Recently, I was asked to talk with our Help Line staff about strategies for troubleshooting problems with Microsoft Office. I spent some time addressing the activation issues relating specifically Office 2010, which I wrote up in a separate post.
The most important point I want to make about general Office troubleshooting is that reinstalling office will rarely fix a problem. Office will kick-off a repair operation automatically if it detects problems with core Office files. Application, heal thyself.
More importantly, a repair operation or uninstall/reinstall process will refresh Office program components, but it won’t touch templates, user and system specific registry information, and add-ins that are the most frequent cause of problems.
The first step in troubleshooting should be to start the application in safe mode. Most versions of Office applications support a safe mode, which doesn’t load templates, registry info, and add-ins. This step quickly determines whether the problem lies with Office itself or elsewhere.
Invoking Office safe mode is as easy as adding the command-line parameter /safe. Usually, I open the Run window (WindowsKey+R), and type the name of the office executable and add the /safe parameter. If you don’t know the executable name, you can find it with the browse button, and then add the parameter at the end:
If the app doesn’t start, then you probably do need to perform a Repair installation. If the application starts successfully (sometimes without opening a document in safe mode), then you know that the core office files are fine, and a reinstall isn’t likely to help.
Figuring out what’s wrong
While is safe mode, you can look at the application options to see what templates and add-ins are installed, and currently disables. In Office 2007, there’s the Office button, and in 2010, the File menu. From this menu, select Options.
Look at the list of add-ins and templates to see if there’s anything that isn’t part of Office. I would attempt to disable them and then see if the application starts without safe mode.
If you aren’t able to determine the culprit, Microsoft provides step-by-step troubleshooting guides to Office startup problems. They are thorough, but should identify and resolve the problem.
- How to troubleshoot problems that occur when you start or use Word 2010, Word 2007, Word 2003, or Word 2002
- How to troubleshoot Excel 2007 startup problems
- Microsoft’s Fix it Solution Center
I hope that you find these tips helpful. Good hunting!