The Ultimate Guide to Repairing a Corrupt or Corrupt Word File

It was the night before the report was due. You are about to finish your work. You open the document and your heart sinks when Word tells you the file can’t be opened. Worse yet, the file was never saved or was accidentally deleted.

Don’t panic! Try all the options in How to recover Word documents article. Most of the time, the advice there will recover your Word document. Oh, have you tried all of that? Can’t find your document? Or you found it but it won’t open? We also have some help for that. You can recover unsaved, deleted or damaged Word documents with our tips.

Recover Corrupted Word Files in Microsoft Word

There are several methods to try when recover a corrupted file right in the Word program. While the recovery rates for these methods aren’t perfect, try them out first. They’re free, and if they recover the document, it’ll be right there in Word, ready to save.

Word content recovery

When we open a document and discover it’s corrupt for the first time, we may see the following error message: Word found unreadable content in YourDocument.docx. Do you want to restore the contents of this document? If you trust the source of this document, click Yes.

Obviously what to do next. Click Right. If the damaged document opens and it’s usable, great! Otherwise we will see an error message, Word encountered an error when trying to open the file. A list of proposals will be presented. They are worth keeping an eye on.

Open and repair Word

The Open and repair options are also integrated in Word.

  • Open Word and select Open. Then navigate to where the corrupted Word file is saved.
    1. Select the file so that it is marked.
    2. Select the down arrow next to Open.
    3. Option Open and repair.

It may take a few minutes to process. You can recover damaged documents or receive error messages.

Recover Word documents from any file

It’s a bold claim that Word can recover text from any file, yet Microsoft still uses it as the name for the method.

  • Open Word and select Open. Then navigate to where the corrupted Word file is saved.
    1. Select the file so that it is marked.
    2. Select the down arrow next to All files (*.*).
    3. Option Recover text from any file (*.*).
    4. Option Open.

Word will process the file in a few minutes. It is hit or miss, so it will restore the text of the Word document or we may get an error message, Word found unreadable content in somefilename.tmp. Do you want to restore the contents of this document? If you trust the source of this document, click Yes. So click Right.

The text will be restored or we will get the usual error message.

Word opens in draft mode

If none of the above methods worked, we will need to try some unofficial Microsoft ways to recover corrupted files in Word. However, they can still be done using only Word. Opening the file in Draft mode is the first time.

  1. With a new blank document open in Word, select Filethen in the bottom left corner of the screen, select Option.
  1. When the Word Options window opens, select Advanced on the left. Then scroll down Show document content area. Tick Show image placeholder. Do this so Word doesn’t try to save the picture and then abandon the entire document when it can’t.

Let’s say we have also saved the images somewhere else and can bring them back to the saved document. Also, please tick Use a draft font in Draft and Outline views. This prevents Word from trying to save all styles that are already used in the document. We want Word to focus on getting the text back. We can quickly reformat the document when we have it back.

  1. Option ALRIGHT to close the Word Options window.
  1. In the ribbon, select Viewafterward Draft. Any opened documents will now open in Drafts view.
  1. Try opening the corrupted Word file.
    • Option File to go to the Word homepage interface and then select Open.
  1. Navigate to the corrupted Word document and Open it.

Give Word a few minutes to work. It will restore the document or we will get the usual error message. If you receive an error message, Word found unreadable content in YourDocument.docx… option Right to continue.

To the last method, and the most complicated.

Word links to documents

This is complicated. We’re trying to trick Word into opening a corrupted file. Surprisingly, it can work.

  1. Open a new blank Word document and save it with a name like Link to Document.docx.
  1. Enter some text like Link to Document. Select all text and copy it by right clicking and selecting Copy or use Control + OLD.
  1. Open a new blank document. Select the down arrow Paste in the ribbon. Then choose Special stickers. Or simply use Alt + Control + DRAW.
  1. inside Special stickers window, select Paste the link radio button then select Unformatted text. Option ALRIGHT.
  1. Right-click the text now in the document. Option Linked document object > Link.
  1. inside Link window, select Change source. The document selection window opens. Select the damaged Word document and open it.

Back in the Links window, make sure Source file: shows the path to the corrupted Word document we just selected. Option ALRIGHT to continue.

  1. If it works, we should see all the text from the corrupted document. It will be bookmarked as it is still a link. Right click on the text and select Linked document object > Converted into. A new window will open.

8. In Converted into Windows, Object Type: Microsoft Word Document chosen. Option ALRIGHT to do the conversion.

The document will now be plain text, with no links. Save it before it is lost again.

Program to recover deleted or damaged Word documents

What if none of those steps worked? Or what if the Word document was simply deleted and not in the Trash, without any backups? There are several programs that can recover deleted or damaged Word documents.

Windows has built-in utilities like ShadowCopy and File History to restore deleted or unbroken versions of files. There are also Free Microsoft Windows File Recovery application.

Mac’s Time machine this feature should help Apple enthusiasts, as long as they have automatic backups turned on. If those options don’t work, try one of these apps.

We have downloaded and tested all the apps below on the same corrupted file used before. Remember that no file recovery will work every time. Your experience may vary.

All applications go through VirusTotal’s File Analyzer. It’s an online virus scanner. If any security vendor flags a file as bad, that app was not included in our testing.


Operating system: Windows
Price: $80
Recovery type: Corrupt Word file

DocRepair can be used on Word documents from Word 2.0 through 2016, as well as Word for Mac. Unfortunately, we don’t have a Mac to test with, so our review is based on the Windows version.

Sometimes DocRepair recovers complex formatting, but mostly it only recovers text. All that aside, this was the most consistently performing app in our testing. It is also the simplest.

DocRepair also claims to be able to recover lost Word files to damaged disks or bad disk sectors. Sorry, we couldn’t test that. Seriously, this is the best damaged Word file recovery app in our test.

Wondershare Recoverit

Operating system: Windows, Mac
Price: From $80/month to $170 lifetime license, free trial
Recovery type: Word files have been deleted

Looking for Word recovery apps, Wondershare Recoverit will be one result. Their marketing frames it as a Word recovery application, but it is in fact a file recovery application that we will probably use to recover any deleted files.

It has a filter option so the scan can be narrowed down to a file type like photo, video, document, etc. This will reduce the scan time. However, there will still be a lot of material to sift through. Wondershare has found several versions of our files that can be restored, as shown by the markup.

RS Word Recovery

Operating system: Windows
Price: $40/year, free trial
Recovery type: Word files have been deleted

The name is confusing because RS Word Recovery doesn’t just recover Word documents. It can also recover OpenOffice, PDF and plain text files. RS Word Recovery is actually a deleted file recovery program that can filter down to a single type of document.

It won’t actually fix a corrupt file, but it can find a previous version of the file that can’t be found. It also works on local drives and removable drives. The markup shows that a version of our test file was found.

DataNumen Word Repair

Operating system: Windows, Mac
Price: 89.95, free trial
Recovery type: Deleted or corrupted Word files

DataNumen Word Repair claims to restore Word documents for Windows or Mac. It can recover unsaved, deleted or damaged Word files. The format of the document must also be preserved, including; tables, images, lists, links and bookmarks. Whether the file is on a local disk or a removable disk, DataNumen Word Repair can be used. Our test failed to recover the file.

Stellar Repair for Word

Operating system: Windows
Price: From $80/month to $170 lifetime license, free trial
Recovery type: Corrupt Word file

This one is specifically for repairing Word files. If the file’s location is unknown, Repair for Word will search for it. Once found, Repair for Word can preview the document as a full document, rich filtered text, or unformatted raw text. From there, it can perform a simple repair of minor errors or a full recovery. It didn’t work on our test file.

Easy word recovery

Operating system: Windows
Price: $60 personal license, $100 business license
Recovery type: Deleted or corrupted Word files

Munsoft’s Easy Word Recovery is an older application and it shows up in the interface. But if it works, does that matter? Easy Word Recovery can recover data from Word file and can also search the drive for all Word files in case it is lost or deleted. When a Word file is found or recovered, it also provides a preview. Our test file was not recovered.

Still can’t recover Word files?

If you’ve tried all the options in Word, Windows or Mac’s built-in recovery tools and some of the apps mentioned, there might be only one thing left to do. The device can be taken to a data recovery specialist, but it will cost more than $1,000. Perhaps this document is of great value to you.

Have you successfully rescued a Word file using our tips or apps? Do you have other tips or a favorite Word recovery app? We’d love to hear about it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *