My menus and toolbars are missing and won't come back

Or:  Some of the options on Word's built-in dialogs are permanently greyed out, when they shouldn't be;

Or:  Word doesn't retain my settings (or my recently-used files list) when I quit and go back in.

Or:  Some of the tabs in Tools | Options look wonky (they're either blank or the text is shifted down and to the right)

Or:  Word opens very slowly.

Article contributed by Dave Rado and J.E. McGimpsey

Why does this happen?

Regrettably, the missing menus problem is a hardy perennial in Word,  Missing menus  hasn't been fixed for several versions now, and that's because nobody can discover quite how it happens.  Sure, sometimes it's user error; and sometimes it's some toxic "internet helper" or add-in, or "improvement" or "haxie" or "explorer bar" or the like that you download. 

But sometimes, it just "happens", and we have no idea why...  This article will tell you how to get your missing menus back.

Many Internet "helper" add-ins make some quite nasty changes to your computer, and often the only "helping" they do is 'helping themselves to every web address you click on" for spamming purposes.

Such additions are often slight modifications of well-known virus programs.  They may not actually stop your computer working, but they can certainly slow it down!  We generally advise avoiding all except the best-known ones.  There are some that play around with your computer in quite nasty ways, and damaging Word's settings is often the least of their activities.


All the above symptoms indicate a corrupt Registry key (although in the case of Word opening very slowly see also Problems opening Word).

Note that this article does not cover how to bring back a toolbar you have accidentally hidden (but the answer is to right-click on any toolbar and select the one you hid, in the list that appears); or how to restore a button you've accidentally removed from a menu or toolbar (that's covered in the following article: How to restore a command to a menu).

Using the /a switch (Word 2000 and above only)

In Word 2000 and above, you can sometimes fix this simply by clicking the Start button in the bottom left of your screen, selecting Run, and typing: winword.exe /a. (You may need to specify the full path although you probably won't.) When using the /a switch in Word 2000 and higher, certain problems with the Data key in the registry trigger a repair utility, and this utility then automatically rebuilds the corrupt values. Such problems appear to be strictly limited to bad settings in the Toolbars value, and the toolbar settings have to be completely out of the range of acceptable values for this self-repair procedure to be triggered; so mild corruption would not usually be fixed by it.

If using /a doesn't fix the problem, or if you are using Word 97, you will need to delete and recreate the corrupt registry value(s), as follows:

Deleting and recreating the corrupt registry values

To fix the problem, you need to close Word and delete one of the following Registry keys:

For Word 97:


for Word 2000:


for Word 2002:


A clean key will automatically be created when you restart Word.

Alternatively, rather than delete the Data key itself, you can delete either Settings or the Toolbars value within the Data key – if your menus and toolbars are corrupt but your other settings are OK, just delete the Toolbars value and you won't lose your preferred settings.

Note: If you do delete the  Settings value (or the entire Data key), your settings will return to the factory defaults; so if you do still have access to your menus, see What exactly does the Data Key in the Registry store? for details of how you can (in effect) back up and restore many of your preference settings. Record the macro described there before you delete your keys or values, and play it back afterwards to restore them. 

Or if you don't want to use a macro, make a note of your Tools + Options and Tools + AutoCorrect settings before deleting the key, so that you can set them back to their previous state afterwards. Even if you don't have access to the menus, you may be able to get at those two dialogs by pressing Alt + F8, where it says Macros in, select Word commands, then select ToolsAutoCorrect in the list of commands, and click the Run button. Make a note of your settings (or screen capture them and paste the screen capture), and then press Alt+F8 again, select ToolsOptions in the list of commands, and click the Run button again.

But first try just deleting the Toolbars value rather than deleting the entire key. 


This problem appears to be particularly widespread amongst users of the original release of Word 2000, so if you have Word 2000 and you haven't yet upgraded to Service Release 1 it's well worth doing so as soon as possible – the upgrade is free. But you'll still need to delete the registry key; upgrading won't be enough on its own.

If you have never edited the Registry before

Although this is a straightforward procedure, be aware that deleting the wrong thing could stop your machine from functioning altogether! But as long as you're careful and follow the instructions exactly, you will not have any problems. So take a deep breath, and:

  1. Click the Start button at the bottom-left of your screen, select Run, type Regedit and click OK.
  2. Expand HKEY_CURRENT_USER, then expand Software, then Microsoft, then Office, then 8.0, 9.0” or “10.0, depending on your version, then Word, and you'll see a folder called Data.
  3. Either right-click on the Data folder, or (see discussion above), right-click on the Toolbars value in the right-hand pane. Now select Rename or Delete”. Personally, I would delete it, but if you're worried about it, then rename it, as you can then always rename it back if you want to.
  4. Quit the Registry, go back into Word, and you should find that everything in the garden is lovely!
  5. If you want to be really safe, you can start by selecting Registry + Export Registry File before deleting the key. Browse to a location to store the exported file, and then type a name for the new file. That way, if things go wrong you can subsequently double-click on the exported file to restore return the Registry to how it was when you started. (Or you can select Registry + Import Registry File.)
  6. And if you want to be really, really safe, take a look in the Registry Help + Help topics and look up restoring the registry and print the instructions for future reference. That way if there really is a problem and the computer won't start you will have the instructions for what to do at a command prompt.
  7. As mentioned previously, you can use the method described at What exactly does the Data Key in the Registry store? to (in effect) back up and restore many of your preference settings.