What is a Runtime Error in MS Word?

Microsoft Word is the default word processing application for the Microsoft Office Productivity Suite. This word processor provides the computer user with a number of useful functions which are built mostly from visual basic command sets.


In the context of the Microsoft Word applications, a runtime error usually points to a compilation error that is associated with a macro command of an add-in module which the program is attempting to launch. Usually these add-ins are the product of third-party developers and are not essential components of the Microsoft Word installation process. Another possibility which cannot be discounted is the presence of a virus or malicious software.


Normally a runtime error in Microsoft Word is an indication that a DOT or WLL extension file is concerned. These types of files are usually stored in the Startup folder accessed by the program. One of the more common results of runtime errors is the failure of Microsoft Word to execute. In this instance you can run Microsoft Word using the troubleshooting mode by:


  1. Clicking on the Start menu and choosing the "Run" option.
  2. In the Open box type in the command winword /a (this option allows Microsoft Word to start in troubleshooting mode).
  3. Click on the "OK" button to launch Microsoft Word.

Once you have Microsoft Word started, the next phase is to identify whether the problem is being caused by third-party add-ins or global templates. To begin this process:

  1. Click on the "Tools" menu and choose the "Templates and Add-Ins" option.
  2. Check the files listed under the global templates and add-ins portion of the Window.
  3. Click on the entry to check on its exact location (normally it should be in the Office Startup folder).
  4. Exit Microsoft Word by clicking on the "File" menu and choosing the "Exit" option.
  5. Navigate to the location of the template or add-in and move it out of the Startup folder. For multiple entries, move the entries out of the folder one at a time to identify which module is causing the error.
  6. Attempt to start Microsoft Word normally to verify if the problem has been resolved.

In case the Startup folder for Microsoft Word cannot be located simply launch the program in troubleshooting mode and:

  1. Click on the "Tools" menu and select the "Options" category.
  2. Choose the "File Locations" tab and select the "Startup" folder option.
  3. Click on the "Modify" button and choose your preferred location.
  4. Save the options and exit Microsoft Word.

Since runtime errors in Microsoft Word are normally attributed to global template files, there are two alternative ways of resolving the problem:

  1. Locate the NORMAL.DOT file and rename the file extension (make sure that the extension and not the filename is modified).
  2. The second option is to delete the file NORMAL.DOT completely.
  3. Launch Microsoft Word normally. The absence of the global template file should cause Microsoft Word to create another instance with the default settings.
  4. If these options do not resolve the issue, uninstall Microsoft Word using the Add/Remove Programs option, which can be found in "Control Panel" on the Start menu.
  5. Restart the machine and reinstall Microsoft Word upon completion of the boot up process.

All instances of Microsoft Word along with associated applications like plugins, Outlook, and Internet Explorer should be terminated before attempting to rename or delete the NORMAL.DOT file.


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