Solving Crashing Problems


Article contributed by Graham Mayor

The first step whenever Word crashes.

Close Outlook and press CTRL+ALT+DEL to open the Windows Task Manager. Check the running processes to ensure that there are no stalled instances of Word still running, and if there are, end those processes.

The crash will have left a selection of temporary files in the current Document folder for any document that was open at the time, in the Word Startup Folder, in the Office Startup folder, and at other locations depending which global template add-ins you have installed. These temporary files can impair the future smooth running of the application and should be deleted. See

If Word crashes as soon as it opens ...

It is most likely to be due to template corruption. To verify whether this is the case, start Word without templates and add-ins loaded, to see whether it still crashes: to do this, click the Start button in the bottom left of your screen, select Run, and type winword.exe /a. (You may need to specify the full path although you probably won't.)

Note the space before the forward slash! If you miss out that space, you'll get an error message such as: “Cannot find the file ‘winword.exe/a’ or one of its components”.

The /a switch is intended as a troubleshooting tool only, and you shouldn't continue to use it to start Word. Any customisations you make while in this mode will be discarded.

If that fixes it, either your Normal template or one of the files in Word's Startup path are probably corrupt, so the next steps to try are:

  1. Try renaming your Normal template (with Word and Outlook closed – and if you have opened a Word document within Internet Explorer, close IE too). Note that the normal template for Word 2007 is normal.dotx or normal.dotm
  2. For instance, try renaming to Normal.old – and make sure you only have one file. If you cannot see the file extensions (as in see the reference to switching their display on in ii) below.

If that doesn't fix it, try either:

If you cannot see the file extensions (as in [filename].dot), you can switch their display on in Windows Explorer. To do so, select View + Folder Options (or Tools + Folder Options, or View + Options, in some versions of Windows); and on the “View” tab of the dialog, deselect “Hide file extensions for known file types”.

Printer Problems

Another possibility is that you have a network printer driver that is not installed on your hard disk, but that is set up as your default printer.

When Word opens, it needs to query your default printer driver (the one shown as “Default” under Start + Settings + Printers). For most people, even if the default printer is a network printer, this will not cause any problems, because the printer driver will usually be installed on your hard disk. But if you use a Microsoft network at work, you can use a printer driver that's located on a server, and not installed on your hard disk. This makes it easy for IT to update everybody at once with new driver versions, or different driver configurations.

But if you are not connected to your network (for instance, because you have a laptop, or because your server has gone down) and if the driver is installed on the server and not on your hard disk, Word can't query the driver; and unfortunately, rather than give a meaningful error message, it just crashes!

Note that this scenario can also cause problems for PowerPoint and Excel, but not when you first open them; only Word crashes on startup as a result of this.

You can tell whether your network printer drivers are installed locally or on the server by going to Start + Settings + Printers and right-clicking on the printer icon; if the driver is installed on the server, then the title bar of the printer's Properties dialog will say: “[Printername] on [Servername] Properties”; whereas with a locally installed network printer driver, it shows just “[Printername] Properties”. 

AntiVirus Woes

If you are running Norton AntiVirus (NAV), or Norton SystemWorks, which incorporates NAV, there may be a conflict between the so-called Norton AntiVirus plug-in for Microsoft Office and another third party add-in that you have installed. Typically, you may get the error message: “Error VBE6.DLL”.

There are two specific add-ins that are known to conflict with the NAV plug-in:

However, if you don't want to disable the NAV plug-in (and if you don't get any problems with Excel), the fix on the Symantec site is to install a replacement WinFax add-in, which is available for download [Lene Fredborg, 14-Jun-2020: Removed outdated link to] on their web page. Unfortunately their instructions for installing the add-in are misleading, so use the following steps instead:

  1. To find out where Word's Startup folder is, look under Tools + Options + File Locations in Word.
  2. Close Word, and, on the Symantec site, right-click where it says “”; select “Save Target As”; and save the file in Word's Startup folder (overwriting the existing file if it's there).
  3. In Windows Explorer, press Ctrl+F, and search for If you find you have more than one copy, delete the one that you didn't just install. The reason for doing this is that there is a bug in the WinFax installer software – it doesn't always install its add-in in the right folder.

But in any case, it really is a good idea to disable the NAV plug-in, and if you do so, you won't get any of these conflicts.

If Word opens very slowly...

This could be template or registry corruption – follow all the steps listed under “If Word crashes as soon as it opens ...”. 

If they don't fix it, verify that you aren't logging Word information in the Outlook Journal; in Outlook, click Tools, Options, Journal, and check the state of the “Microsoft Word” checkbox in the “Also record files from:” box.

You'll find other possibilities and more information in the following Microsoft Knowledge Base articles: WD: Word Starts Slowly When Using a Network Printer Driver OFF97: Opening and Closing Programs or Files May Be Slow

If you get an error message as soon as Word opens, but it doesn't crash (e.g. “Compile Error in Hidden Module”) ...

... then there is a macro in one of your Global templates containing an error. It could be an innocent error or it could be a virus.

Either way, try either

If you cannot see the file extensions (as in [ filename].dot), you can switch their display on in Windows Explorer. To do so, select View + Folder Options (or Tools + Folder Options, or View + Options, in some versions of Windows); and on the “View” tab of the dialog, deselect “Hide file extensions for known file types”.

If none of these fixes help, please post with full details to the Application Errors newsgroup.

If you are using Office 2000 SR-1 or SR-1a, and all Office applications quit without an error message as soon as they open ...

If, whenever you start one of the Microsoft Office programs after applying the Microsoft Office SR-1/SR-1a Update, the program quits immediately after it starts, this probably means that the CD key that was originally supplied with your copy of Office was faulty. For more details and the fix, see Microsoft Knowledge Base article WOFF2000: Program Quits Immediately After Starting When SR-1/SR-1a Update Is Applied (Q255503)


Advanced Troubleshooting

Alternatively, in Word 2002 (and later), starting Word while holding down the Ctrl key, or using the /safe switch rather than the /a switch, opens Word in “Safe mode”, which is similar but sometimes even better for troubleshooting.. See Microsoft Knowledge Base article: WD2002: About Office Safe Mode in Word for more details

Templates stored in Word's Startup path load automatically when Word opens; and are also known as Global templates.

In Word 97 (and previous versions) there is one Startup path (referred to from now on as the Word Startup path).

Word 2000 and higher versions, have two Startup paths: the Word Startup path, plus a “factory preset” Office Startup path.

You can find out where  the Word Startup path is by selecting Tools + Options + File Locations in Word. In Word 2007, click the coloured Office button (top left of the Word window) and select Word Options + Advanced. The File Locations button is at the bottom of the scrolled list of options.

If you can't see the full Startup path in the File Locations dialog, click the Modify button. Word 2000 and previous versions display the full path where it says “Folder Name”. In Word 2002 and above you will undoubtedly have to pull down the arrow where it says “Look in” in order to see the full path.

Startup Path

If you can't get into Word, you can get the Word Startup path by either:

(Word 97): HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\8.0\Word\Options\“STARTUP-PATH”

(Word 2000): HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\9.0\Word\Options\“STARTUP-PATH”

(Word 2002): HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\10.0\Word\Options\“STARTUP-PATH”

(Word 2003): HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Word\Options\“STARTUP-PATH”

(Word 2007): HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Word\Options\“STARTUP-PATH”

Note: You cannot reliably get the correct Startup path by running Winword.exe /a; the path that lists was the Word Startup path when you first installed Word (unless you upgraded from a previous version), but if the path subsequently changed, the new path is not shown in the Tools + Options + File Locations dialog if you start Word using the /a switch.)

You can find out where  the Office Startup path is by looking in the C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office\ directory (or equivalent, if you installed Word somewhere else) for a folder named Startup.

Note that life can get very confusing should you install personal add-ins in the Office Startup folder; it is better to put all your add-ins in the folder shown under Tools + Options + File Locations.

Unfortunately some third party program installers (e.g. some versions of Adobe Acrobat) install add-ins in the Office Startup folder. If you install such an application, it may be a good idea to cut and paste the add-in (using Windows Explorer) into the folder shown under Tools + Options + File Locations. However this does have the disadvantage that the application’s uninstall routine will no longer be able to find its add-in to remove it.