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Word Slow to Open Documents

There are times when opening a document in Word can be slow. For instance, if the document is quite large, or if it contains a lot of complex graphics, if it contains a lot of linked data from other sources, or if you have saved it quite often with Word's Fast Save feature turned on.

There are other times, however, when opening a document can be downright painful—for instance, when it takes four minutes (or longer) to open a document that is only 800 KB in size. In these instances, the reason for the slowness may not be immediately evident. This is where a little bit of detective work comes into play.

The first thing to check is whether the document is on your computer or not. If the document is on a different computer in your network, then the problem could be either the other computer or even the network itself. Sometimes, if the network is configured improperly, communication across the network can slow to a crawl. This type of slowdown should affect other programs on your computer, however, when you need to access remote data from those programs. Thus, if opening remote documents is slow in all of your programs, then you should check your network and the other computer. If you suspect this problem, you will need to chat with your network administrator to see what can be done.

If the problem is evident in all documents on your computer (they are all slow in opening), then you may want to check your virus protection software. It could be that it is slowing down opening files. The only way to determine if this is the case is to disable virus protection—at least for the length of your test—to see if the problem goes away. If it does, then you should either check with the publisher of the virus protection software for an update, or look at getting a different virus protection program.

There are other things to try if the problem is evident in all of the documents you open. When Word is not running, make sure you delete all the temporary files that Word may have left lying around various folders in your system. Look for files that end with the TMP extension, or files that being with the tilde (~) character. If your file folders become very cluttered with these temporary files, it can slow Word down immensely. You can find out more information about Word's temporary files at this Knowledge Base article:


Another thing to try is to start Word with the /a switch on the command line. This causes it to load without also loading different startup files such as add-ins and macros. If this fixes the problem, then you can bet that the slowdown is caused by one of those add-ins or macros. You might also rename the Normal.dot (or Normal.dotm) file; if it is corrupted then it can slow down response times. (Renaming the file causes Word to create a clean, fresh, empty one the next time you start the program.)

When the problem is limited to a single document, then there are a couple of things to try. First, is the file stored on some sort of removable media, such as a RAM drive or a floppy drive? Opening a file on some removable media can be excruciatingly slow. This is not only because reading the file is slow, but because Word also tries to create its own temporary files on the removable media. This may quickly fill up the media and cause very slow response times.

Next, open the file and check to see what template file is attached to the document. If the document is trying to use a non-existent template file, or one that is no longer accessible through a network connection, then Word may "stall" as it tries over and over again to find the template.

Finally, if the document still won't open quickly, it could be because the document itself is corrupted. You can check this out by following these general steps:

  1. Open the slow document. (Maybe you will need to take a coffee break while it opens.)
  2. Open a new, blank document.
  3. In the slow document, press Ctrl+Home to go to the beginning of the document.
  4. Press Shift+Ctrl+End. This should select everything from the beginning of the document to the end.
  5. Press Shift+Left Arrow. This "deselects" the final paragraph mark in the document.
  6. Press Ctrl+C to copy the selection to the Clipboard.
  7. In the new, blank document, press Ctrl+V. This pastes the copied information to the new document.
  8. Close the old document and save the new document.

This should clear up any corruption problems associated with a 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 (1328) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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Comments for this tip:

Jimmy    03 Feb 2014, 15:19
My issue is slightly different. When I open WORD, then open a file, all is fine. However, when I click on a file to open it, and WORD is not open, it takes significantly longer to open (20 times longer???).
I am using Windows 7, with WORD 2007,all updated.
Any suggestions greatly appreciated.
juzer    20 Aug 2012, 05:53
MAX, thanks
uninstall validation tool and works fine again :)
Marci    12 Aug 2012, 21:06
If I rename normal.dot though will it affect my current one? I have thousands of autocorrect entries I use every day and to lose them would be terrible.

Also, if the memory on my computer is extremely low does that affect the speed of opening? Everything opens very quickly if I'm in Word and open from there. It's when I try to open an email attachment or a document from a file folder in My Documents. Thanks!

Max    15 Jun 2012, 15:29
Uninstall the Microsoft Office Validation Tool add-in!

(add/remove program)

Chris P    23 Dec 2011, 05:47
Suggestion worked a treat! Like Carol, I also deleted Normal.dot and launched Word. I now have a very happy Customer.
Thanks Again!!
Carol    14 Nov 2011, 07:29
Your suggestion that Word may be slow because of a corrupted normal.dot file was fantastic. I created a new file for that and the problem became solved. I am greatly indebted to you for your help.
Heaps of thanks!!!!!

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