I realize that there are tons of questions with similar symptoms, but I checked most of them and could not find an answer.

My system setup is as follows; nothing special running in the background:

  • Windows 8.1 64-bit.
  • Office 2013, no add-ons, no macros.
  • Intel i7
  • 8GB of RAM
  • SSD

What happens is that from time to time something happens to MS Word (while I am editing a document) and it becomes unresponsive eating up 100% CPU, scrolling is jumpy, etc… This is probably related to certain documents; I’ve noticed that it happens with certain documents more often then others. I know what the problematic documents are, but I cannot not work with them. Copy and pasting the content into a new document does not help and the documents in question are not particularly large.

So how to debug this issue? Where do I start?

How can I inspect the document to see what kind of stuff (in addition to plain text) they put in there? I tried the “inspect document” thing and it found some stuff, but it is not very informative - it just says “custom XML found,” “invisible objects found,” etc… I tried removing what can be removed, but this did not help. I would like to actually see what has it found.

How can I debug Word when the problem occurs?

Any other ideas?

  • Have you checked the health of the HDD? Are you saving documents to OneDrive by chance? This seems similar to this question. – Ramhound Mar 26 '15 at 12:17
  • The HDD (SSD to be exact) is perfectly fine. The documents are saved locally. – Demiurg Mar 26 '15 at 12:35
  • Do you have enough RAM? Is it caching info and having to swap it in and out? – Xavierjazz Mar 26 '15 at 12:52
  • In Task Manager, you should be able to add columns for "I/O Reads" and "I/O Writes", which relate to HDD read/write activity. Do either of these zoom upward when the problem happens? – hBy2Py Mar 26 '15 at 13:16
  • This is not a very large file I am editing, when this happens and not much else is running, to memory is hardly a problem. There is nothing exception in the I/O reads/writes and page faults statistics. – Demiurg Mar 26 '15 at 15:33

You could use Process Explorer to debug Word when the problem happens :

Right-click on winword.exe, choose Properties, and go to the Threads tab. Identify the thread that is using the CPU and click on it, then press the Stack button to see which system calls it is using.

A detailed description of this procedure can be found in this answer.

If you wish us to take a look at it, take a screenshot and post it here.


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  • 2
    This is a promising way to go, actually, upvote well deserved. Demiurg, could you run Process Explorer when your Word is misbehaving and share a screenshot showing what code each threads runs? – Dmitry Grigoryev Apr 3 '15 at 17:56
  • 1
    All that does is it tells them some more technical information, it doesn't tell them how to go about troubleshooting from there once they have that information. Can you provide possible steps after that to a solution? and any resources.on the subject – barlop Apr 7 '15 at 14:49
  • @barlop: If successful, this procedure will show whether this is a CPU loop, meaning a hard bug in Word, or a loop over some system call or calls, where the system calls can indicate the nature of the problem. If the problem is with a file, it can be identified via the Handles view of Process Explorer. – harrymc Apr 7 '15 at 16:02
  • Problem is, that (unless it goes into an infinite loop, which does happen too, but not very frequently) to CPU typically goes up for 10-15 seconds when I am working with the document. When I switch to process explorer and word goes into background, its CPU utilization goes down before I have the chance to inspect anything. – Demiurg Apr 11 '15 at 6:40
  • If this happens frequently enough, you could have Process Explorer always open on winword.exe. You could also trace its activities via Process Monitor, seeing if there is a peak of file & registry access during these seconds. Questions: (1) Have you installed any add-ins to Word? (2) Do these periods of activity relate in frequency to AutoRecover in Options/Save? – harrymc Apr 11 '15 at 8:10

Did you try saving the doc as an RTF, and then opening it again in Word?

You said you tried Copy and Paste but did you try the special Copy and Paste trick for Word ? (This used to work, years ago.)

  1. First activate Display All Format Characters (Ctrl + Shift +8 ).
  2. Select all the doc except the final paragraph mark.
  3. Copy the selection to the Clipboard (Ctrl + C).
  4. Press Ctrl + N to open a new doc.
  5. Paste the Clipboard content into the new doc (Ctrl + V).

Is there any improvement?

The final paragraph mark "contains" the document attributes including all the eventual bugs.

If all that doesn't work, open the doc with LibreOffice and then just save it as a new doc as an LibreOffice doc. Then open the new doc with Word. It may have changed slightly, but often this does the trick. If that doesn't work try saving the LibreOffice file as a Word doc.

If your original buggy Word doc is not too complicated, you may be able to open it with Wordpad, then save it as a doc, and reopen it with Word.

Final idea, you say you have 8 GB of RAM. Maybe you added on some cheap buggy RAM to a 4 GB system? I did that once and encountered several problems. All OK since I removed the extra RAM.

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The exact cause of the issue can't be determined from the information that you've provided, but these are some possible causes that I can imagine:

  • Microsoft Office 2013 is corrupt
  • An add-in is malfunctioning
  • Malware has affected Word's ability to edit a document
  • Something is broken in the document, causing Word to lock up

Troubleshooting Tips

Reinstall Microsoft Office 2013

I had to do this myself not too long ago when I messed up file associations and deleted some system files that I shouldn't have deleted.

If you can't remove Office 2013 through Add or Remove Programs, you can use this Fix It to remove it.

Disabling Problematic Add-Ins

Add-ins are extensions to Microsoft Office products, and if you have a buggy one installed, it could cause Word to freeze as you described.

You can manage add-ins by following Microsoft's support portal article on them here.

Check for Malware

Malware can affect Word's functionality. Malware removal is discussed in this Super User question.

Editing in a Different Word Processor

Google Docs and LibreOffice are alternatives to Microsoft Office. If you use one of the two alternatives to edit your Word document and save again as a Word document, the alternative software might remove the part(s) of the document that were causing Word to freeze.

Manual Inspection

I'm out of other ideas, but if you are up to digging into the internal parts of a Word document, they can be opened with an archive viewer and plain text editor (I suggest Notepad++ for syntax highlighting). Since you mentioned that you were using Microsoft Office 2013, I hope your documents are in the DOCX file format.

DOCX (Office Open XML Document) files are actually just ZIP files:

nick@workstation [~/Downloads]# file example.docx
example.docx: Zip archive data, at least v2.0 to extract

Here's the structure of the ZIP file:

nick@workstation [~/Downloads]# unzip -t example.docx
Archive:  example.docx
    testing: _rels/.rels              OK
    testing: docProps/core.xml        OK
    testing: docProps/app.xml         OK
    testing: word/document.xml        OK
    testing: word/styles.xml          OK
    testing: word/fontTable.xml       OK
    testing: word/numbering.xml       OK
    testing: word/theme/theme1.xml    OK
    testing: word/theme/_rels/theme1.xml.rels   OK
    testing: word/header1.xml         OK
    testing: word/footer1.xml         OK
    testing: word/media/image1.png    OK
    testing: word/settings.xml        OK
    testing: word/_rels/document.xml.rels   OK
    testing: [Content_Types].xml      OK
No errors detected in compressed data of example.docx.

To open a DOCX file as a ZIP file, all you need to do is change the file extension from ".docx" to ".zip".

After extracting the DOCX/ZIP, the actual document contents are located at ./word/document.xml. The data may be saved as a single line; the reason for this is to reduce file size. You can use various "XML tidy" tools to make the XML code more readable.

I don't know enough about your problematic documents to point you to what you should be looking for, but you can pick out any pieces of the document by tedious trial-and-error (erasing a block of XML, recompressing the decompressed document, changing the file extension back from ZIP to DOCX) to see what may be causing Word to freeze.

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  • So your answer boils down to manually inspecting all the files that comprise the .DOCX format...will give it a try, but first I need to figure out what is the bare minimum of the information that .DOCX needs to contain, so that I remove everything else and see what happens. – Demiurg Apr 3 '15 at 10:54
  • Looks like it is harder than it seems, if not impossible. I started by removing the activex directory from the .DOCX and word failed to open the new file... – Demiurg Apr 3 '15 at 11:21
  • In fact, all the changes I attempted resulted in Word failing to open the document. – Demiurg Apr 3 '15 at 12:31
  • @Demiurg Going back to DOCX, the ZIP format needs to be one that DOCX can read. I think the only compression method supported is "deflate", which can be done with 7-zip. – Deltik Apr 3 '15 at 12:55
  • @Demiurg would you mind sharing one such problematic document? That would confirm whether the issue is reproducible, and allow someone skilled to debug the issue. – Dmitry Grigoryev Apr 3 '15 at 17:52

another option is to download and run Microsoft OffCAT (Office Configuration Analyzer Tool). It detects configuration problems with office installations (and specific Office programs, Word included). I've only used it with Outlook, and it has been very helpful.


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  • Will try, but I seriously doubt it is a word issue - I just re-installed it and the problem is still there. It is almost certainly related to specific documents. – Demiurg Apr 11 '15 at 6:45

Try opening the same document(s) from online msword https://office.live.com/start/word.aspx. If it works problem is with your copy of msoffice so reinstall it. If online word can' open it then try with some other online editing websites, if no website can open it there is nothing we can do

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  • I am pretty sure the problem is with the file. – Demiurg Apr 11 '15 at 6:44

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