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

Peter William
time December 24, 2021 Preview 12.3K
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Microsoft Word, coming with a series of edit features, is mainly for writing text, TPS reports and formatting documents efficaciously. No matter you are using previous Word versions of 2016, 2019 or using the new 2020, 2021 even 365 on Mac, it happens that you are just stuck with issues like Microsoft Word not responding, the wheel keeps spinning and you cannot save the work or open to edit a document.

Regardless of the cause for Word not responding, it is very important to save the unsaved work and trouble shoot this in time to avoid further malfunction. Here we will give several ways to get around this Word Not Responding issue, this post also covers a method to recover lost Word documents due to Word not responding.

Possible Reasons behind 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 third-party add-ons or the plug-ins hinder the software
  • 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?

If Microsoft Word keeps showing the spinning wheel and you didn’t save the document, there are 3 ways at your disposal to save the unsaved work: Wait for a while, Leave only one document opening, and Force quit & retrieve unsaved work from auto recovery or temporary folder.

1. 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. 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.

2. 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.

3. Force Quit and Save the Work

If your Word document continually freezes, hangs or gives you a spinning rainbow ball of death, you need to just shut it down first, then retrieve the unsaved work using Word auto recovery or from temporary folder.

Step 1. Force Quit Microsoft Word on Mac

To force quit Microsoft Word application on Mac, we have 4 ways.

Method 1. From Dock

  1. Find Word icon on the dock.
  2. Right-click (or hold down Ctrl key + click) the icon.
  3. A contextual menu appears, choose “Force Quick” option from the list.

Method 2. Use Finder or Shortcut

  1. Click on the apple icon in the upper-left corner of your screen select “Force Quit” from the drop-down menu. (Or press and hold Ctrl + Alt+ Esc on the keyboard.)
  2. This brings up a dialogue box that showcases your running items. You should select Microsoft Word and click on “Force Quick” button.

Method 3. Use Activity Monitor

  1. Open Activity Monitor app.
  2. Select Microsoft Word in the process list.
  3. Click the button “X” in the upper-left of the window to force quit unresponsive Word on Mac.

Method 4. Use Terminal

  1. Open Terminal app.
  2. Type the command “ps -ax | grep "Microsoft Word”, and press Enter key.Force Quit Word on Mac Terminal 1
  3. Before the line which ends in “/Contents/MacOS/Microsoft Word”, there is a PID number. The number I got is 1246.Force Quit Word on Mac Terminal 2
  4. Use the force quit command on Mac: type “kill 1246” to shut down crashed Word.Force Quit Word on Mac Terminal 3

Step 2. Retrieve Unsaved Work 

Method 1. Use Word Auto-Recovery Feature

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/Office 365 in 2020/2021:
    /Users//Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Word/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery
    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

Method 2. From Temporary Folder

  1. Go to Finder>Application>Terminal.
  2. Input “open $TMPDIR” into Terminal interface and press Enter to open the temporary folder, then go to TemporaryItems folder. retrieve word from tem folder
  3. Find and open the unsaved work, then save again.

What to Do When Word Not Responding on Mac?

To avoid any trouble in the future, we should fix Word Not Responding issue. But what to do? Here are 7 fixes you should try.

Fix 1. Remove Adds-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.
Program Old Add-In File Extension New Add-In File Extension
Word .dot .dotm
Excel .xla .xlam
Powerpoint .ppa .ppam

Fix 2. 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 3. Open Word in Safe Mode

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

Fix 4. 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 the 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 5. 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.
  4. Locate the files Normal.dotm and move it to the desktop.
  5. Go to folder again, and type ~/Library/Preferences.
  6. Find out com.microsoft.Word.plist and com.microsoft.Office.plist 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 6. Repair Disk Permissions

  1. Open Disk Utility app on Mac.
  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 process.

Fix 7. 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 www.office.com.

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/com.microsoft.Word
  • ~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.

How to Recover Lost, Deleted Word Document Due to Word Not Responding on Mac?

Still nothing? That means your file was permanently lost after Microsoft Word not responding issue. The ultimate rescue, I think, is to install a powerful data recovery program.

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, etc.

Free Download

  • Step 1. Select A File Recovery Mode.
    Launch Cisdem Data Recovery on Mac. To recover unsaved file after MS Word not responding, you can select the option Basic Data Recovery or Advanced Recovery to start. If your Word file was removed from the trash, then simply choose Trash Recovery.Recover Unsaved Word Document on Mac 1
  • Step 2. Choose the Location.
    You should select a location where you lost your Word file, and next begin a quick scan to search your target files. Recover Unsaved Word Document on Mac 2
  • Step 3. Preview and Retrieve Word File.
    Preview all detected files during or after the scan. The files will be displayed in various catalogs. At last, click "Recover" button to get your Word document back. Recover Unsaved Word Document on Mac 3

Write in the End

That’s all for fixing Microsoft Word not responding, we still have chances to save the unsaved work or recover lost word document caused by this issue. The most important thing we should do after running into Word Not Responding error is to fix it, we list 7 fixes as above. To avoid unsaved work, my advice would be to turn on AutoRecover feature and always backup your Word file regularly. 

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Peter William
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Peter has always had great enthusiasm for writing, programming and web development. He likes writing about software and technology, his works are featured on some tech blogs or forums like Tom's Hardware, CNET, etc.

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