Microsoft Word 365 Not Working on Mac (macOS Sonoma)

🗓️ October 13, 2023 By ✍️ Jaysukh patel

Microsoft (MS) Word for Mac is a fairly reliable and widely used document processor. However, the app is not without faults; don’t fret if Microsoft Word is not working on Mac. The Microsoft for Mac app can fail in several ways. Some users have reported that Microsoft Word keeps crashing on their Macs. 

It may also fail with the error message, “Microsoft Word has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for this inconvenience.” Some users have also complained that Microsoft Word quit unexpectedly Mac. In yet other cases, the app may fail rendering it impossible to open a Word document at all. 

In most cases, the Microsoft Word not Working on Mac issue occurs when you open multiple Word documents, are processing a large file, or recently updated your MS Word version. Throughout this guide, you’ll learn what causes this problem as well as how you can troubleshoot, and fix it. 

Why is My Microsoft Word Not Working?

Several things can cause the MS Word for Mac app to freeze, quit unexpectedly, or even fail to open a document. These are some of the common causes of Microsoft Word not working on Mac problem: 

  • Software conflicts, especially interference by Word Add-ins
  • Outdated or corrupted MS Word for Mac App 
  • Corrupted or damaged Word document or file 
  • Interference by third-party applications (apps)
  • Corrupted MS Word for Mac preferences 
  • Running multiple  instances of MS Word while the Mac is low on disc space

Regardless of the cause, you can easily diagnose and fix the problem using the methods illustrated below. 

How to Save Your Unsaved Work If MS Word for Mac is Unresponsive 

Did the MS Word for Mac app freeze or quit unexpectedly while you wore working on a document? Chances are that your last edits were not captured by the built-in AutoSave feature. In such a scenario, it will also be impossible for you to use the Save functionality to save your work. 

Is Microsoft Word not responding on Mac, but has unsaved work? Lucky for you, there is a simple workaround that allows you to recover and save your work. In this regard, it is advisable to first recover your work before attempting to fix the MS Word for Mac not working issue. 

The following steps will help you force quit MS Word on Mac and save your unsaved document: 

Step 1: Force Quit the Microsoft Word for Mac App 

If MS Word is frozen or keeps showing the spinning ball icon, you won’t be able to stop it using conventional methods. This is why you need to force-stop it. To do this, click on the Apple icon—located towards the upper-left corner of the display. 

Next, select the Force Quit option from the drop-down menu that appears. This should open a dialogue box that shows all the currently running apps. Find Microsoft Word on this list of running apps and click on it to select. 

Finally, click the Force Quit button at the bottom to stop the frozen Word document.

Step 2: Retrieve MS Word Unsaved Work on Mac 

If enabled, the AutoRecover feature in the MS Word for Mac app automatically saves the open document every 5 to 10 minutes. If the app freezes, this feature won’t work as expected. However, it allows you to access and recover your unsaved work.

After you force quit the Word app, you need to open the auto-saved location (folder) on your Mac to retrieve your unsaved work. The auto-saved location on your Mac varies depending on the MS Word version you are running, as shown below:

  • If You are Running Office 365 or Office Word 2016/2019

Navigate to:

~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Word/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery
  • If You are Running Office Word 2011

You should navigate to the following file location on your Mac: 

~/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/Office 2011 AutoRecovery

Now find the document you were editing when MS Work crushed in this folder, and click on it to open. Once you’ve opened it, you can now save it.

How to Fix the Microsoft Word Not Working on Mac Problem 

With so many possible causes, you probably are wondering how you can get Microsoft Word to work on Mac. Having saved all your unsaved work, as described above, let’s now dive into the various methods you can use to resolve this issue once and for all. 

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As mentioned earlier in this guide, the MS Word for Mac app can fail in different ways, including: 

  • The app cannot open a Word document/file on your Mac 
  • The MS Word for Mac app crushes and closes soon after you launch it
  • The app quits suddenly and without notice 
  • Your Mac hangs for extended periods and becomes unresponsive when you are running the MS Word app.
  • The app freezes or shows the spinning ball icon and becomes unresponsive 

Regardless of the scenario you find yourself in, it is relatively easy to troubleshoot and fix the Microsoft Word not working problem on Mac. Described below are some of the methods that have been proven to fix the Microsoft Word not working on Mac issue:

 Solution 1: Check the Document Name for Special Characters 

If you regularly use MS Word to create documents, you probably know that it does not allow you to use special characters in your document names. If you try to save a document under a name that contains a special character, you’ll get a notification to change it. 

Are you trying to open a Word document whose title has a special character? If so, the document will not open when you double-click on its title—as long as you are using the MS Word app to open it. This problem is more prevalent in downloaded documents as some browsers are known to add a symbol in downloaded document titles.  

In such a case, changing the file name to remove the special character will fix the problem. To change a file name on Mac: 

  1. Open the folder containing the file in question—open the downloads folder on your Mac, if you wish to change the name of a downloaded file.
  2. Find the problematic document in this folder and select it
  3. Control-click on the file then select the Rename option 
  4. Now enter the new name for the file and Press Return once you are done. 

Try opening the document using the MS Word app once again to see whether the problem had been fixed. 

Solution 2: Force Quit and Re-Launch the MS Word for Mac App

If the app is frozen or has been showing the spinning ball icon for too long, force-stopping and launching the app once again could solve the problem. Apply the following steps to restart the Word app on your Mac: 

  1. Click the Apple logo, towards the top-left corner of the screen. 
  2. Select Force Quit from the drop-down menu. This will show a dialogue box that lists the currently running apps on your Mac.
  3. Select Microsoft Word from this list and then click on the blue Force Quit button at the bottom of the dialogue box. 

Now, try launching the MS Word App from the Dock on your Mac to see whether the problem has been fixed. If not, try repairing the app, as described below: 

Solution 3: Repair MS Word for Mac Using the Inbuilt Repair Tool 

The Microsoft Word for Mac app features a built-in Repair utility tool. You can use this tool to troubleshoot and fix quite a number of issues, including the MS Word not working problem. So, how do you run the built-in MS Word repair utility tool to fix this error? 

To begin with, you need to launch the MS Word app on your Mac. This implies that you need to force quit and restart it if it is frozen—as described in Solution #2 above. Next, click on File at the top to reveal the File menu. From the File menu, select the Open option.

Now select a document you wish to open. Click on the arrow located just beneath the Open button and then select the Repair option. Allow Word enough time to check for potential errors and follow on-screen prompts to repair any problem found. 

Solution 4: Clear the Auto Recovery Folder on Your Mac 

AutoRecover is a built-in MS Word feature that allows users to conveniently recover their deleted or lost documents. Despite its convenience, this feature may cause corrupted files to accumulate, and eventually trigger the “word not responding on Mac” error. 

If this happens to be the problem on your Mac, clearing the AutoRecovery folder on the Mac should fix the problem. To delete the Auto Recovery folder on Mac: 

  1. Launch Finder on your Mac and navigate to Go to Folder.
  2. Open Library and find the Preferences folder for the MS Word app. Alternatively, you can type in the following command: 
~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Word/Data/Library/Preferences

Now click the Go button after typing the command. This will take you straight to the MS Word Preferences folder. 

  1. Find the Auto Recovery folder within the Preferences folder. When you find it, select the Auto Recovery folder and move it to Trash. 

Note: if you do not wish to delete the Auto Recovery folder, you can just move it to the desktop. This will have the same effect as deleting it. Once done, launch the Word app and check whether the error has been fixed.  

Solution 5: Remove MS Word Preferences 

Sometimes, the preferences you previously set on the app may conflict with each other, causing the app to malfunction. If this is the case, clearing the preferences will restore the MS Word app to its working condition. However, doing this will remove all the customizations you may have made on the app. 

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If you wish to try this method, here are the steps you should follow: 

  1. Close all the open instances of the MS Word application. If the app is unresponsive, force quit it as described above. 
  2. Navigate to the Go menu and select Home 
  3. Next, open the Library folder.

Note: Normally, the Library folder in Mac OS X Lion is concealed. If you are running this macOS version, you first need to display the folder. To do this, simply press and hold the OPTION key then click on the Go menu while still holding the OPTION key down. 

  1. Now open the Preferences folder and find a file named com.microsoft.word.plist. 
  2. Move the com.microsoft.word.plist file to your desktop

Once done, start the Microsoft Word app and check whether the problem has been resolved. If you are still having the Microsoft Word not working problem, close the Word app and move the com.microsoft.word.prefs.plist file from the desktop to its former location as it is not the problem. 

If the error has been fixed, then the com.microsoft.word.prefs.plist file was the problem, just move it to trash. Otherwise, continue to step #6 below: 

  1. With all instances of the Word app closed, navigate back to the Library folder as described in steps 1 to 3 above. 
  2. Find and open the Preferences folder then open the Microsoft folder.
  3. Find the file named com.microsoft.word.prefs.plist and move it to the desktop.

Check whether the issue has been resolved. If fixed, move the com.microsoft.word.prefs.plist folder to the trash. If not, proceed to step #9 below: 

  1. Select Home, under the Go menu. 
  2. Navigate to Application Support, before opening the Microsoft folder. 
  3. Open the Office folder, and then the User Templates folder 
  4. Find a file named Normal in the User Templates folder and move it to the desktop. 

Launch the Word app once again to check whether the MS Word for Mac not working fault had been solved. If fixed, delete the Normal folder from the desktop. If not, the preferences are not the problem. 

Solution 6: Open the Microsoft Word App in Safe Mode 

Booting your Mac into the Safe Mode allows you to troubleshoot whether third-party apps or services are to blame for the Word not working problem. The Safe mode only powers the essential services on your Mac. 

As such, all third-party and non-essential services and apps are automatically disabled in Safe mode. If software interference is causing your Word app to malfunction, the app should work seamlessly in Safe Mode. 

This method requires you to boot your Mac into Safe Mode, as follows: 

  • For M1 Macs 

To boot an Apple Silicon M1 Mac into the Safe Mode: 

  1. Click the Apple logo on the top-right corner to expand the Apple Menu. 
  2. Select the Shut Down option from this menu to power your Mac off. Wait until the computer goes off.
  3. Press and hold the Power button on your Mac until the Startup options screen comes up. 
  4. Choose the Macintosh HD option, press and hold the Shift key down, and then click on the Continue in Safe Mode button on the screen. 

Wait until the Mac restarts in Safe Mode and then launch the Microsoft Word for Mac app. Check whether the app is working as it should. 

  • For Intel-powered Macs

If you are using an Intel-powered Mac, these are the steps you should take to power it into Safe Mode: 

  1. Click the Apple logo on your screen, and then select the Restart option 
  2. As soon as the Mac restarts, press and hold the Shift key until the Login window appears 

Having restarted the Mac into Safe Mode, you can now launch the Word app to check whether the error has been fixed. 

Solution 7: Find and Deactivate Incompatible MS Word Add-Ins 

Though designed to complement the functionality of the app, some MS Word add-ins are known to trigger the Microsoft Word not working on Mac problem. This often results from compatibility issues between the app and third-party add-ins. 

When this happens, the add-ins cause the Word app to crash. To rule out this cause, disable your add-ins one by one to identify the problematic ones. Here is how you should go about it: 

  1. Launch the MS Word app on your Mac and then navigate to Preferences 
  2. Click on the Ribbon icon and then navigate to the Developer tab
  3. Select the Add-Ins option to display the list of all enabled add-ins for the app.
  4. Select the first add-in on this list and Deactivate it.

Open the MS Word app to check the error has cleared. If not, the add-in you deactivated is not the problem. Reactivate the add-in and repeat steps 1 through 4 to deactivate another add-in.

 If the MS  Word not working error is solved after deactivating an add-in, you need to remove that add-in permanently as it happens to be the problem. 

This issue may also cause the MS Word for Mac app to malfunction. If you suspect this to be the problem, use Disk Utility to check for and fix any disk-related errors that may be causing MS Word to fail.

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To do this, use this procedure: 

  1. Click on the Launchpad and then run a search for “Disk Utility”. 
  2. On the search results, click the Disk Utility icon to launch it.
  1. Click on the First Aid option on the Disk Utility window that opens. 
  1. Now click on the Run button to start the First Aid functionality.
  2. Click the Continue button when prompted to confirm your selection.

Allow the Disk Utility enough time to troubleshoot possible disk-related errors on your Mac. If found, just follow the on-screen promotes to fix the errors accordingly. Once done, close the Disk Utility window then check whether the Word issue has been fixed. 

Solution 9: Reset Microsoft Word for Mac 

Accidentally altering the default settings for the Microsoft Word for Mac features may cause it to fail. This includes accidental changes in the ribbons, fonts, and autocorrect settings. Reinstalling MS Word will not fix this problem as the default settings are already saved in the macOS.

Instead, you need to reset your MS Word for Mac app to its default settings—which involves renaming or moving the Normal template (Normal.dotm) file. When you do that, Word will be forced to create another Normal template file, hence fixing the problem. 

So, how do you reset Microsoft Word on a Mac?

  1. Quit all Office apps that may be running on your Mac, including the MS Word for Mac app. 
  2. Open Finder by clicking on its icon—located towards the left side of your Dock
  3. While holding the Option key down, click Go to reveal the Go drop-down menu
  4. Double-click on the Group Containers then navigate to the flowing location: 

UBF8T346G9.Office > User Content > Templates folder

The Templates folder essentially contains the Settings file for the Microsoft Word for Mac app. 

  1. Find the normal.dotm file within the Template folder, click on it once then press the Return key. 
  2. Now change the dotm part of the file to something like Old.

Once you are done renaming the file, press the Return key to save the changes. Alternatively, you could also move the Normal.dotm file to the desktop on your Mac. 

  1. Click on the Back Arrow at the top of the window repeatedly to navigate back to the Library folder. 
  2. Double-click on the Preferences folder to open it and reveal a list of files. From this list, locate and move the following files to your Mac desktop: 
com.microsoft.Office.plist
com.microsoft.word.plist

Now you can quit Finder and then restart the Mac. After restarting, MS Word will automatically create a new normal.dotm file and the other files you removed. By so doing, the app effectively resets to its default settings. 

Note: The above-described procedure for resetting MS Word for Mac applies to Word 2016 for Mac, Word 2019, Word 365, and Word 2021 app versions. 

Solution 10:  Recover Corrupted MS Word for Mac Files 

Opening a corrupted file using the Microsoft Word for Mac app can cause the app to crush or freeze. When this happens, the app will fail with such error messages as “This file may be corrupted. Open the file with text recovery converter”.

That said, you may need to know what causes a Word document to become corrupted, right? Basically, corrupt files contain errors in their data, which renders it impossible for the MS Word app to open them. In almost all case, attempting to open corrupted files causes MS Word to close unexpectedly.

Luckily, Word can repair some corrupted files and fix the problem. For the irreparable files, you need to recover then from a backup or download them all over again. If you suspect a corrupted file to be the problem, you can fix it by repairing the corrupted file or saving afresh. 

(To open and repair corrupt Word document, you can either use text recovery converter Mac or save corrupted Word document as RTF or as a new file.)

So, how do you fix a corrupted Word document on a Mac?

Method 1: Using the Text Recovery Converter on Mac

This method is ideal for corrupted word files that you can’t open. These are the steps you should take to recover such documents:

  1. Open the Microsoft Word for Mac app and then click on File from the main menu at the top. 
  2. Select the Open option and proceed to expand the drop-down menu under the Enable (Show) title. 
  3. Now choose the Recover Text from Any File option 
  4. Select the corrupted document from its storage folder and follow the on-screen prompts to complete the recovery. 

Method 2:  How to Repair Accessible Corrupted Word Documents 

This method may only be used on the corrupted Word documents that you can open. In such a case, you should save the corrupted document in the rich text format (RTF) or copy its contents and saving them as a new file. 

These steps will help you recover an inaccessible corrupted Word doc: 

  1. Open the corrupted word doc and then click on File from the main menu. 
  2. From the drop-down menu, select the Save As option
  3. Now click on Format to expand the list. Select the Rich Text Format from this list. 
  1. Finally, change the document name and click on Save. If the document still appears damaged after this, try saving it in a different format, say the .txt format. 

Final Verdict

Microsoft Word for Mac is a versatile and intuitive Word processing app. Even so, the success of this app across the macOS platform is marked by numerous user complains. Most of these complains have to do with the app freezing, failing to open, or even crushing without notice.  

As you have learned throughout this guide, the Microsoft Word not working on Mac error may be triggered by different causes. Depending on the cause and the MS Word version you are using, it can manifest in different ways.

With this guide, you can now troubleshoot and fix the MS Word not working problem on Mac in a matter of minutes. 

Jaysukh Patel
Jaysukh Patel

Jaysukh Patel is the founder of howtoisolve. Also self Professional Developer, Techno lover mainly for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and iOS, Jaysukh is one of responsible person in his family. Contact On: jaysukh.pharma@gmail.com [OR] admin@howtoisolve.com

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