Save your Word configurations

0526 primary word

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

Valerie Pike set up Microsoft Word the way she liked it. Then, suddenly, everything went back to the default settings. Can she get her old settings back? Or at least protect them in the future?

Microsoft Word is a wonderfully configurable tool. You can set a default font and give every new document your preferred margins. You can re-arrange the ribbons and Quick Access Toolbar. You can record simple macros and even—if you have the programming skills—write complex ones.

But if you’re not careful, all of your work personalizing Word can disappear in a keystroke. Here’s how to be careful:

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to]

I’ve tested all of this in Word 2010 and 2013. I can’t vouch for earlier versions, but I suspect they will work, as well—with some variation.

Most of your configurations are stored in a template file called normal.dotm. You may have other template files; some might have the extensions .dot or .dotx instead of .dotm. But normal.dotm is the main one that affects every file.

Word can’t work without a normal.dotm file. If the file somehow disappears, Word will create a new normal.dotx with Microsoft’s default settings.

Normal.dotx, and your other templates, reside in your Template folder. To get there, click the Start button or go to the Windows 8 Search charm, type %appdata%\microsoft\templates, and select the folder that appears.

To protect your configurations, make sure that that folder is part of your regular backup routine. Whatever backup program you use should allow you to set this up—or should already be doing it by default. In fact, it’s a good idea to back up the entire %appdata% folder, which is probably C:\yourname\AppData\Roaming.

If you’ve already lost your configuration, and you don’t have a backup, you could try right-clicking the file and selecting Restore Previous Version. But that may not work.

I said earlier that most configurations are stored in normal.dotx. Here are two exceptions:

If you use Quick Parts for boilerplate text, they’re saved in another template in the %appdata%\microsoft\document building blocks folder. Actually, it will be in a numbered folder inside a numbered folder inside Document Building Blocks. (Microsoft doesn’t always make thngis easy.)

If you use Autocorrect—which is also a useful boilerplate tool—the changes you make aren’t in any template. They’re in a file with the .acl extension inside %appdata%\microsoft\office. You’ll probably find more than one .acl file there. Backup all of them; they’re small.

As I said, it’s good to back up the entire %appdata% folder.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon