Senior Computer Tutor
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Replacing NORMAL.DOT
to Fix Microsoft Word Problems

Microsoft Word is the world's most used word processing program, but it has never had a reputation for rock solid stability. Many argue that WordPerfect is a better word processor, and they may be right. However, my job is to help people learn to use the software they have, so I concentrate on the programs most people use.

One of the fundamentals of Word is that all its main settings are in a file named normal.dot. (In Word 2007 and Word 2010 this file is called normal.dotm.) Every time you make a change to Word's settings, such as changing the default font (Times New Roman) to a different one the change is stored in normal.dot so that your preferred alphabet will come up each time you open Word in the future.

If normal.dot is deleted, the next time you launch Word it will look for the file, and when it can't be found Word will recreate the file in its original default condition. Therefore, if Word gets to the point where various kinds of error messages begin to appear the easiest fix is to delete normal.dot.

Of course you must realize that deleting this file will undo all your special settings and that they'll have to be reset. For most users this isn't a big deal because they probably didn't change all that many settings to begin with. However, anyone who makes lots of changes in default settings should think about making a backup of normal.dot and keeping it in a special folder and/or on other media, such as a flash memory drive.

Before you can delete the file, however, you first must find it. And it's not in the same place on all computers.
  • Click on Start>Search>All Files & Folders and type normal.dot into the "Name or Partial Name:" field.  (Typing normal.dot will also find normal.dotm in Word 2007 and Word 2010).

  • Next click on Advanced Options and be sure that Search System Folders and Search Subfolders are checked, along with Search Hidden Files & Folders.

  • Also, the "Look In:" field should be set to your main hard drive (usually Local Disk C:) rather than to an individual folder, such as "My Documents."
It's not uncommon to find multiple copies of normal.dot, so wait till the search has finished before deleting anything. When all the files have appeared they can be deleted by left-clicking them and pressing your DELETE key. Alternatively, you can select them and click the toolbar's red X. Or you can right-click them and choose DELETE on the popup menu.

Please note that normal.dot can not be deleted if any Word documents are open. Word must be closed in order to perform this action. After all copies of normal.dot have been purged you can reopen Word, which will go looking for the file. When it isn't found the program will simply recreate it with all of Word's original settings.

Despite Word's imperfections, I like the program and use it constantly. I began with Word 3 (for DOS) in 1987 and have used every upgrade through Word 2007. Although Word 2007 (and newer versions) have some features I like -- on balance -- I prefer Word 2003.


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