Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007 and 2010. 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: Files Opening Slowly If Many Files Exist.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 13, 2017)
Lew has some directories that have a lot of document files in them. When he opens a document from that long list of files, Word seems to take a long time to actually do the opening. He wonders if this is a problem with Word or a problem with Windows.
If all you want to do is discover whether the problem is related to Word or Windows, there is an easy way to figure it out: Copy one of the files to its own directory. Grab a watch with a second hand and time how long it takes to open the copy in its own directory. Then, time how long it takes to open the original file in the directory with all the other files.
If it takes just as long to open both files, the problem is most likely with Word. If the file copy opens quicker than the original one, then the problem is most likely with Windows.
If you determine that the problem is with Word, then chances are good that the problem is related to either the size and complexity of the documents you are opening or the document (if the problem only happens with one of two of them) may be on the verge of corruption. The only thing you can do if the issue is size and complexity is to simplify the document, perhaps by breaking it into multiple documents instead of one large document. If you suspect the document is flirting with corruption, you can search through the WordTips website to figure out how to deal with document corruption.
If you suspect the problem is with Windows, then you should reduce the number of files in the original directory. Check to make sure that the directory with all your documents doesn't have any non-document files in it. Get rid of any temporary files and move any backup files to a different directory. You may also want to restructure your directory into multiple directories. It is also a good idea to defragment your hard drive; the slowness could be related to a severely fragmented disk.
Finally, you should understand that the problem might even be related to the version of Windows you are using. In Windows 7, for example, Windows Explorer by default has a preview pane. If you are viewing the directory in Windows Explorer prior to double-clicking to open the document, it takes time and resources to display the information in the preview pane. Interestingly, the preview handler for Word files is WINWORD.EXE, the same program that opens the document. This means that multiple instances of WINWORD may be running, each of which request additional resources and adds to the perception of system slowness. You can speed things up by turning off, within Windows, the preview pane.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11591) applies to Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Files Opening Slowly If Many Files Exist.
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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.