Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Limits on Path Length in Word.

Limits on Path Length in Word

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 18, 2014)

11

The name to this tip is a bit misleading, because there is no limit on the length of a file's path name in Word—the limit is in Windows. Let me explain.

Every file you save on your hard drive must have a unique name. The thing that makes the name unique is the path name that is associated with the file. Thus, the following two file names are unique when considered with their path names:

C:\myfiles\first drafts\report.doc
C:\myfiles\second drafts\report.doc

If you are a highly (overly?) organized person, you can create all sorts of folders within folders within folders to achieve an amazing level of organization. Each folder name adds to the uniqueness of a file, provides a way to organize the files, and—unfortunately—adds to the overall length of the path and file name.

All modern versions of Windows have a limit on path and file names of approximately 255 characters. This can cause problems when you try to save files in programs such as Word. For instance, let's say that you have a very deep folder structure, and the path to where you want to save your document is about 248 characters long. If you then try to save a document in that folder, and the document name is over seven characters, including the period and filename extension (either three of four characters, depending on your version of Word), then Windows generates an error and won't let you save the file.

Since this is a system-level limitation, the only solution is to this problem is to rethink your folder organization. Look for ways to shorten folder names, or reduce the number of folder levels in your path. You should then be able to save your file, as desired.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (6397) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Limits on Path Length in Word.

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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What is seven more than 6?

2019-09-03 19:49:32

Roy

My apologies, the fix has to go through your computer's Group Policies.

Not very difficult, though one worries about screwing something up. When I made the change, it was my first foray in there.

Sadly, I also found several things that indicated, and I believe meant, that my browsing privacy settings IN the three browsers had never, for many of them, ever taken effect because these little known Group Policy setting were overriding them. Well, that's fixed now. But it looked, and looks, like it sucked for 20 years.


2019-09-03 13:08:03

Roy

Oh, yeah, no clue on why it is not easier to change, or, in fact, just set to that out of the box.

Maybe something to do with how MS flagships can't benefit from it, only competitors can.


2019-09-03 13:06:18

Roy

I must take potential issue with a basic portion of the answer.

Windows does have that limit, though you can make a registry change that allows it to resolve paths up to 32,767 characters long. This was available in the Windows NT work IBM did that MS then used to replace DOS-based Windows. So 25 years now.

(One assumes the advertiser/spammers in most of the other comments are shilling for a program that does that registry change.)

HOWEVER, and here is where, potentially, the problems occur,...

Excel (yes, not Word, Excel) has issues arising from the short limit (actually, even if "technically" 255 characters, there are a few added for housekeeping and it's really more like 259) because they built that into the function resolution engine. It doesn't just read the function with any range of operation inside the ()'s, it reads the entire path to the function, then all the obvious bits.

This leads to major issues vis-a-vis things like Sharepoint, OneDrive, etc., as well as just plain networks.

So... personally, I FLAT won't believe Word does not have any features that build an assumed short maximum path length in. Clearly, functionality that is not as commonly used as functions are in Excel, but it beggars the mind to think that ancient Word does not have functionality in it that hard codes this short value.

But I have no facts on the matter, so I put the "no facts" together with "beggars the mind" and say Word potentially has broader issues.

However, the fix outside of anything like that is very simple. Hard to track down, but simple.

MS Excel has a site for expressing interest in changes. Here's the one for this issue:

https://excel.uservoice.com/forums/304921-excel-for-windows-desktop-application/suggestions/10733559-increase-the-218-character-filename-length-limit-t

For shifting to long paths, the following link might be of interest:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/desktop/FileIO/naming-a-file#maximum-path-length-limitation


By the way, perhaps this is the root of some of the (apparent) corruption that can strike Word files. Use some (unspecified, see above) functionality and specify a path over the 260-ish characters, and the next time Word opens the file, or tries to, it chokes on it. Not very obvious, but it could happen this way. (Could probably edit the file outside of Word to change such paths to something acceptable to get the file to open in Work, then adjust as possible. Perhaps one less fatal loss of files. Maybe.)


2019-07-27 14:42:48

Alina Valker

I have been using long path tool for delete, copy, move, and bulk rename long path files or locked file. It is easy and convenient to use.


2017-08-21 13:05:26

corey lean

I totally agree with you, they should have removed it till now. Its high time now. This type of errors should not exist now. They have this problem in their API. I once encountered this problem while transfer from my old PC to new PC. At that time I used GS Richcopy 360 to solve this problem. I used it for the entire process and never got any errors again. You can also try it, hope it helps!


2016-11-11 12:45:35

aiden carter

Thanks,

The Long path tool is the very best program for error, unlock solution.
Try it and solved your problem.
I used the long path tool and I solved my error, unlocks problem solution.


2016-07-15 12:08:56

Riona

You can try Long Path Tool to resolve the issues.


2015-02-13 04:20:46

juliaop

Just try Long Path Tool For Easy Solution.


2015-01-24 23:01:20

Kristina

I agree with this, the limit is on windows, if we exceed to windows limits we find errors well just wanna share if you find errors use Long Path Tool for easy fix.


2014-12-26 11:49:24

julias4

Actually when i see like this error then that time i did use long path tool for solve this problem. Did you use it in before ?


2014-10-18 12:52:45

MWilson

This same problem can occur if you create a zip file containing embedded folders and files with long names and then email or post it for others' use.

If the recipient then places or extracts the zip file into their own long folder tree, the newly created path names could be too long, preventing them from opening the files.

And because there is no error message related to this problem, it can be maddeningly frustrating to troubleshoot.


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