Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Recovering Password-Protected Documents.

Recovering Password-Protected Documents

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 6, 2016)

14

Beth works for a company that suffered a tragedy—a key financial analyst died unexpectedly. This made it impossible to get into a password-protected document that contained projections on which the analyst had been working.

Most people feel that if you can't get into a document, you are just out of luck. Indeed, some people even questioned the validity of Beth's query. (I guess that those folks somehow think that all financial analysts know when they will die and will, therefore, unlock all their Word documents or write down their password instructions before they go.)

The fact of the matter is, there are valid situations in which getting into a password-protected file is both necessary and ethical. In such situations, your ability to get into a document can depend on luck and brute force.

Word uses an industrial-strength AES encryption algorithm that is essentially impossible to crack, unless you have access to a supercomputer and a couple of friends who work at the NSA. This is where password vulnerability comes into play. People are creatures of habit, and their passwords are no exception. It is not unusual for people to settle on a couple of passwords and use them for all their password purposes. Further, the passwords are usually variations on a theme—a favorite person, animal, place, or other easy-to-remember item, with some variation thrown in, such as a couple of numbers or some letters reversed.

This means that passwords can be guessed. Unless you have a pretty good idea what the person's password might be, however, guessing can be tedious and error prone. This is where software comes into play. Consider, for instance, software like Word Key, found here:

http://www.lostpassword.com/word.htm

This type of software can try thousands and millions of potential passwords faster than you could ever hope to do it. It may cost a bit for the software, but the cost needs to be weighed against the potential value of the information within the document.

There are many other places on the Web that publish information about how to crack a Word password-protected file. You can use any search engine to search for terms such as Word, password, crack, hack, and warez. You may need to do a bit of exploring and experimentation, but the information is there.

Beth's experience, however, does bring up a situation that all companies need to plan for—what happens if a key employee dies or quits? As part of your planning for such eventualities, you may want to implement a policy where passwords for company documents are shared with key personnel, with IT personnel, or stored in some safe "escrow" location so they can be accessed in case of emergency.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (7878) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Recovering Password-Protected Documents.

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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Comments

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What is four less than 6?

2016-10-03 11:04:38

Tia

Hello,

I have few documents in word which are password protected and I am not able to open them as I have forgotten the password.

I have tried downloading few software with free trials but if I don't buy them I am not able to use them with more than 3 character long password.

I need help badly.

Please can anybody help?


2016-02-02 09:19:13

simon

To remove powerpoint passwords. If you open the PPt as a google slides and then download back as powerpoint the password disappears. You may lose a little formatting but hey.


2016-02-02 06:50:02

Tahir

i need to open a word 13 password protected file...... mike pease give me the tips too.... i have word13 installed and the file is my research work


2016-02-02 05:59:41

thomas redd

Thanks for comments on this tip. They were very helpful.


2016-02-01 11:10:31

europhile

Email the document to your gmail account.
Open document in googledocs.
Go to File Tab.
Download as ...
... Microsoft Word.

Formatting and everything intact.


2015-04-10 08:34:41

owen

thanks mike simple and the best


2015-01-27 19:36:37

BALLERINA

Awesome, I was using a "password protected" 2013 word document that I didn't have the password. The tip from
Mike on Jun 18 2013 1) worked perfectly. Thank you so much!


2014-06-13 12:44:18

Vijay

Hi Mike,

I am vijay from pune, i tray your first methods but unfourtunately it show password window.

kindly suggest if any better solution.

regards


2013-07-19 06:23:23

freddy lemmens

Open the protected document in OpenOffice Writer. It opens without asking for any password.


2013-07-03 14:37:28

Mike

Kathy and Vera, are talking about files that are password-protected from opening? If so, I don't know what to say. The files I deal with and tested are password-protected from editing, but can still be opened.


2013-06-26 12:33:02

Vera

Where is the tip, other than reference to a link to purchase software? Also, I tried the object-text to file in Word 2010 docx file several times and it didn't work. It continued to ask for the password.


2013-06-26 10:19:39

Richard

Access to files stored in a document management system may be done using permissions rather than document-specific or person-specific passwords. Access may be restricted to named staff, or a defined group of staff. We use this method to continue to use documents after an employee has left the company.
Employees still tend to store files in their personal space though and protect them accordingly - it's a culture thing.


2013-06-19 07:02:04

Kathy

I just tried this in Word 2007, Mike, and it didn't work for me.


2013-06-18 13:33:06

Mike

There are actually two other very simple methods that I've tried in the past and have worked for me.

1) Open up a blank document. Go to Insert -> the dropdown arrow next to Object -> Text from File. Then simply select your password-protected document and hit Insert. The only downside to this is that its formatting will most likely be a little messed up, but the entire document will be dumped into your new document with no protection at all. I just tried this again with both a doc file and a docx file in Word 2010 and it still worked easily.

2) Find an old computer that still has an early version of Word installed and simply open the file. Apparently Word didn't originally use any type of password protection, so the earlier versions don't even know how to keep a form protected. They'll simply open up without any type of protection whatsoever. I have personally tried this with doc files and it has worked easily.

Both of these methods are so amazingly simple that I can't believe they still work.


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