[How To] Fix Corrupt MS Word Files


This tutorial explains how to retrieve information from Microsoft Word documents that may have become corrupt. We have provided as many screenshots as possible to show you the steps you need to take. Let’s start.

How to Fix a Corrupted Document

There are several ways to try to correct a corrupted document.

Which method you use depends on the nature and severity of the corruption and the nature of the behavior exhibited. Although many of the methods that follow succeed regularly, not every corrupted document can be recovered.

TIP – getting a clean backup copy of the document is the best way to recover a corrupted document.

1 – Convert to another Format then Convert it Back to Native Format

This is the most complete document recovery method; always try it first.

  1. Save the file in RTF file format; this format preserves the formatting in your Word document.
  2. Reopen the document in Word.
  3. Convert it from RTF back into .doc.

If this method succeeds, the file corruption may be removed during conversion.

If the corruption persists after you save the file in RTF file format, save the file in the following file formats:

  • Other word processing formats
  • Text Only
  • HTML

NOTE: Saving files in Text Only format may correct the document corruption problem but all of the document’s formatting will be lost.

This method requires more reformatting; therefore, use it only after other file formats fail to correct the problem.

2 – Copy Everything Except The Last Paragraph Mark To A New Document

Microsoft Word associates a wide variety of formatting with the last paragraph mark, especially section and style formatting.

  1. Click the Show/Hide icon to turn on the page markings. This is the backward P sign you see on the menu.
  2. Copy everything except the last paragraph mark to a new document; fingers crossed and the corruption may be left behind in the original document.
  3. Copy the text into the new document; reapply the formatting.

NOTE: To select everything except the last paragraph mark, press CTRL+END, then CTRL+SHIFT+HOME.

3 – Copy The Uncorrupted Portions Of The Document To A New Document

Sometimes you can determine the location of where the file has been corrupted in your document.

In such cases, copy everything except the corrupted portion to a new file, then use the following steps to reconstruct your document:

  1. Copy the uncorrupted portions of your document to a new file.
  2. Save a copy of the corrupted document in Text Only format.
  3. Open the Text Only file.
  4. Copy the text from this file that was in the corrupted section, and paste that text into the file that contains the uncorrupted portion of your document.
  5. Reformat the sections you pasted, and then save the recovered document.

4 – Copy Text and Paste As Unformatted Text

If you can open the corrupt document – but the document acts or looks strange – try to:

  1. Select and copy the text
  2. Create a New document, and
  3. Choose Edit > Paste Special > Unformatted Text.

This removes all of the formatting and underlying problems in the document and provides a clean copy of the text. Reformat the text.

5 – Save as a Previous version of Word

If the document can be opened, save it as a Word 6.0 document.


If that is not successful, save it as a Word 2.0 document.

This often allows the file to be recovered without corruption.

6 – Open The Damaged Word Document In Draft Mode

Sometimes you can open a document successfully in Draft mode when it will not open in other views. Once you open the file, you may be able to recover or repair the file.

To switch to Draft mode in Word:

  1. Click Normal from the View menu
  2. Choose Options from the Tools menu
  3. Select the View tab
  4. Select the Draft Font option.

7 – Recover Text From Any File

If your Word document will not open and you need to at least get a copy of the text within the document:

  1. Choose File, Open.
  2. In the Files of type drop-down list, select Recover Text From Any File.
  3. Use the Recover Text From Any File option.

WARNING – All formatting, graphics, fields, drawing objects, and so on, will be lost. However, headers, footers, footnotes, endnotes, and field text, will be retained as plain text.

1st Note: If the Recover Text From Any File converter is not installed, you will need to re-run Setup to install this converter.

2nd Note: Remember to reset the Files of Type box back to Word Document (*.doc) after you have recovered the document, otherwise the setting will appear when you re-open Word the next time.

8 – Link a Clean File with a Blank Document and then Change the Link Source To The Damaged Document.

Use the following steps to link and change the link to the damaged file:

1. Create a new document. Type This is a Test or similar wording into it. Save.

2. From the Edit menu, choose Select All.

3. From the Edit menu, choose Copy.

4. From the File menu, choose New.

5. From the Edit menu, choose Paste Special.

6. Select either Unformatted or Formatted text, and click Paste Link.

7. From the Edit menu, choose Links.

8. In the Links dialog box, select the filename of the first linked document and click Change Source.

9. In the Open dialog box appears, you will be asked which document you want to change the link to. Select the document you can no longer open (i.e. that’s corrupted) and click Open Source.

10. Click OK in the Links dialog box.

11. The text from the damaged Document will appear.

12. On the Edit menu, click Links, and select Break Links.

13. You can now reformat and save the recovered text.

This method work as it lets you to open the file if the header area has been damaged.

UPDATE: I have had some success in getting Word docs back to normal by saving them to HTML and then re-opening them in Word. Then re-save them to .doc. This seems to remove corruptions due to problems with tables, usually caused by too many table styles causing the Normal.dot to crash.