Document is Too Large for Word to Handle

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 10, 2017)


Danesh has a document that he is trying to open in Word 2010. When he tries, Word responds, "The document is too large for Word to handle." Danesh has had it open in Word before, and the system he's using has more than enough resources available. He wonders about the best way to get into his document.

Anytime you start seeing messages like this—particularly if your machine isn't really limited on RAM or disk space—it means there is a good chance that your document file is somehow corrupted. The first order of business is to make a copy of the file (so in case you really mess one up, you have another) and then try this:

  1. Open Word with a blank, new document.
  2. Display the Open dialog box. (In Word 2007 and Word 2010 press Ctrl+O. In Word 2013 press Ctrl+O, click Computer, then click Browse.)
  3. Locate and click once on the problem document.
  4. Click the down-arrow next to the Open button. Word displays different ways you can open the document.
  5. Click Open and Repair.

Word does its thing and tries to open the document and fix any internal pointers that may have gone haywire.

If that doesn't work, you should try to open the document in a different program to see if it can be recovered. Good options to try are WordPad, Open Office, LibreOffice, and Notepad. If you are able to open it in any of these other programs, do a "Save As" and save the document into a new file. You should then be able to open that file in Word.

You could also try using a program that will convert a Word document into a PDF file. If you can successfully do the conversion, you could then use that program (or another one) to convert the PDF file back to a Word document. The "round trip" on the document could clean up a lot of problems and allow you to work with the document.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (6043) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013.

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. ...


Printing and Exiting Word in a Macro

When you print a document, Word remains busy in the background until the printing is done. If you try to end the program ...

Discover More

Spell-Checking from the Keyboard

If you hate to take your hands from the keyboard, even to right-click on a word, you'll love the information in this tip. ...

Discover More

Placing Textbox Text Into a Worksheet

Want to get rid of your text boxes and move their text into the worksheet? It's going to take a macro-based approach, ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

A Real AutoSave

When you enable AutoSave in Word, it doesn't really save your document; it just saves a temporary file that allows your ...

Discover More

Read-Only Documents

Using both Word and Windows, there are a variety of ways you can mark a file as read-only so that it cannot be changed. ...

Discover More

Determining if a Document is Corrupt

Think you might have a corrupt document? There is no easy way to tell if this is the case, but there are some things you ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 1 + 8?

2017-11-27 20:27:31


I have a new question in the same vein. I have two Word 2011 (mac) files that I need to merge for a book. The first one is 854 KB - it is all tables and columns and saves perfectly. The second one is large - 272.5 MB. It is all images and opens and saves perfectly. Both of them are formatted the same.

The problem comes in when I merge the 2 files - the resulting file for some reason is 628.5 MB and won't open. Apparently Word is reading the images as text. I have tried the merge several times and each time it is the same.

Since this is the Mac version of Word, this must be a glitch. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Opening in Open Office is really tricky because of the content of the files.

2017-06-28 11:41:59


Nob: "Computer" is one of the options you'll see after you press Ctrl+O.


2017-06-26 11:06:19


You wrote this:

Open Word with a blank, new document.
Display the Open dialog box. (In Word 2007 and Word 2010 press Ctrl+O. In Word 2013 press Ctrl+O, click Computer, then click Browse.)
Locate and click once on the problem document.
Click the down-arrow next to the Open button. Word displays different ways you can open the document.
Click Open and Repair.
What does "Click computer" mean?

2016-02-19 06:15:27

Peter Johnson

Hi Ginny

1GB is very large for a Word doc. Two suggestions:

Don’t use 'Print Layout' mode when editing, if you choose 'Draft' instead the pictures will not be displayed and you’ll be able to edit the text more quickly.

Reduce the size of the Word file. Look at how the 100 PowerPoint slides have been imported. If they are complete slides as pictures (Background, Frames, Logos, etc) they will be huge and not necessary – if you want a PowerPoint deck use PowerPoint. It's better to import only the content of the PowerPoint (body of the PowerPoint slide) in to Word. If you must do that as a picture keep the pixel size small. If the PowerPoint contains words then import the words and format in Word.


2016-02-18 10:25:53


I have a Word doc that is 1 gb. It is a manual that contains small pics of PPT slides and the accompanying script for presenting each slide. There are over 100 slides.
When working in document, it constantly goes into "Not Responding" mode or laptop (<1 yr. old) freezes.
Is there a better software to use for such a large document with so many images?

2014-10-22 12:26:23


Save it as .RTF, then close it, then open the .RTF in MS Word, and save it again in .DOC format.

Worked with me!


2013-07-09 07:32:01

Barbara Kokoni

For converting documents to/from PDF/Word (any version) or Excel or Ppt, try using Nuance PDF Reader instead of Adobe (just fyi, Nuance is the company that makes Dragon). You can download the free Nuance Reader and then if you click on "Convert," which isn't done with the free version, Nuance lets you upload the document to them and it is converted for FREE and emailed back to you within 5 minutes. And if you'd like to buy the full version of Nuance (which does much more than Adobe), I think it costs $99 instead of the $400+ for the full version of Adobe.

2013-06-04 14:18:59


If you want to try opening with a different program (such as Open Office or Libre Office) but do not wish to install said programs, you can get portable versions from These are designed to run from a flash drive, so they won't modify your registry or mess up your current settings.

2013-06-03 10:39:41

Peter Johnson

Hi Danesh,

In your reply, you say 'the real problem is that when I want to alphabetically sort its content (a very long 2-column table), there comes the damn message: "The document is too large for Word to handle."'

You need to solve that problem. There are two potential issues here (a) sorting a large tables and (b) having a big Word Table [as they can become corrupt]. Let’s try to address both in one operation.

1. Open your Word Document.
2. Copy the entire table and paste into a blank Excel Work book.
3. Delete the table from Word and Save As your document into a new filename. You now have a smaller document with no table – and importantly no corruption caused by the table.
4. Close Word.
5. Back in Excel sort your table. You should have no problems here, as Excel will sort enormous tables.
6. Open your new document with Word.
7. Copy the table from Excel.
8. Paste it into Word – use Paste Special Unformatted Text. This will give you the Excel table one row per paragraph with the columns separated by tabs. Importantly, you have not brought any Excel formatting back into Word.
9. Now use Word to convert the table to text. This will give you the simplest possible default table.

Obviously, the above is a pain if you have to keep re-sorting your list.

By the way, the trick of converting a Word table to text and then immediately back to a table again can often get rid of corruptions in tables at the expense of having to reformat them. Here I only suggest going via Excel because of the large sort job you want to do.


2013-06-03 09:47:36

Steve Dunham

Before trying to recover the document, when in doubt, reboot. At work a few days ago, we got messages that Word couldn't open files because of (take your pick) not enough disk space or not enough memory. Neither was true, but a security upgrade over the weekend had, it seems, impaired the computers' memory. Rebooting fixed it.

2013-06-03 09:27:09

Jennifer Thomas

Lynda, the exact steps to convert PDF to Word depend on the PDF program you are using, but it is typically something like File | Save As | and then choose (or change the File Save As type field to) Word document.

Note: this assumes the PDF document was originally created in a Word processing program -- for scanned documents, run an OCR process before you convert so you don't just get a Word document with a bunch of pictures of the text.

2013-06-02 08:02:18

David Lewis

Hi Danesh

Allen's reply gave some possible approaches to solve your problem. Word has a huge amount of background code and if you can get rid of this it will help. First , Word doesn't just store your document it stores instructions to recreate it, plus htm code and more.

After making your copy, try the following:
1. Save as an RTF (Rich Text Format) file. Then either try sorting in RTF format or open the new file in Word.
2. If you have Open Office try that - it's free if you can download it.
3. This sounds unlikely but if it allows you to copy the table, paste it into Excel or Open Office's Calc or even a new Word document (as copying and pasting will also strip some code).

2013-06-02 07:46:08

David Lewis

Hi Lynda

In my case I have had to use Acrobat Pro. When you "Save as" you are given the opportunity to save as a Word document. There is freeware out there but you have to use your judgment. Always make a copy of your original pdf before you start. Sometimes for a short document you can copy the text from the pdf and paste it into a Word document, sometimes this produces rubbish.

Pdfs come either as pictures or text or both. For a part of a pdf that is a picture, you have to use software called "OCR - Optical Character Recognition" which looks at each letter as a picture and converts it to text. Acrobat Pro has this as a built-in feature but, again, there is freeware out there.

2013-06-02 01:53:32


Hi dear Allen,
Thanks a million for your comments and advice. But, the actual problem is NOT opening the file. It opens normally and without nagging. The real problem is that when I want to alphabetically sort its content (a very long 2-column table), there comes the damn message: "The document is too large for Word to handle."

Again thank you very much indeed for your expertise and time. Still, Looking forward to your help.


2013-06-01 13:50:34


I'm a new subscriber and you may have covered this before, but since you mentioned it in your do you convert a PDF file back to Word so the document can be edited? I have Word 2010.

2013-06-01 07:27:50

Lee Batchelor

Another solution is to avoid using Word for larger documents. Use FrameMaker instead.

We have to put up with enough of what MS calls "design features" in Word, which professional writers like myself call, "bugs or annoyances!"

Great site, by the way, Allen. Keep up the great work!

- Lee

This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.