Microsoft Word Not Responding on Mac? How to Save and What to Do

Connie Wisley
December 11, 2023 Preview 26.7K Preview 2
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When you launch or perform certain actions in Microsoft Word app that you work with regularly, but it doesn’t respond, you will feel frustrated. Though Mac does an excellent job with software optimization, it is still normal for your Word app to behave this way on your Mac. 

This often happens when we are editing a large file, running many apps on a Mac or after updating the Word app to versions released in 2023, 2022, 2021 or earlier (Microsoft 365, 2021, 2019).

Regardless of the causes for Word not responding, it is very important to save and recover the unsaved work and trouble shoot this in time to avoid further malfunction. Here we will give several ways to save your unsaved Word document when it is not responding, and covers a full guide to fix Word Not Working on Mac once for all.


Why is My MS Word Not Responding on Mac?

When your Microsoft Word won’t open or has stopped working on Mac all of a sudden, the possible reasons could be:

  • The Excel program isn’t updated to the latest version
  • The third-party add-ons or the plug-ins hinder the software
  • Word might be used by another process
  • MS Word preferences are corrupted
  • The virus or malware infected the operating system of your Mac (Install an anti-virus program)
  • Unexpected power disturbance or sudden closing of Word document
  • Programs or hardware bugs interfere with Mac Word


Word Not Responding on Mac? How to Save the Unsaved Work?

It is not a big issue if Microsoft Word hangs or freezes when you just launch the app or open a workbook, we just need to close or force quit the program. But if your Word application keeps showing the spinning wheel during the editing process or after clicking the Save button, the urgent task is to save the unsaved document.

There are 4 ways at your disposal to save the unsaved work when Word not responding on Mac: use a data recovery program, force quit & retrieve unsaved work from Auto Recovery folder, wait for a while, leave only one document opening.

1. Recover the Unsaved Work Quickly if Word Not Responding on Mac

The ultimate rescue for unsaved work when Word is not responding, is to install a powerful data recovery program, which increases the chances to restore files as many as possible.

Cisdem Data Recovery for Mac is a superb file undelete program. It goes further than others in restoring data from all kinds of devices, ranging from digital cameras to hard disks. Besides Word documents, it also recovers any file types, like videos, audios, photos, emails and so on. Meanwhile, this software works for different file lost situations: not responding, formatted, virus attacked, accidental deletion, system crashed, damaged videos, etc.

What’s more impressive, it can also recover unsaved Word, Excel, PowerPoint files. All the unsaved documents will be collected in one folder for efficient recovery, also you can use the filter to search an unsaved Word document from the scanning result.

How to recover and save an unresponsive Word document?

  • Step 1. Download and install Cisdem Data Recovery on your Mac.
    Free Download macOS 10.9 or later

  • Step 2. Select the drive.
    Launch Cisdem Data Recovery on Mac. Go to Hardware Disk, select the drive where stored the unsaved Word document. Then click Search for lost files to start finding files on your drive.word not respond save 01
  • Step 3. Find the unsaved Word document on Mac.
    Directly find the unsaved Word files in Unsaved Documents or go to Type > Document, check the Word documents in DOCX or DOC folder. word not respond save 02
  • Step 4. Preview the unsaved Word documents.word not respond save 03
  • Step 5. Retrieve Word File.
    Select the Word documents that you want to recover. At last, click "Recover" button or right click the files to recover to local drive or cloud.word not respond save 04


2. Force Quit and Save the Work

Step 1. Force Quit Microsoft Word on Mac

  1. Click on the apple icon in the upper-left corner of your screen, then select “Force Quit” from the drop-down menu.force quit 01
  2. This brings up a dialogue box that showcases your running items. You should select Microsoft Word and click on “Force Quit” button.force quit02


Step 2. Retrieve Unsaved Work 

By default, the Word AutoRecover feature is enabled to save Word document automatically every 5 or 10 minutes, if you don’t disable this feature, you can save the unsaved work by opening and saving this auto saved file.

  1. Find the unsaved file according to following auto-saved location:
    For Office Word 2016/2019/2021/Microsoft 365:
    For Office Word 2011:
    /Users/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/Office 2011 AutoRecovery
  2. Then open and save the unsaved work that caused by Word not responding. retrieve word document

3. Wait for A While

Word not responding on Mac may be just because it needs a little more time to load the file and software updates. If you are not in rush, give it more time to respond, then click Save button to save it. 

But how long to wait when Word is not responding on Mac? That depends on your Mac performance and the file size of the Word document you are trying to save. I once was able to open and save the work successfully after waiting for approx. 20 minutes when it didn’t respond, I just left it aside and performed other tasks on my Mac.


4. Close Other Word Documents If You Open Multiple Docs

If your Mac is running our of space and you are opening a large Word document, you’d better open one document per time. If you open multiple Word documents, close others that you don't have to process for now, so your Word application will be under full gear for processing one document at that time. If Word responds later, click Save button to save the unsaved work.


What to Do When Microsoft Word Not Working on Mac after Update 2023/2022/2021?

To avoid any trouble in the future, we should fix Word Not Responding issue. But what to do? Here are 10 fixes you should try.

Fix 1. Remove Add-Ins

If your Word won’t open or keeps crashing on Mac, it might be the problems of incompatibility third-party add-ins. Many Add-Ins will not work on Office 64-bit version but on the 32-bit version. To remove add-ins on the Word for Mac, I will show you an example.

  1. Open Word > navigate to Preferences > select Ribbon and Toolbar.
  2. Choose "Add-in" or "Complements" in the Developer tab, and then click the add arrow.
  3. At the top of the ribbon, click the new options icon.Disable add-in on Microsoft Word 2016
  4. Deactivate "xxxx.dotm" file and delete it in Finder.


Fix 2. Clear Cache and Temporary Files

If there are too many cache or temporary files remained, Word not working on Mac may also happen. Then we have to clean up these files.

  1. Open Mac Finder > click Go from top menu > Go to Folder.clear cache file 01
  2. Input the path: ~/Library/Caches/ into the window > click Go.clear cache file 02
  3. In Caches folder on macOS system, delete some unnecessary files.clear cache file 03

Fix 3. Update Your Word to Latest Version

  1. Open Word for Mac.
  2. On the top Menu, choose Help > Check for Updates.Update Your Word to Latest Version
  3. Select “Automatically Download and Install” from the pop up AutoUpdate window.


Fix 4. Open Word in Safe Mode

Safe Mode enables you to safely use Microsoft Word when it has encountered frozen, crashing and not opening on Mac.

For Intel Mac:

  1. Restart your Mac computer, at the same time, Press and hold the Shift key.
  2. Release the key when computer is turned on. You will see the Safe Boot on Mac startup screen.
  3. Open Mac Word in Safe Mode.

For Apple Silicon Mac:

  1. Shut down your Mac completely.
  2. Press and hold down the Power button until startup options show up.
  3. Select Macintosh HD > click Continue in Safe Mode while holding Shift key.
  4. Open Word app in Safe Mode.


Fix 5. Check Mac and OneDrive Storage Space

Word allows users to save files in 2 locations, local drive or OneDrive. If your Word keeps crashing or not responding on Mac, you’d better check the storage space on your Mac or OneDrive to make sure there is enough space to save the changes and make the program work properly.

Check the Mac storage space

Click Apple icon > About This Mac > Storage. 

mac storage

Check the OneDrive storage space

Login into your OneDrive account > Settings > Options > Manage storage

onedrive storage

If you don’t have enough space, empty your trash bin or delete unwanted files manually.


Fix 6. Delete Invalid Characters from File Name

MS Word not responding on Mac may be caused by the file name which contains invalid characters and symbols.

Office 2011 was rewritten basing on the features of Office 2007 and Office 2010. There are some accidental PC codes in 2011 that don’t permit certain forbidden characters, such as “<>”, “<< >>”, “{}”, “\”, “|”, “/”, superscript/subscript, the number before file name, etc.. So, if your file was created in Word 2016, 2019, or other versions, it won’t open in Microsoft 2011, unless you remove the invalid characters from Word file name.


Fix 7. Reset the Default Settings of Word

You can troubleshoot various components of Microsoft Word by resetting or deleting its preference file. Apart from solving the Word not responding on Mac issue, it can also fix Word crashing problem or certain features not working. Resetting preference is not the ultimate solution for all Word problem, thus do not perform this operation too often.

  1. Quit Word document on Mac.
  2. Right-click Finder icon in the dock and select “Go to Folder”.
  3. Type ~/Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/User Content/Templates command in the dialog box.reset preference file 01
  4. Locate the files Normal.dotm and move it to desktop.
  5. Go to folder again, and type ~/Library/Preferences.reset preference file 02
  6. Find out and files, and then move both of them to your desktop. Reset the Default Settings of Word
  7. Re-open your Word and check if the Mac Microsoft word not responding solved or not.


Fix 8. Delete Auto Recovery Folder

Possibly you have recovered your unsaved Word documents from the Auto Recovery folder as per our previous part of this article. However, by doing this, some corrupted files and errors could also come into being in this folder, further resulting in Word not responding on Mac. In this way, try to remove Auto Recovery folder from your Mac.

  1. Open Finder > Go to Folder. 
  2. Enter ~/Library/Containers/ folder if you’re using Office Word 2016/2019/MS 365.
    For Office Word 2011 users, type ~/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office.delete auto recovery folder
  3. Find the Auto Recovery folder > move it to Trash.
  4. Relaunch Word to see if it works.


Fix 9. Repair Disk Permissions

  1. Open Disk Utility app on disk permission 01
  2. Select the volume that you need to repair permissions from the left sidebar menu.
  3. Click on the “First Aid” tab.
  4. Click “Run” to start the disk repair disk permission 02

Fix 10. Uninstall Word, and Then Reinstall It Again

  1. Go to Finder > Applications.
  2. Select Microsoft Word, and right-click it.
  3. Choose “Move to Trash” from the context menu.
  4. Reinstall Word on

Reinstall the software could be helpful for solving Word not responding Mac issue. But before that, make sure you have completely uninstalled it.

Tips 1. Remove all library files created by Microsoft Word

Check the following directories:

  • ~/Library/Containers/
  • ~Library/Application Support
  • ~Library/LaunchDaemons
  • ~Library/PrivilegedHelperTools
  • ~Library/Caches
  • ~Library/Preferences

Tips 2. Remove Microsoft Word from the dock

  1. Locate Microsoft Word in the dock.
  2. Hold Ctrl + click, and select Options.
  3. Choose Remove from Dock.


Write in the End

That’s all for fixing Microsoft Word not responding, we still have chances to save the unsaved work caused by this issue. The most important thing we should do after running into Word Not Responding error is to fix it, we list 10 fixes as above. To avoid unsaved work, my advice would be to turn on AutoRecover feature and always backup your Word file regularly. 

Connie Wisley
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Connie has been writing for Mac productivity and utility apps since 2009. Each review and solution is based on her practical tests, she is aways energetic and trustworthy in this field.

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Comments (2) Leave a Reply

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  • Ann Burris

    Word not responding on my Mac has troubled me the whole day until I met your article. I reset the default settings of Word app according to the steps you put in Fix 7. Luckily it works! Thanks a lot.

    5 days ago commonReply

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  • Kenneth Cummings

    I moved the affected documents from my desktop to the Documents folder and that seems to have fixed the problem. Go figure!

    1 years ago commonReply

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