Why Does Word Load So Slowly?

Monika Half wants to know why Microsoft Word loads much slower than it used to.

There are a number of possible causes and solutions.

But before I get to any of them, I want to mention one "solution" that's actually a really bad idea: Upgrading to a newer version, such as Office 2007. Moore's Law is about hardware, not software, which tends to get slower with every major upgrade.

Okay, now on to some more positive, Word-specific suggestions.

My first guess would be a problem with your default template file, normal.dat. Deleting or (smarter) renaming it should fix the problem.

Close Word, Then use Windows' Search capabilities to find the file normal.dot. (If you're in Vista, make sure to check the Advanced Search dialog box's Include non-indexed, hidden, and system files option. Also, in Office 2007 the file will be named normal.dotm, but a search for normal.dot will still find it.)

Once you've found the file, select it, press F2, and rename it something like notnormal.dot. When you relaunch Word, it will create a new normal.dat file based on the program's out-of-the-box defaults.

The downside is that you won't have your global formatting changes and macros . They'll still be in notnormal.dot, so they won't be completely lost, but you won't have access to them unless you start a new file based on that template. You can copy styles and macros from one template to another, but doing so might copy the problem.

If a fresh template doesn't fix your slow load problem, you can regain your old settings by simply deleting the new normal.dot and renaming the old one normal.dot.

Then you can look for another source of the slow load problem. If normal.dot isn't the culprit, too many add-ins might be. To find out, launch Word with the /a option: Select Start, Run (Start is sufficient in Vista), type winword /a and press ENTER. If Word comes up quicker than usual, you need to remove some add-ins.

To remove add-ins, close Word, then go to your Office Startup folder, which is probably C:\ Program Files\Microsoft Office\Officexx\Startup, where xx is a two-digit number. Move everything to a temporary folder. Then go to your Word Startup folder, which is probably at C:\ Documents and Settings\logon\Application Data\Microsoft\Word\Startup, where logon is your logon name. Move everything there to another temporary folder. If that solves the problem, figure out which add-ins are causing the problem by experimenting with returning different add-ins to their original folder and reloading Word.

Word 2007 can show you your add-ons, although you'll still need to go to the folder to remove them. To see them, click the Office orb in the upper-left corner and select Word Options. Click Add-Ins in the left panel.

Other, less likely fixes include updating printer drivers and culling rarely-used fonts.

June 2: I have altered this post to correct an error in the template extension (I had .dat rather than .dot). My thanks to Sallie Abbott for bringing this to my attention.

Add your comments to this article below. If you have other tech questions, email them to me at answer@pcworld.com, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum.

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