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Repairing Corrupt Word 2007 Files

Here’s how to bring a .docx files back to life.

Chris: I recently started a new job and most of the documents that I work with are Word 2007 files. Nearly all of them open without a hitch, but there are a couple that will not open. I think they are corrupt and was wondering if there was a way that I can at least salvage some of the information in them.

Beth, fortunately for you all hope is not lost. Normally, when Word 2007 detects a corrupt file, it will automatically try and repair it while it is opening the file. You can also force this behavior by taking the following steps:

  1. In Word 2007, click the Office button and select Open.
  2. In the Open dialog box, click on the corrupt file that you would like to open and then click the small down arrow next to the Open button. This will bring up the Open menu.
  3. In the Open menu, select "Open and Repair."

Word will now attempt to repair the corrupted file and then open it for viewing or editing. With Word 2003, a similar feature existed. When "Open and Repair" failed to resuscitate a corrupt Word .doc file, I would then try and open the file using OpenOffice, which usually did the trick. According to the OpenOffice Wiki, the Office 12 Import Filter will be available with OpenOffice 3.0. This will allow you to open Word 2007.docx files using OpenOffice. Note that there are a few hacks online that will allow you to do this today with OpenOffice running on Linux.

Here's one example:

Finally, one other approach is to convert the .docx file to a .doc file using an online converter, and I have found the online Docx converter to work really well.

If you would like to convert the files using Word 2003, you can use the Office 2007 Compatibility Pack, which is documented in the article, "Open a Word 2007 document in an earlier version of Word."

While the new file formats in Office 2007 may have caused some initial compatibility issues, their open XML format will actually ease compatibility well into the future. Tighter integration with Microsoft Office and OpenOffice is just the start of what's to come.

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Beth, recovery from backup or an earlier shadow copy is always the best alternative for dealing with a corrupt Microsoft Office file. When a backup isn't available, then recovering the file with the Open and Repair Word 2007 feature or an online .docx-to-.doc converter are your next best bets.

If anyone else has additional tips and tricks for bringing a corrupt .docx file back to life, please post them as comments to this article.

About the Author

Chris Wolf is a Microsoft MVP for Windows --Virtual Machine and is a MCSE, MCT, and CCNA. He's a Senior Analyst for Burton Group who specializes in the areas of virtualization solutions, high availability, storage and enterprise management. Chris is the author of Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise (Apress), Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley), and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).learningstore-20/">Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley) and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).

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