How to Resolve ‘Word was Unable to Read Document it may be Corrupt’ Error?

Written By Kumar Raj
Anuraag Singh
Approved By Anuraag Singh
Published On July 23rd, 2022
Reading Time 4 Minutes Reading

MS Word is the most widely used application of the Microsoft Office suite. Every desktop user of different organizations uses this application at multiple levels. Let suppose that students use it for doing assignments, otherwise, professionals use it for maintaining documentation of the entire work. Regardless of its usability, some files are created with this application often may become corrupted. When Word documents get corrupted, then this error message “Word was unable to read this document. It may be corrupt” occurs in MS Word 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2010. In the upcoming section, we are going to discuss some of the common reasons due to which this ‘Runtime error 5151 Word was unable to read this document‘ error generates along with certain solutions.

Word was Unable to Read This Document. It May be Corrupt

Reasons Behind Microsoft Word File Could Not Be Read

Usually, this exception ‘word was unable to read this document. It may be corrupt’ occurs when a Word 2016, 2011, 2010, 2007 file gets corrupted or inaccessible. Some of the reasons are mentioned below:

  • Word document is highly prone to virus infection after that, it might show uncommon behavior and may encounter this MS Word issue.
  • Header includes valuable information respecting Word file since it makes a very readable by giving the essential details about a file. If header gets damaged, the Word document will get corrupt and display the error message.
  • Users may experience Word was unable to read the document when the file has become corrupt after importing it from any other system in which it was created.
  • Change the file extension like .doc to .docx or vice-versa can also lead to above error message and then users will not be able to launch the separate Word file.

Fix ‘Word was Unable to Read Document. It may be Corrupt’ Manually

There are different methods by which users can resolve corruption in Word documents. Users can try any of the below-described resolutions to fix this error:

Method 1: Changing File Extension

The DOC file format is supported by Microsoft Word 2003. So, make sure that the file extensions are correctly associated with Word document and ensure whether it is DOCX or not. If so, then click on File menu, and select Save As option to save file with .doc extension, and you try to open it.

Method 2: Checkout Service Packs

If your files have the correct file extension, but still facing the same issue, then make sure you have installed the MS Office 2003 and it contains Service Pack 3. If you may not have this service pack installed, then you can acquire it for MS Office 2003.

Method 3: Try Open & Repair Command

MS Word application facilitates ‘Open and Repair’ option to repair inaccessible Word document issue like: Word was unable to read this document. It may be corrupt. You should follow the steps below to use the option to reolve the above error message:

  1. Navigate to File menu and then, select Open button
  2. Choose the file that you wish to open by one click; although, do not double click on a file
  3. Instead of clicking Open button, click on the small arrow provided at Open and then, choose Open and Repair option.
Open and Repair Option

By executing these steps, MS Word can repair a corrupt Word document and then, open it.

Automated Solution to Fix Word Document Errors

If the above-stated method does not work well, then users can go for a reliable third-party tool namely Word Recovery Tool. It has potential to repair corrupt or damaged Word file or documents without any data loss. This software enables to recover multiple Word file using File and Folder mode. It also provides auto-detect option to search Word document within the subfolders. This software can preview MS Word file with several pages. This helps to fix Word was unable to read the document error message efficiently. In addition, it can also recover a severely corrupt Word file without an installation of MS Office.

Wrapping Up

It becomes necessary for users to repair inaccessible or corrupted Word file or a document instantly to maintain the continuity of workflow. Henceforth, in this blog, we have covered different approaches to fix ‘Word was unable to read this document. It may be corrupt’ in MS Word 2003, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2016 issue. But, in case of major and minor corruptions, users can opt for a reliable third-party tool, as suggested above in the section. It is the designed in such a manner to fix Microsoft Word file corruption issues and problems without any data loss.


By Kumar Raj

A versatile writer with the vast knowledge of technology helps to reduce the gap between a user and technology. Provides easy and reliable ways to resolve multiple technical issues, which users encounter in their day-to-day life.