Changes to Header Result in a Hung Computer

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated February 5, 2022)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021

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. ...


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