Word: Open old Word document formats

February 9, 2009

You hunt out an old CD or floppy disk (!), stick it in the drive  and see there are some Word documents on it. So you try to open them, but you can’t as your current version of Word (2003, 2007 etc.) does not recognize the older format.

Here are some options:

  • Download Word Viewer from Microsoft — it’s supposed to open the older formats, plus old WordPerfect and Microsoft Works documents, among others. You can open, print, and copy these docs without having Word installed, but you need to have Word on your computer to edit or save them.
  • Try opening the document in WordPad (all Windows machines — at least up to Windows XP — have got WordPad installed on them (Start > Programs > Accessories > WordPad). You’ll probably lose some/all formatting, but you should be able to save the text.
  • Last resort: Try opening it with Notepad — you’ll get a whole heap of strange characters scattered through the document (especially at the beginning and end of it), but in there will be all the unformatted text.

See also: Updating documents in old formats

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