Fatal Errors in Word

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 23, 2013)

Peggy wrote about a problem she was having with Word. It seems that every so often she would see an error message that asked if she wanted to send a message to Microsoft about the error. The only choice was to send the error report or not; regardless of whether she clicked Yes or No, Word would exit and restart.

After posting this question in the Help Wanted section of WordTips, other subscribers wrote to indicate that they had experienced similar problems and were very interested in an answer. Unfortunately, an answer is not as easy to come by as one might hope. The reason? There are any number of "causes" that can make Word go into the shut-down-and-restart sequence, all of which will include an offer to send an error report to Microsoft.

It is possible for fatal errors to crop up periodically; that seems to be the lot and life of a computer user. However, such errors should not become a regular, repeatable occurrence. If they become such, then there is something wrong with either your document or with the actual installation of Word. In such an instance, you have a couple of options.

First, you should make sure that you have upgraded your version of Word to include the latest service pack. This will make sure you are up to date. If that doesn't work, you will need to determine if the problem occurs with only one document, or with all documents. If it happens with some documents but not others, look for commonalities between the affected documents. For instance, the documents could all have the same template attached. If it is a document (or a template) then you need to follow the procedures—outlined in other issues of WordTips—for salvaging a corrupted document.

You could also start removing third-party pieces and parts that may have been added to Word. For instance, if you are using some add-ins, you might want to remove them or disable them in some way to see if the problem clears up. If it does, you have then identified the source of the problem.

If all of the above fail. take some time to do a bit of detective work to identify the problem. The best way is to open different documents, individually, and see if the problem can be recreated. If the problem only occurs with one or two documents, then look for things that are similar between the documents that aren't in the other documents. For instance, you might notice that the problem documents only contain graphics or they are the only ones that are master documents. These similarities will help you figure out what is causing the problem.

Of course, if the problem is with one or two documents and there are no similarities between them, then the problem could be the documents themselves. Recreate the documents or copy everything from them into new documents. (Don't copy the very last paragraph mark in the problem documents.) This should hopefully help clear up the problems.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (778) 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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