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To recover text from a corrupted Word document, follow the steps below. If neither method gives useful results, it is likely that the document can not be recovered.

These methods are best for text-based documents, like .docx or .txt, though may help some on other types including mainly text, like .pptx.

Method 1: Microsoft Word recovery

In Windows

  1. Make a copy of the file on the desktop (leaving the original unchanged)
  2. Open Microsoft Word
  3. In the File menu, click Open, then click Browse
  4. Browse to the location where the corrupted file is saved
  5. Change the file type drop-down menu in the lower right to "Recover Text from Any File (*.*)"
  6. Select the corrupted file and click Open
    Image illustrating the Browse, file type, and selection of Recover Text options in Word in Windows.
  7. Word will attempt to recover text from the file

    The source code that makes up the file's formatting may also come through, so look through the results to see if usable text is present. If so, the non-usable portions may be removed.

  8. Save the new file

In macOS

  1. Make a copy of the file on the desktop (leaving the original unchanged)
  2. Open Microsoft Word
  3. In the File menu, click Open, then click "On My Mac"
  4. Browse to the location where the corrupted file is saved
  5. Change the Open drop-down menu in the lower right to "Recover Text"
    Image illustrating the Recover Text option in Word on macOS.
  6. Select the corrupted file and click Open
  7. Word will attempt to recover text from the file

    The source code that makes up the file's formatting may also come through, so look through the results to see if usable text is present. If so, the non-usable portions may be removed.

  8. Save the new file

Method 2: Text editor

  1. Make a copy of the file on the desktop (leaving the original unchanged)
  2. Right-click (sometimes Ctrl-click on OS X) the corrupted file
  3. Select the "Open with" item, then click Notepad (Windows) or TextEdit (OS X)
  4. The selected program will attempt to recover text from the file

    The source code that makes up the file's formatting may also come through, so look through the results to see if usable text is present. If so, the non-usable portions may be removed.

  5. Save the new file

Reference

These steps were originally adapted from http://kb.iu.edu/data/afrq.html.