We've all been there before; you're trying to open the document attached to an email from your friend or co-worker when you get the following error messages:


Now doesn't that throw a wrench in your morning routine? Issues like these, while simple enough to fix, affect users with Office 2010 & Office 2013 most often. In this article we’ll discuss why this is happening, tips & tricks to get your files working properly again, and how to prevent these kinds of issues from happening in the future. The processes we'll be addressing today apply to most Microsoft Office applications, but for this article we’ll be using Microsoft Word examples.

Why is this Happening?

There are several variables that can cause an error while opening a file, but usually it comes does down to a handful of issues. The file could be damaged or corrupted, the format association may need changing, or we simply don’t have enough disk space. “Damaged or corrupted” doesn't automatically mean virus alert. Corrupted files are computer files that suddenly become inoperable or unusable. A corrupted file may occur due to a defect or bug in the software. This is often a temporary problem that will occur once, then disappear forever. When you suspect file corruption you can quickly assess the issue, repair the file, and even open your document in no time. Let’s discuss how we would approach this situation.

How do we resolve this issue?


Solution #1: Manually Access, Open, and Repair

Not as tricky as it sounds, simply follow the steps below.

1. Open Word and select the File tab

2. Choose Open to select the damaged file


3. Go to the Open menu at the bottom of the window and select Open and Repair from the drop-down list of options


That’s it! This option repairs the damages to the file and opens the document so you can get back to action. After repairing the Word document, it is important to verify that the issue has been resolved successfully. To do this, begin working with the file and check to make sure everything is working properly.

If we've ruled out file corruption as the culprit, then the next thing we want to check are the file associations & unrecognized file formats. Sometimes the file you received won’t open on your computer because the device the file was created on used a program or software your device doesn’t have. That said, the system triggers the error alert. If the file format is something your computer should be able to open but isn’t, the format may be associated with the wrong program. For example, let's say you wanted to view a PDF attached to an e-mail. However, you don't have a PDF viewer such as Acrobat installed. Your device doesn’t know what program to launch to view the file. Luckily, you can change the format of the file to function on a program that you do have installed by changing the file format.


Solution #2: Change document format & re-save to Word

1. Start the application (Microsoft Word) and select the File menu on the ribbon

2. Open the file by selecting the Open icon and choosing the damaged Word file

3. Save the document in another file format:

  • Go to File menu and then select Save as
  • In Word, select the drop-down menu next to the Save icon
  • Choose the Rich Text Format (*rtf) in the Save as type list


  • Select Save
  • Go to File menu and select Close

4. Save the document back to the Word file as earlier:

  • Go to File menu and Open
  • Highlight the new document saved as Rich Text File and then select Open
  • Go to File menu in the ribbon and choose Save as option
  • Under Save as type, select Word Document
  • Rename the file and then Save


You only have to do this once to ensure that your document will now function on your device. Keep in mind, however, that by saving the file as a new document you are creating a different file. It is easy to get mixed up with duplicate files, so consider naming your new file something distinctive and archiving/deleting the damaged version. This way you don’t accidentally re-open the previous file that hasn’t been reformatted.


Solution #3: Open unrecognized file format

Instead of trying to open the attachment directly from your e-mail, save the attachment to your computer. This can be done in a few simple steps as well:

1. Save the added attachment to your computer

2. Right-click the file to see Open with option

3. Choose a different program to open the file. (Word, Notepad, etc.)

4. If this works, and you would like the program to always open this type of file, check the Always use this app to open .docx files box.


If you’re interested in learning more about file formats and how to manage them, please read this support article: Learn about file formats.


Solution #4: Clear some disk space

Sometimes the reason we can’t open a new file or save it to our device is because we are running out of space on the hard drive. Most of the time that space is being used up by temporary, duplicate, or unnecessary items. Using the Disk Cleanup app included in Windows is the easiest and fastest way to free up space on your hard drive.

1. To use Disk Cleanup select the Search bar in the bottom-left corner of the screen and type “Disk Cleanup.”

2. This will search your computer for the program so you can select it once it populates near the top of the list.

3. After selecting the icon, Disk Cleanup will open with options to delete cluttering files.

4. To select the files you wish to remove, click the checkbox next to each category of items you want to delete from your computer. Everything in this menu can be deleted safely.

5. Then, select OK to delete your files.

6. Finally, verify that you are sure you want to permanently delete the unnecessary files and Voila! You are finished.


Below is an example of some removable items you might see on your menu and what they mean.

  • Windows Update — Removes the last Windows Update files from your computer (this does not remove the current update).
  • Downloaded Program Files — Removes unnecessary files from programs.
  • Temporary Internet Files — Removes saved Internet files.
  • System created Windows Error Reporting — Removes error reporting files.
  • Recycle Bin — Removes any files stored in the Recycle Bin.
  • Temporary files — Removes other temporary files created by programs or web use.
  • User file history — Removes history of browsing (e.g., Windows Explorer searches).

It can be frustrating when you can’t open your files but understanding what the error messages mean and what steps to take next will make troubleshooting the problem easier. These issues tend to manifest more frequently in previous versions of Microsoft Office such as Office 2010. If it’s an option, the simplest way to avoid these issues in the future is upgrading to Office 365. On top of avoiding file version errors, Office 365 comes with built in features that can read documents aloud like Narrator, transcribe your speech into text using Dictation, and improve vision with Magnifier. Not to mention Office 365 is automatically always up to date and can be used on any device, anywhere, at any time. I hope this article helped to provide insights to get you up and running!