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Diagnose and Correct Error Messages in Microsoft Word 2003


Generally, there are three types of errors that you may encounter when using Word 2003: 
§         Fatal exception errors. 
§         Nonfatal errors caused by internal conflicts.
§         Runtime errors. 

All of these error types are caused either by problems in the application itself, by conflicts between the application and the operating system, or by a problem within the document that you are working on at the time that the error occurs.

The solutions will vary, depending on the cause. Your application may have been installed incorrectly, or it may have been damaged due to an unexpected shutdown or a virus infection. The solution in either case may be to reinstall the application. You may have another application running that has a conflict with Word 2003, and therefore you might have to reinstall or upgrade that application to get it to "play nice" with Word.

Sometimes part of a document gets damaged and you may need to start the document over (although there are also techniques that let you reuse most of the work you have already done).

The way to troubleshoot any error is fairly uniform. Record the error by writing down the error message and its details and follow the instructions included as part of the error message (if you can) to try to correct the problem. Try to remember what you were doing when the error occurred. If you didn't capture the error message, try to re-create the error so that you can generate the same error message. Finally, search the Microsoft Knowledge Base at www.microsoft.com to see if the error has been reported and if there is a standard solution. New errors get reported continually to Microsoft, and the solutions are often available on the Microsoft Web site. If you don't see the answer here, you can go to Microsoft's Support site (support.microsoft.com) and enter the information from the error message to get the latest information.

Methods for correcting an error can range from the simple, such as restarting your computer, to the more complex, such as reinstalling your application software. You may also need to install an upgraded version of some other application software to make it compatible with Word 2003.

Fatal Error Messages

When Microsoft Word 2003 encounters a fatal error, it will display a message similar to the following:

"Microsoft Word 2003 has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience. Please tell Microsoft about this problem.

We have created an error report that you can send to help us improve Microsoft Word 2003. We will treat this report as confidential and anonymous. To see what this error report contains, click here."

Note that this type of error dialog box includes a link that allows you to view the details of the error. This list of details is called the error signature, and it is where the message usually looks the most incomprehensible. In spite of that, this is where the experienced user or a technician will be able to start diagnosing the problem. The details will look something like this:

AppName AppVer ModName ModVer Offset
Winword.exe 11.0.5207.4 Mso.dll 11.0.5207.5 00842bfc

This signature says that the Windows Word executable file (Winword.exe) had a problem executing a module of the code called Mso.dll. The offset further identifies the location of the error within the code. For most mortals, this appears no more helpful than the error message itself. However, you can use this information to search Microsoft's database of reported errors to find out the next steps to take to correct the problem, and a support tech can use the information to help pin down the problem.

Common Fatal Errors
Let's take a look at some common fatal errors and their suggested solutions below. Note that in all of these cases, you will have already seen the fatal error message and then clicked the To See What This Error Report Contains, Click Here link to view the detailed signature.

Adjust Word's properties if you're having problems with the Compatibility Mode feature.
Error Message: (Signature): "Application Name: Winword.exe. Application Version: 11.0.5604.0. Module Name: Mso.dll. Module Version: 11.0.5606.0. Offset: 00059890."

Translation: This error normally occurs when Word 2003 is running in Windows 98/Me Compatibility Mode. Windows XP's Windows Compatibility Mode feature allows you run applications created for earlier versions of Windows on WinXP. However, Word 2003 does not work in Windows Compatibility Mode for Win98/Me. If you have enabled this feature and you're working with a document created in an earlier version of Word, you may see this error signature after receiving the initial fatal error message.

Solution: The good news is that Word 2003 will work just fine with documents created in earlier versions of Word; there's no need to invoke Windows' Compatibility Mode feature. Turn off the feature by taking the following steps: Click Start, Search, and then select Files Or Folders. When the search dialog box opens, enter winword.exe in the Search For… field and start the search. Once the search is complete, you should see an icon and file listing for the Winword application. Right-click the Winword icon and select Properties. Select the Compatibility tab at the top of the Properties dialog box. Click to clear the check mark in the Run This Program In Compatibility Mode For box and then click OK. Word 2003 should now work with documents created in earlier versions of the program.

If you have a problem with graphics-intensive programs conflicting with Word, you may need to correct the Graphics Display settings.
Error Message: (Signature): "Application Name: Winword.exe. Application Version: 11.0.5604.0. Module Name: Gdiplus.dll. Module Version: 6.0.3260.0. Offset: 00082f1d."

Translation: You may see this signature if Microsoft Word 2003 quits unexpectedly when you're using another graphics-heavy application at the same time as you're running Word. Especially when you use applications with heavy reliance on graphics enhancement routines such as DirectX and the DCI (Display Control Interface), you can get resource conflicts that result in this fatal error. The more graphics-intensive programs that you use at the same time, the more likely you will end up with a resource conflict that will cause this failure. Games are usually the most obvious cause, but other programs, including Microsoft NetMeeting, can also trigger this error.

Solution: When a graphics-based error occurs, you can correct the problem by not running the graphics-intensive programs at the same time that you are using Word 2003. Another alternative is to turn off the graphics hardware acceleration on your machine. This will slow down your computer's response to DirectX and other graphics commands, but it will reduce the likelihood of a further fatal crash. To do so, click Start and select Control Panel. At the Control Panel, select Appearance And Themes; then click Display and choose the Settings tab. Click Advanced and select Troubleshoot. There is a sliding adjustment for Hardware Acceleration. Move the slider to the third position from the left, and you will see this message:

"Disable all DirectDraw and Direct 3D accelerations, as well as all cursor and advanced drawing accelerations. Use this setting to correct severe problems with DirectX accelerated applications."

Click OK to complete the adjustment and then click OK again on the Display Properties dialog box to close it.

Error Message: (Signature): "Application Name: Winword.exe. Application Version: 11.0.55207.4. Module Name: Mso.dll. Module Version: 11.0.5207.5. Offset: 00842bfc." When you close the error signature, you may receive this error additional message: "The exception Illegal Instruction. An attempt was made to execute an illegal instruction. (oxc000001d) occurred in the application at location 0x31482bfc."

Translation: This fatal error message may occur if you are using Adobe Acrobat in conjunction with Word 2003 to create documents or presentations. An incompatibility with a file in Adobe Acrobat 5.0.5 is normally what causes the problem.

Solution: You have two options: You can buy the upgrade to Adobe Acrobat 6.0.1 or else rename the Pdfmaker.dot file to prevent access to the file by Word 2003. To rename the file, click Start and Search and select Files Or Folders. When the search box opens, enter pdfmaker.dot in the search field. Once the search is complete, you'll see all instances of the file. Right-click each instance of the file and click Rename. You can just rename the extension from .DOT to .OLD and press ENTER.

Error Message: (Signature): "Application Name: Winword.exe. Application Version: 11.0.5604.0. Module Name: Winword.exe. Module Version: 11.0.5604.0. Offset: 003606fc."

Translation: This error is caused by using OLE (object linking and embedding) to place objects (images, charts, spreadsheets, etc.) in a Word 2003 document. OLE is the process of creating an object in one application and embedding it in another. It is different from merely cutting and pasting because the embedded object invokes the original program from within the host program. The specific problem may occur if you background save a Word document containing an OLE object. Background saving is the process that allows you to keep working on a document while it is being saved to your hard drive. You may see this fatal error message when saving or printing a document or when trying to exit Word 2003 if you have OLE objects embedded in your Word document.

Solution: Microsoft has issued an update to Word 2003 that's available at the Word 2003 Support Center (support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?pr=off2003). Installing that update is the best solution to this problem. However, if you just want a temporary fix for the problem, you can disable the Background Save feature in Word 2003 and continue to save Word documents with OLE objects embedded in them. To turn off this feature temporarily, open Word 2003 and select the Tools menu. Click Options and select the Save tab. Click to remove the check mark from the Allow Background Saves box. Click OK to close the dialog box and you'll be able to save OLE objects in your Word 2003 document. However, keep in mind that until you install the Word update, your computer will not be able to perform other tasks while you are saving documents.

Error Message: (Signature): "Application Name: Winword.exe. Application Version: 10.0.4009.0. Module Name: winword.exe. Module Version: 10.0.4009.0. Offset: 00144ad3. Word has detected a problem with the existing normal.dot. Would you like to create a new normal.dot?"

Translation: Normal.dot is the global template that stores the majority of your format settings and application-wide macros for Word 2003. Template files use a file format that is different from a regular document file's format. If the Normal.dot template gets stored as a Word document (that is, as a DOC file), you will get a fatal error with this error signature and the usual prompt to report the error to Microsoft.

Solution: After you choose Send Error Report or Don't Send from the error message, you'll see the additional message. Select Yes to delete the incorrect Normal.dot file and replace it with a new one having the standard format defaults. If you have created a specialized default template file for your documents, you will lose all of your customized settings and will need to re-create them.

Nonfatal Errors Caused By Internal Conflicts 
Error Message: "The document caused a serious error the last time it was opened. Would you like to continue opening it?"

Translation: After the second time you try to open a document that causes Word 2003 to crash for any reason, Word 2003 will mark the file as a problem and place the file on a list of disabled files. Further attempts to open the problem file will result in this message every time you try to open it until you correct the problem.

Solution: If Word 2003 opens properly and your other documents do not experience these errors, you may have a corrupted paragraph marker in your document. Documents in Word 2003 store their paragraph formatting in the paragraph marker at the end of each paragraph and the formatting for the whole document in the final paragraph marker in the document. You can see the paragraph markers by clicking the paragraph icon (¶) on your toolbar. Look for a paragraph that has strange formatting or fonts, remove the marker from the end of that paragraph, and save the file. If one paragraph does not stand out, try removing the final paragraph marker from the document. Once you think you have resolved the original problem, you can remove the document from the disabled files list and try restarting. Find your disabled files by clicking Help and then About Microsoft Office Word. Click the Disabled Items box and you will see a list of those items. To remove a file from the list, select the item with your cursor and click Enable. If you have previously solved the root problem, you will be able to open the file.

Error Message: "Microsoft Word cannot install the necessary files due to Windows Installer Error 1605."

Translation: If you have a problem with the Word Startup folder, Word may fail to open when you try to start it and you will see this error message. The Startup folder is the location where the Word 2003 application stores templates containing add-ins and macros that you create. These templates start automatically when you start Word.

Solution: To resolve the problem, you need to find out which template is the source of the problem and delete it from your Word 2003 Startup folder.

The Startup folder is a hidden folder, so first you need to make it visible by opening Windows Explorer, clicking the Tools menu, and selecting Folder Options. Click the View tab; from the list that appears, select Show Hidden Files And Folders. Click OK and you will return to the main Windows Explorer page. On the left-side pane, click My Computer and then select the drive where Word is installed (usually drive C:). Click Documents And Settings, Owner (or the name of the person to whom the software is registered), Application Data, and Word. Under Word, you will see a folder marked Startup. (NOTE: It's possible that your Word folder may be located elsewhere, depending on where you installed the application.) Click to open it and you'll see a list of all templates in the folder. Make a new folder by clicking File, New, and Folder. Name the folder Temp Startup.

Select the first template listed in the Startup folder and either drag and drop it into the Temp Startup folder or highlight the item with your mouse and select the Edit menu and the Move To Folder option. Once the file is out of the Startup folder, try to start Word 2003. If it starts, you have removed the culprit. If Word doesn't start, repeat the process until you find the offending template file. Once you have located the problem file, move all the other files back to Startup and delete the Temp Startup folder.

Error Message: "The command cannot be performed because a dialog box is open. Click OK and then close any open dialog boxes to continue." 

Translation: When you are in Windows Explorer and you double-click a Word 2003 document to open it, you may receive this error message if your Word Startup folder has a template containing an autoexec macro that opens a dialog box.

Solution: To resolve this error, you can start the document directly from Word, which will avoid any conflict among the dialog box, Windows Explorer, and Word. You can also follow the procedure for the previous solution to locate and delete the template that causes the problem.

Word will attempt to adjust your document's margins if you have them set beyond what your printer can handle.
Error Message: "The margins of section are set outside the printable area of the page. Do you want to continue?"

Translation: If part of your document has wider than normal margins, you may get this error message when you try to print your document. Choosing Yes will cause your document to print, although some parts of the document may not appear on the page. If you click No, the document will not be printed. This error occurs because printers are unable to print all the way to the edge of a page, and you have your margins set beyond the printer's range.

Solution: You can reset the margins by making a note of the section indicated in the error message and then selecting the Edit menu and clicking Go To. When you see the Go To What box, click Section. Enter the section number in the Section Number field and click Go To and then Close. Now select File and Page Setup. Click the Margins tab and then OK. You'll see a dialog box with this message: "One or more margins are set outside the printable area of the page. Choose the Fix button to have Word set the page margins within the appropriate range." Select the Fix button to increase the margin in the unprintable area to the minimum setting for the selection.

You can also just choose to print the document as is, but you'll probably find that parts of the document will be cut off. 

Runtime Errors

Error Message:
 "There is not enough memory or disk space to complete the operation." Or "There is insufficient memory or disk space. Close extra windows and save your work." Or "Word cannot complete the save due to a file permission error." Or "This program has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down. If this problem persists, contact the program vendor."

Translation: This error will occur when you are trying to save a Word 2003 file and the application stops responding if the page file (the section of hard drive that Windows uses as virtual memory) has gotten too large.

In extreme cases the page file can fill up most of the available space on your hard drive. This can also occur if you are running certain antivirus software versions or if you are trying to save your document to a floppy diskette or CD that is already full.

Solution: Depending on the cause, you can take several approaches to solving this problem. You can add more hard drive space by replacing your drive with a larger one or you can add an additional (internal or external) drive. But try the simple solution first: Close any open files or programs that you don't need and restart your computer to release the page file. If you are running antivirus software, try disabling the program temporarily. If that solves the problem, you should contact the antivirus software's publisher to see if there is an update or a workaround.

You should also consider deleting files or programs that you don't need by running Disk Cleanup. To do so, click Start and select Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and Disk Cleanup. You'll see a dialog box labeled Select Drive that lets you select the drive you want to clean up (usually C:). Select the drive and click OK. When you see the next Disk Cleanup tab, click to select the files that you want to remove and click OK. This will remove the files from your drive and free up space for your other files.

Finally, another option is to run a file compression utility to free up some space on your hard drive.

Note that, in the case of the "file permission" error cited above, your problem may in fact be that you're attempting to write to a file without permission to do so. This can occur, for example, in a network situation when you have permission to open and look at a file but not to delete it or change its contents. In a case like that, you'll need to contact the network administrator. 

Security Error Message 

If you used password protection on your document, be sure that you remember the password or you won't be able to access your document.
Error Message: "The Password Is Incorrect. Word Cannot Open the Document."

Translation: If you have chosen to place password protection on your Word 2003 documents, you will receive one of these error messages if you enter an incorrect password when you try to open the document. You can protect your Word 2003 document with a password by selecting Options from the Tools menu. Select the Security tab, and you can require a password to open the document or to change the document. The password can be any combination of letters, numbers, punctuation marks, or spaces up to 15 characters. Passwords are case sensitive, so make sure your CAPS LOCK key has not been activated.

Solution: If you receive this error, retry the password, making sure you have repeated the correct sequence of characters. Remember to enter the password using the same uppercase and lowercase characters you used originally. Unfortunately, if you do not supply the correct password, you cannot reopen the document unless you wish to resort to a third-party password-cracking utility.

Sources and Additional Information:

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