If either Word or your PC crashes while working on a Word document, don’t panic! Recovering unsaved Word documents is easy to do; even damaged or deleted files are not always lost. Microsoft has numerous tools built into its popular text program which allow you to retrieve the edited or in-progress file. And if these tools don’t work, Windows and special repair and recovery tools offer plenty of...
Word users can write-protect their documents by setting a password which prevents unauthorised people from making changes to a file. A similar write protection is also available for Excel, the well-known spreadsheet application of the Microsoft Office suite. You can only edit a document once you enter the password. Of course, you can also unlock a Word document for editing using the password. And don’t worry, in some cases it’s possible to unprotect a Word file even if you’ve forgotten the password.
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Quick guide: unlocking a Word document
In all locally installed Word versions, you can use a password to protect your Word documents. You’ll need the password to unprotect your documents as well:
- In Word versions 2019 to 2010 and Microsoft 365, enter the password to unlock Word under ‘File’ > ‘Protect Document’ > ‘Restrict Editing’ and then click ‘Stop Protection’.
- In Word versions 2007 to 2003, enter the password in the menu via ‘Tools’ > ‘Stop Protection’.
Removing a Word password (from Word 2010)
As of Office version 2010, Word uses the ribbon menu. You can unprotect a Word document as follows:
Step 1: Assess the ‘File’ tab and switch to the ‘Info’ section. If the document is protected, the ‘Protect Document’ button should be highlighted in yellow:
Step 2: Click on ‘Protect Document’ and select ‘Restrict Editing’.
Step 3: In the right sidebar in the document window, click ‘Stop Protection’ at the bottom.
Step 4: Enter the password to unlock the Word document.
This method only works for simple write protection at the document level. If file write protection is set in the user permissions in the file system, you must log in with a username that has write access rights.
Your Word document doesn’t open even though you’ve entered the correct password? In that case, the document may be corrupted. There are several causes for this. Fortunately, the software provides tools to recover a damaged Word document.
Microsoft 365 is a convenient solution for private users and small businesses. It automatically provides users with the latest versions of the familiar Office programs Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. The product was formerly known as ‘Microsoft Office 365’.
Remove password from Word 2007 and 2003
In older Office versions with classic pull-down menus, you can use the following instructions:
Step 1: Choose ‘Tools’ > ‘Stop Protection’ from the menu.
Step 2: Enter the password and the document will be unprotected
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Write protection in Word Online
You can also unlock a Word document for editing in the online version of Microsoft Office. Here, the owner of the file determines who can edit the file and who can only read it. These permissions are set by the logged-in user and can only be changed by the owner of the file using the share link.
Remove protection from Word without a password
Secure passwords have the disadvantage that they are difficult to remember. That’s where password managers come in handy, but some of them only work in the browser and not in local installations of Word.
In case you’ve forgotten the password to edit your document, various – unfortunately often expensive – programs for finding Word passwords are available online. However, in many cases these programs aren’t necessary because the write protection can be overridden with a few simple Windows tools, even when you don’t know the password.
Step 1: Click ‘File’ in the upper left corner and select ‘Save As’.
Step 2: Select the desired folder and find the file type ‘Word XML Document (*.xml)’ in the ‘Save as type’ list box. Then save the document in this format.
Step 3: Open the XML document with the Windows Notepad editor which you can find via the context menu ‘Open with’.
Step 4: Search for the string ‘w:enforcement’ in the document using the key combination [Ctrl] + [f]. You’ll find an entry w: enforcement=‘1’ or w: enforcement=‘on’.
Step 5: Replace ‘1’ with ‘0’ or ‘on’ with ‘off’ and save the document.
Step 6: Open the modified XML document in Word and save it in the familiar Word format.
The steps above remove a write protection without requiring a password. Encrypted Word documentscannot be unlocked this way because the contents are encrypted and cannot be displayed in plain text.
You can password-protect ZIP files in a similar manner. Either block users from opening or modifying an encrypted ZIP file by setting a password. Its contents won’t be accessible using alternative tools either.
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