Can't Open a Word Document in Windows

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 25, 2021)

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.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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