What files do I need to back up?
Or: Where does Word store all the customizations I make?
Article contributed by Dave Rado and Brenda Hutton
To cope with a hard disk failure or other major calamity, or with a future upgrade
to a new machine, you need to keep regular backups of more than just your
data files. In order to keep all the customizations you've made in Word, you need
to regularly back up the following as well.
Templates and Add-ins
The vast majority of customizations are stored in templates and add-ins. For
details of the difference between
templates and add-ins, and which stores
what, see: What do Templates
and Add-ins store?.
To find out where your regular
templates are stored, select Tools + Options
+ File Locations, and note the paths listed under User Templates
and Workgroup Templates.
Note that in Word 2000, whilst all your custom templates are stored in that
path, the Microsoft ones are not. But you don't need to back up the Microsoft
ones (because they are on your Office CD). There is more coverage of this at What do Templates and Add-ins store?.
To find out where your global template Add-ins are stored, select Tools
+ Options + File Locations, and note the path listed under Startup.
can't see the full paths,
double-click on them. Some of your templates may be stored in sub-folders of
these folders (any custom as opposed to Microsoft-generated) tabs in the File New dialog come from the
names of any such sub-folders).
If you think you don't have any custom templates, you're wrong; you have at
least one Normal.dot; and if you don't consciously specify where your
customizations should be stored, they will be stored there. Normal.dot is prone
to corruption and virus infection, and so you may need to delete it from time to
When it is deleted, Word will create a brand new Normal.dot, minus any
customizations stored in your old copy. So if you back up nothing else, at least
back up Normal.dot; but it is much better to regularly back up your templates
folders in their entirety (eliminating the need to back up Normal.dot
individually); and as a general rule, it is also much better to store your
customisations in templates and add-ins other than Normal.dot. Again, see: What
do Templates and Add-ins store? for more details, and also see: Problems opening Word.
In Word 2000, you may also have COM Add-ins installed. For more details
see: How to find out whether any Word Add-ins have been installed.
One more thing; under Tools + Options + Save, turn on the
checkbox which says Prompt
to save Normal template,
if it isn't switched on already (unfortunately, it is switched off by default).
The only time you should ever save Normal.dot is when you have knowingly made a
change to it that you want to save. Then you should save it by holding the Shift
key down and selecting File + Save All. Letting Word save Normal.dot whether
you've consciously made changes to it or not, without even prompting you first,
is just asking to end up with a corrupt Normal.dot file. I believe most
corruptions of Normal.dot are a direct result of this setting being switched
AutoCorrect entries that have been saved without formatting are stored
in an acl file; see: How can I import and export all my AutoCorrect entries, so they can be transferred to another machine?
for more details.
Custom spelling dictionaries
You can create multiple custom spellchecking dictionaries if you want to (for
use in different contexts), but the default one is called Custom.dic. If
you click the Add
button when you run the Spellchecker, the word will be added to the current
You can find out where your dictionary file is stored by selecting Tools +
Options + Spelling and Grammar + Dictionaries + New. The default path
varies, depending on your operating system and which version of Word you are
You can also create an Exclude
dictionary, in order to
make words that Word thinks
are spelt correctly appear as errors. For details, see: How to remove a word from Word's main Spelling Dictionary.
To back up and restore the preference settings you have made under Tools +
Options, Tools + AutoCorrect, etc., you can use the method described at
What exactly does the Data Key in the Registry store?
(under How to preserve
your Settings preferences).
Under Tools + Options + File Locations + Documents, you can see the
default path in which your documents are saved, although you can modify that
setting. (The default setting is operating system dependant). You can, of
course, save your data wherever you like, regardless of the default path.
It helps, when you later want to find your documents, if you create many sub-folders (and give them meaningful names), so that no one
folder contains too many files.
There is a trade-off between storing everything in a single folder tree
main folder and lots of sub-folders) or creating several trees.
The former makes backing up your files simple, as long as your tape, or wherever
you are backing up to, has enough capacity to cope; if it doesn't, you may need
to use several smaller folder trees.
In a company environment, the best place to store your documents is on a file
server, because they will be backed up automatically if you do that (unless your
firm has suicidal tendencies!). If using a laptop, you can use the Windows briefcase
feature to synchronise the files you are working on between the server and your
hard disk (it is covered in Windows Help).
Save my settings
wizard (Word 2000 and
Microsoft have provided an exe file which they call the Save
my settings wizard. The
Office XP version is installed automatically; the Word 2000 version is available
here (link removed by Lene Fredborg 3-Feb-2017). It claims to allow you to back up and restore all your customizations using a
secure area on the Microsoft web server. Once installed, you can access the wizard
by selecting Start + Programs + Office Tools + Save
my settings wizard. But
unfortunately, it is of limited value at best:
It doesn't back up any of your custom templates,
unless they are stored in Word's factory
directories. (It doesn't seem to check the Tools + Options + File Locations
settings to find out where your custom templates are actually stored)
and it is usually better not to store your templates in Word's factory
directories, for the reasons discussed at What do Templates and Add-ins store?
It doesn't back up your acl (AutoCorrect) file.
It backs up the Data
Key itself, rather than the settings stored there, so it is of no help if
you want to back up your preferences prior to deleting
the key due to a corruption you would still need to use a macro
to do that.
It does back up and
restore all the shortcuts in your C:\WINDOWS\Recent
folder. One might occasionally want it to do that; but more often one would
not (they might not be very recent when you do a restore); and you are not
given the choice it's all or nothing.
It also seems to corrupt the FrontPage Recent
Webs list (selecting File
+ Recent Webs in FrontPage invariably opens a different web site from the
one you select, after running the above utility). Reinstalling FrontPage
doesn't fix this, and although I suspect a corrupt registry key, I haven't
been able to find the culprit.