What to Do When Microsoft Word Files Won't Open

How to recover your files and keep working

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 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. Open Windows File Explorer, navigate to the folder that contains the file, then right-click the file.

  2. Select Open With.

  3. Select Microsoft Word from the list of options. The next time you select 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, use the Open and Repair feature to recover it.

  1. 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.

    Browse icon in the Open section of Word
  2. Select the file you want, select the Open drop-down arrow, then choose Open and Repair.

    Open and Repair command in Word

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 Office 365, store files on OneDrive and use the AutoSave feature as an extra layer of protection.