Changes to Header Result in a Hung Computer

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 5, 2022)

Norma has a document that she's been working with in Word for a while. If she tries to change or modify the header, she sees a message that "this action is undoable." If she then chooses to proceed with the action, the computer hangs. She wonders if there is any way to correct this.

Chances are good that this is a document-specific issue. You'll want to check other documents in order to confirm this, of course. (If the behavior cannot be replicated with other documents, then the issue is specific to the document at point.)

Document-specific issues are best solved by performing what many people have come to refer to as a "Maggie." This simply means that you recognize that there is some sort of corruption in the document and you want to salvage as much of the information from the document as you can. (The process is called a "Maggie" because of a its promotion by tech writer/editor Maggie Secara.) You can find information about how to perform this process at this tip:

You could also find lots of other discussions about the "Maggie" process by doing a search for the phrase "Microsoft word Maggie," without the quote marks.

You should also realize that in the process of moving information to the new document, you may lose some (or all) of your headers and footers. You'll want to double-check that once you are done.

Another thing you can try is to convert the document to a different format and back again:

  1. Using Save As, save your problem document in RTF format.
  2. Restart Word.
  3. Load the RTF file you just saved.
  4. Use Save As again, but this time save as a Word document.

The reasons that this process (including a "Maggie") works is because Word relies on a plethora of internal pointers. If these pointers get out of kilter for some reason, that can cause Word to act unpredictably or to hang when it attempts some operations. The process of copying to a new file or "round tripping" through a different file format can reset those internal pointers and, hopefully, help make the document usable again.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (12836) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

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. ...


Turning Off HTML Conversions

Don't want Word to load up your HTML documents as formatted text? There are a couple of ways you can instruct Word to be ...

Discover More

Rounded Table Edges

Tables can be a great addition to many documents, as they allow you to arrange and present information in a clear and ...

Discover More

Selecting to the Next Punctuation Mark

Writing macros often involves selecting different parts of your document so that some sort of processing can be ...

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)

Some Documents Open Slower than Others

It's great when your documents open quickly, particularly when you need to work with lots of documents at the same time. ...

Discover More

Mirroring Documents

Have you ever wanted to have a Word document be accessible through two different folders? Here are several ways you can ...

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

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}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) 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 four more than 1?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)

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.


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.