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Can't Open a Word Document in Windows

Clive has a system that just hasn't worked correctly since he installed and then removed Open Office. Now, when he double-clicks a Word document in Windows Explorer, the document doesn't open. Instead, what he gets is a blank document. He can still open the documents using File | Open (within Word), but cannot double-click to open a document.

The first thing to check is to make sure that the file extensions are correctly associated with Word. Since double-clicking on a Word document in Windows Explorer opens Word, the file types are probably associated correctly, but it doesn't hurt to go through the steps anyway. From the command line, use the following command:

"C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office\winword.exe" /unregserver

The quotes are necessary, but you may need to change the path so it reflects the location of the winword.exe file on your system. (You can use Windows' Search tool to locate the path to the winword.exe file.) The /unregserver switch "unhooks" all the references to Word in the Windows Registry. You should then, immediately, use the following command:

"C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office\winword.exe" /regserver

This command causes Word to rewrite all its Registry keys and to reassociate itself with document and template files. Now you can double-click a document file and see if Windows starts Word and opens the document.

If this does not work, you'll need to try a few other things. First, start Word and let it try to detect and repair any problems with itself. Do this by choosing Detect and Repair from the Help menu. Word displays the Detect and Repair dialog box. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Detect and Repair dialog box.

Accept the default settings (only Restore My Shortcuts While Repairing is selected), then click OK. Word may ask you to insert the original installation CD-ROM, depending on what it detects and needs to repair.

If that still doesn't work, the problem is most likely rooted in the default action for the DOC file type being set to "New" instead of "Open." To correct this problem, follow these steps in Windows, while Word is closed:

  1. Use Windows Explorer to open a folder window. (It doesn't matter which folder; any of them will do.)
  2. Choose Folder Options from the Tools menu. Windows displays the Folder Options dialog box.
  3. Make sure the File Types tab is displayed. (See Figure 2.)
  4. Figure 2. The File Types tab of the Folder Options dialog box.

  5. Scroll through the list of Registered File Types until you find the option for DOC files. Select this option.
  6. Click the Advanced button. Windows displays the Edit File Type dialog box. (See Figure 3.)
  7. Figure 3. The Edit File Type dialog box.

  8. The dialog box lists a series of actions that can be performed on DOC files. One of those actions should be shown in bold-face type. Normally it is the Open action that is in bold. If it is in bold, skip to step 10.
  9. Click once on the Open action.
  10. Click Set Default. The Open action should now be shown in bold-face type.
  11. Skip to step 19.
  12. Double-click the Open action. Windows opens the Editing Action dialog box. (See Figure 4.)
  13. Figure 4. The Editing Action dialog box.

  14. Make sure the Action box contains &Open.
  15. Make sure the Application Used to Perform Action contains the following. (The path shown may need to be modified for your particular system and version of Word.)
  16. "D:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE11\WINWORD.EXE" /n /dde
  17. Make sure the Use DDE check box is selected.
  18. Make sure the DDE Message box contains the following:
  19. [REM _DDE_Direct][FileOpen("%1")]
  20. Make sure the Application box contains the word WinWord.
  21. The DDE Application Not Running box should be empty.
  22. Make sure the Topic box contains the word System.
  23. Click OK to close the Editing Action dialog box.
  24. Click OK to close the Edit File Type dialog box.
  25. Click OK to close the Folder Options dialog box.

You should now be able to double-click a Word document in Windows Explorer and have it open the actual document.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (316) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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Comments for this tip:

Lily    18 Mar 2016, 23:24
"There was a problem sending the command to the program" that shows on my computer when I tried to open word documents of my assessments that I just did yesterday, but it is not allowing me to open any word documents I am working on with currently, that worries me so much, can you help me please.
Michael Scuffil    26 Jan 2016, 06:19
I got this problem when I updated Windows 7 sometime in 2014, so I restored the system and ignored all updates for months. Months later I tried again, same result. If I knew what update was causing it, I'd update and delete the culprit. But I don't. So my system hasn't been updated for 18 months (not that it seems to matter). I use Word 2003 (Word 2010 is installed, but I don't like it.)

(The symptoms were as you describe here, plus each time I opened a new Word document, I got a new instance of Word, which I don't want.)
viswanathan.sa    01 Oct 2015, 05:15
Thanks for your help to solve my win word problem Now i have retrieved my ms word w003 in good condition. Thank you very much for your help.
Yang Luchan    03 Sep 2015, 13:18
Thanks. You're a genius and fixed my problem with the command line solution. Yea!
abdul    26 Jul 2015, 13:53
thanks James, it solved my problem. I was unable to open downloaded office word documents from my email
Lilly Stevens    13 Jul 2015, 11:03
I am not able to open Word 2013 from desktop in order to create a new document. Up until a week ago, I could click, open and create, what happen?
awyatt    29 Apr 2015, 07:44
Ezeife: Anything with a ".exe" extension is going to be an executable program, not a document. I suggest NOT trying to open such a file within Word.

ezeife samuel    29 Apr 2015, 02:38
How can I open a doc with file extension application.exe
james    24 Feb 2015, 00:35
Hi Saroj,

I had the same problem. I fixed it by right clicking on the file you want to open and going to properties. In the general tab, down the bottom, should be a security message. Click the unblock button.
To prevent having to do this all the time, open Word. Go File > Options > Trust centre > Trust centre settings > Protected view. Then untick all 3 boxes.
Saroj Ghimire    22 Feb 2015, 05:04
My computer is window 8.1 and word version is 2010.

In my pc the word and excel file does not open it showns like opening in the protected view and the file does not open . How can I get remedy from this problem . Please suggest me.
Sauro    19 Feb 2015, 17:58
Some of the Patches of Office 2010 cause the issue: some of them doesn't affect Word 2003; some of them rise the issue.
Fortunatly, by reading this website I made a test using running Help/Detect and Repair resolved the issue.
Thankyou to everyone because you saved lot of time and troubles :-)
Sauro    19 Feb 2015, 17:55
As Gidion, in Windows 7 the folder options menu just have three button, General, View and Search. I never found menu file types.
Hence no way to use your DDE option method.

Running Help/Detect and Repair fixed the issue.

As Russell Cohen I've Office 2003 (and 2010 too) running on Windows 7
The patches of Word 2010 causes the issue
sathiya    16 Feb 2015, 03:45
my pc ,microsoft 0ffice can't opened.
the error would be the path error ..can you please tell me any ideas..
benniepratt    30 Sep 2014, 01:54
I tried to open the document in notepad so that I can copy the data but I failed. I even tried Open and Repair but got same error message. Then my friend suggested me to use MS Word Recovery Tool to repair and recover the corrupt, damaged or inaccessible Word documents of any formats like DOC, DOCX, DOCM, DOTX and DOTM.

Try:- http://www.recoverydeletedfiles.com/word-file-recovery-tool.html

Mohammad    07 Sep 2014, 02:06

I have some word documents that when i open i just see empty pages, but they were full of my articles, also when i select all i can see that blue selection show something is get like sentences and words but they are seem to be white or .. i try to color them to black but nothing happen, kindly please help me now what happens to this word documents??

Best Regards
Mainmat    31 Jul 2014, 21:33
I'm running word 2003, Windows 7 and all of a sudden today, word opens, but not the document itself. I get this error of:

This msg can appear if you made changes to items, such as macros, toolbars, or
Auto text, that are stored in a global template that is attached to your document.
The most commonly used global template is Normal.dot , which comes with Word.

Global Template? All I tried to do was just open my document like I do everyday. Have no idea what happened, but I believe a virus/malware is the culprit. As I have been having a rash of them lately trying to get in.. Malwarebytes, nothing better for protection...
How do I run the self repair/diagnostics mentioned in some of the above posts?
Pat    30 Jul 2014, 12:06
My Win7 does not have the same folder options so I am unable to follow these instructions. Problem is that Word 2010 has suddenly started going 'not responding' to files that I need to use regularly if I want to print them. Excel also giving problems - gives me the 'Do you want this program to make changes to your computer' message whenever I open my Excel files - have checked all permissions and rights etc- no luck at all - sigh.
Sonya    09 Jul 2014, 11:24
I double click on my saved windows document and doesnt want to open. Then the icon disappears and nothing happens
Gidion    23 Jun 2014, 00:56
I cannot open my word file, and then I found the tips from word.tips.net.

The first method is fail.
Second method, in folder options menu just have three button, General, View and Search. I never found menu file types.

How Do I do to resolve the case?

Thank You
Aftab    16 Jun 2014, 04:17
This really helped.
rony009    13 Jun 2014, 06:13
Hey I had the same issue with my computer. I wasted my time on it for
many days but finally I got a solution from this link
Russell Cohen    24 May 2014, 07:53
Thanks for posting this information. After some recent MS security updates forced a reboot of my (unattended) machine with a couple of Word docs open, attempting to open a Word doc from file explorer would open Word, but not the document.

Running Help/Detect and Repair resolved the issue.

Running Office 2003 on Windows 7.
Larry Jasorka    26 Feb 2014, 12:46
Using Windows 7, Office 97. All functions were working ok. Now Word will not open. Deleted all including all registry related items. Reinstalled original plus sr_1 and sr_2. Still "winword.exe" will not open. Tried to install sr_2 patch. It failed to install. Final notation in the log file was "Unable to open C:\Windows\Fonts\tahoma.ttf sr2patch failed." Using "openoffice" until I get it "winword.exe" to open.
Liu    02 Jan 2014, 00:21
I have used MS Word Diagnose tool to fix the problem (Version 07, windows7) and then after about a month the problem happens again.I fixed it again with Diagnose tool. Now I am worrying this problem may happen again soon. What could be the cause for this kind of problem?
Jay    20 Dec 2013, 13:07
I had the exact problem described (Microsoft Word 2007 running in Windows 7). I ran the program Microsoft Office Diagnostics, and after it ran a 5 minute test the issue was resolved. Thank you for posting this article.
Suman Dutta    30 Sep 2013, 23:04
Thanks for your information. As per your instruction i follow the steps then after again i place my comments.
Patrick Barbour    30 Aug 2013, 04:28
Thanks mucho, the Word self repair option did the trick for me (Word 2007: Office Button menu/Word Options/'Resources').

My problem was that I started getting an empty Word app screen when double clicking on a Windows Explorer docx file - right after installing Excel 2010 beside Office 2007.
dm    24 Aug 2013, 15:31
I have Win 7 x64 and Office 2003 as well as Word 2010 installed. That worked for long times without any problem. I could open doc-files as well as docx files with double-click in Word 2003. But two weeks ago I couldn't open .doc files any longer with Word by a double-click in Explorer. After a double-click Word opened, but not the document (probably the same phenomen as mentioned by Raymond). I tried the regserver/unregserver, but this didn't work. It was the "Detect and Repair" function, that solved the problem. Thank you, Allen!
Chris S.    02 May 2013, 14:51
I have to second Bill Smith's question. I'm also using Win 7 and can open .docx files but not .doc files with a double click. Thank you!
Raymond    24 Apr 2013, 16:30
However I have found this manual and it is working!! Maybe it is bad way but is working ;-)

In "Application Used to Perform Action" delete /dde and instead write "%1" and uncheck Use DDE. That's it.
Raymond    24 Apr 2013, 16:14
Hi, thanks for this topic,

but I tried everything above but after double click on document (*.doc) MS Word (2003)still opens empty.
/When is MS Word opend, everything is working correct./

Do you have some idea, please?

Jeremy Peachey    23 Mar 2013, 08:18
Thank you so much for this - I went for the Word self diagnose method first and it worked. This was for my wife's church Sunday school stuff among other things so really do appreciate your contribution to the community on this.
Larry    03 Mar 2013, 16:36
Thank you so much for the info
Mindy    01 Feb 2013, 11:28

I have been successfully using Microsoft Word 2000 for many many years. Suddenly, yesterday, I tried to open a Word doc and to my surprise the Word installer opened up and started trying to install Word. It then was requiring me to insert the CD-ROM which, unfortunately, I no longer have. Why would it do this? I access docs on a daily basis and am lost without them.

Might you know what could be going on?

I run XP.

Also, another very weird thing that has just started happening is anytime I am on a website offering a pdf download that I want, I click on it. Once it begins to open, my entire screen goes dark (not completely black, just dark where I can still see) and completely freezes. I have to then force close Firefox. Ugghh. And...no pdf for me.

Don't know if these could be related in any way as I am not tech savvy at ALL, but they have both started happening within the same week.

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.
Charles R. McConnell    05 Jan 2013, 18:43
Cannot open MS Word 2000 from desktop after I deleted several MS Word files from the desktop.

C. McConnell
Jay    28 Apr 2012, 15:35
My wife has the opposite issue,

word or excel will open documents if she clicks on them from windows explorer or if they're on her desktop, but if she opens word or excel first, then tries open/file she gets an error

"Microsoft word has stopped working and will try to recover"

it never does recover

using windows 7 and office 2010 on a toshiba satellite laptop.

Bill Smith    25 Apr 2012, 12:20
How do you do this in Windows 7. I am having the same issue. I can change the extensions of my Word documents to .docx and they open fine with a double click. They will not, however, open with a double click if they have a .doc extension.

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