Breaking Links in Lots of Documents

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 29, 2020)


Ian has many, many documents that include links to other documents. (These are not hyperlinks; they are actual document links in Word.) He needs to break those links, and he knows that he can load the documents and break the links one by one. He wonders, though, if there is a macro available that could go through all the documents in a folder and automatically break all the links within those documents.

Manually, you can break links by following these steps:

  1. Click the File tab of the ribbon.
  2. Make sure that Info is selected at the left side of the screen.
  3. At the bottom-right side of the screen, under the Related Documents category, click Edit Links to Files. (If this option is not available, it means that Word doesn't think there are any links in the current document.) Word displays the Links dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Links dialog box.

  5. Select the link you want to break.
  6. Click on Break Link. You are asked to confirm your action.
  7. Click on OK.

The steps are a bit different if you are using Word 2007:

  1. Click the Office button and then click Prepare.
  2. Click Edit Links to Files. (If this option is not available, it means that Word doesn't think there are any links in the current document.) Word displays the Links dialog box.
  3. Select the link you want to break.
  4. Click on Break Link. You are asked to confirm your action.
  5. Click on OK.

As you can tell, this process is rather labor intensive, particularly if you have lots of documents and each document has multiple links. The labor-intensive nature of the process is why Ian was searching for a way to break the links under control of a macro.

In order to do this in a macro, the macro needs to open each document in the folder, break any links it finds, and then save the document. Figuring out how many documents are in a folder, opening them, and closing them is rather straightforward. If you want to break the links, the macro needs to look through each field in the document and break only those that use the LINK field. The following macro shows how this is done.

Sub RemoveLinks()
    Dim fleArray() As String
    Dim flCount As Long
    Dim k As Long
    Dim fle As String
    Dim fld As Field
    Dim currentFileName As String
    Dim docPath As String
    Dim bDirty As Boolean

    docPath = ActiveDocument.Path & "\"
    currentFileName = ActiveDocument.Name

    fle = Dir(docPath & "*doc*")
    flCount = -1
    ReDim fleArray(0)
    Do While fle <> ""
        flCount = flCount + 1
        ReDim Preserve fleArray(flCount)
        fleArray(flCount) = fle
        fle = Dir()

    If MsgBox("There are " & flCount + 1 & " files to be processed." _
      & vbCrLf & "Do you want to continue?", vbYesNo, "Break links") _
      = vbNo Then Exit Sub

    For k = 0 To UBound(fleArray)
        fle = fleArray(k)
        Options.UpdateLinksAtOpen = False
        Documents.Open FileName:=docPath & fle
        Options.UpdateLinksAtOpen = True
        bDirty = False
        For Each fld In ActiveDocument.Fields
            If fld.Type = wdFieldLink Then
                ' Uncomment the following if link needs to be updated
                ' before the link is broken
                ' fld.LinkFormat.Update
                bDirty = True
            End If
        Next fld
        If bDirty Then ActiveDocument.Save    ' Only save if links broken
        If ActiveDocument.Name <> currentFileName Then ActiveDocument.Close
    Next k
End Sub

Notice the For Each loop that looks at each field (fld) in the Fields collection. It checks to make sure that the field's Type property is equal to wdFieldLink, which means it is a LINK field. If so, the code uses the BreakLink method with the LinkFormat property for the field, effectively removing the link.


If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the WordTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (2357) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is five more than 8?

2018-01-15 04:55:42



is there a way to remove links from the headers?
Because your vba code seems to work only for the plain text.

Thank you!

2016-05-23 07:49:37

Jerry Zachmann

Hi Allen, When I open the "Edit Links to Files" dialog box there are a couple dozen links to what looks like a temp file. Each time I open the document the filename changes but the _Ref#### items stay the same. What are these and should I get rid of them?

2016-05-21 22:28:39

Ken Endacott

A minor correction. The macro will attempt to open non Word files that have 'doc' in their title. To fix:

replace the line

fle = Dir(docPath & "*doc*")


fle = Dir(docPath & "*.doc*")

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