Repair feature to recover it. Open Word, select File > Open > Browse, then navigate to the file location. Don't open the file from the Recent section. In Office 2013, select the location, then select Browse. In Office 2010, you don't need to select Browse. Select the file you want, select the Open drop-down arrow, then choose Open and Repair. How to Avoid File Corruption Files typically become corrupted when a computer crashes or loses power. If this happens, open a previous version of the file if you've turned on the AutoRecover feature in the Word preferences. File corruption also occurs when the file 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, go to the Windows taskbar and select the Safely Remove Hardware icon. Additionally, in Microsoft 365, store files on OneDrive and use the AutoSave feature as an extra layer of protection.