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How to Fix Error Message 'Word was Unable to Read Document. It May be Corrupt' Efficiently

The error message - Word was unable to read document. It may be corrupt, which usually happens when you suddenly can't open your word file. In this article, we will focus on why this error message appears and how to fix this problem.


Table of Contents

Applies for: Word 2003, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2016

On Microsoft's official forum, one user had asked about a Word error message he received. This is what he said:

“I have a message: Word was unable to read this document. It may be corrupt. Try one or more of the following: * Open and Repair the file. * Open the file with the Text Recovery converter.”

Under his help message, 92 other people voted for the option "I have the same question". Now that so many people are facing the same dilemma, what can we do to solve it? In the next parts, we will tell you why you received this error message and what you can try to resolve this error.

Word was Unable to Read Document

Reasons for a Corrupted Word File

As reflected in the error message, your Word document may be damaged. Although the cause of damage may vary from case to case, here are some of the most common causes:

  • Program Crashes: This often happens when you are working with your Word document. If the program happens to crash or freeze right in the middle of saving your file, it can corrupt the file by leaving it partially written.
  • Download Error: If you have downloaded a Word document from the internet, and the connection goes out or you quit your Web browser partway through saving a file, your Word document may get corrupted.
  • File Extension Change: Sometimes we need to change the file extension of a Word document from .doc to .docx or vice versa. This operation can also lead to an error message.
  • Virus Attack: This is not a so common reason these days. But once there are viruses on your computer or USB flash drive, the Word document on it will get infected.

Although a damaged Word file may sound desperate, there are still several ways to help you solve the problem. Here are all the methods you can try to solve the "Word cannot read the document. It may be corrupted." problem.

Method 1. Use a Reliable Word Repair Tool

There are many tools that are dedicated to helping users repair damaged MS files. Stellar Toolkit for File Repair is one of these tools.

Stellar Toolkit for File Repair is designed for easy file repair and recovery. It can not only repair corrupted Word documents, but also works pretty well in reparing Excel, Power Point as well as PDF files.

The simple scan-preview-recover mode is one reason that this tool attracts users so much. Now download this tool from the button below and follow the step-by-step guide to see how to use Stellar Toolkit for File Repair to repair your Word document.

Step 1. Select the file type.

Download and install Stellar Toolkit for File Repair. From the software's main screen, select "Repair Document" to repair the MS Office document which you wish to repair.

Select the file type

Step 2. Scan the corrupted documents.

From the next screen, select the corrupted files to be repaired. You may choose the "Select File" or "Select Folder" option to find corrupt office files on your system. Once the corrupted files have been selected, click "Scan" to initiate the scan.

Scan the corrupted documents

Step 3. Repair and save documents.

When the scan finishes all recoverable information will be displayed in the software's left-hand panel. Click on any item to preview it before repair. To save repaired data, click "Save" from the file menu, enter a destination of choice, and hit "OK"

Repair and save word documents

Method 2. Open Word in Safe Mode

Starting the Microsoft Office for Windows in Office Safe Mode allows you to use it safely when you encounter certain problems. This feature is useful when you need to open a file that cannot run in normal mode due to an application crash, or when you need help in identifying add-ons or extensions that may cause startup problems. Here are the detailed steps.

Step 1. Find the shortcut icon for your Word application.

Step 2. Press and hold the "CTRL" key and double-click the Word shortcut.

Step 3. Click "Yes" when a window appears asking if you want to start the application in Safe Mode.

Open word in safe mode

This method is suitable for most Windows PCs. And, if you want to exit safe mode, just close all open Word files and restart. Unless there is a problem opening the application, it will start in normal mode.

Method 3. Use the Open and Repair Tool in MS

MS also has a built-in repair function that can help users open damaged files. This feature is called "open and repair". When you encounter the error message "Word cannot read the document. It may be damaged.", you can try to use this feature to open the damaged document.

Step 1. Open the Word application, go to "File" > "Open" > "Browse".

Choose Browse under Open

Step 2. Go to the location or folder of your problematic Word document, and select it to open.

Step 3. Click the drop-down arrow next to Open, and select "Open and Repair".

Choose Open and repair

Wait for the opening and repairing process to complete, when you can see your Word content, copy and save the content to a new file.

Method 4. Use the Recover Text from Any File Converter in MS

This is another built-in feature of Windows for users to repair damaged files. Also known as Text Recovery Converter. Now, please follow the steps below to see how to open Word documents normally in this way.

Step 1. Open MS Word application on your computer.

Step 2. Click "File" on the left top corner of the panel.

Click File

Step 3. In the main menu bar, select "Open" > "Browse" to open your Word file from its location.

Open and Browse

Step 4. Click the drop-down icon next to "All Files". Next, select "Recover text from any file".

Recover text from any file

Step 5. Choose the file you want to recover and then click the "Open" button. The MS Word will open and try to recover text from the file.

There are, however, limitations to this method. You can see that this method is called Text Recovery Converter, which means it can only extract text from your file. If your Word document is contained with images, charts, or any other elements, this method might not work.

Sum Up

Let's sum up. If you received the error message "Word cannot read the document. It may be damaged." when you open your Word document, it means your document might be damaged. Inside the MS Word application, there are many features you can try to repair your file, such as Open and Repair, Text Recovery Converter. 

A third-party recovery tool is another option. Data Recovery software such as Stellar Toolkit for File Repair can also help users to repair corrupted Word documents.

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Updated by Cedric

Cedric Grantham is one of the senior editors of EaseUS who lives and works in Chengdu, China. He mainly writes articles about data recovery tutorials on PC and Mac and how-to tips for partition management. He always keeps an eye on new releases and likes various electronic products.

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Written by Gemma

Gemma is member of EaseUS team and has been committed to creating valuable content in fields about file recovery, partition management, and data backup etc for many years. She loves to help users solve various types of computer related issues.

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