Old Doc files no longer open in Microsoft Word

I realise that this was probably raised in these discussions years ago but it may be worth reminding users who are thinking of updating Microsoft apps…The latest version of Word will not open old files with a Doc extension. This Microsoft support page offers (unhelpful) “solutions”:

I am currently trying to install a Word alternative such as Libreoffice to see if I can recover precious old documents.

Update: Libreoffice seems to open them and I can then Save As docx

Libreoffice has worked for me.
It might alter some formatting, of course. Usually I don’t care about formatting for old documents.

1 Like

It’s a problem that is going to get worse as people lose access to legacy versions of software.

For example, the linked article suggests that one way to open older documents is to use older versions of software, like Office 2011. What happens when a vendor discontinues its license activation process, and you can’t install a new copy of older software?

People using old versions of Adobe CS have run into this, for example.

It’s not all .doc Word documents. Current Word for Mac, for example, can open Word 6.0 doc files from 25 years ago.

I think where you’d run into trouble is with Word 2.0.

If you have access to Word for Windows, it allows you to override the file type blocks and open really old documents, then you can save it as a more current version.

1 Like

There’s actually a weird security implementation here where the bit about “open from the file menu” is key. For some reason, Microsoft has implemented the security limit so that Word won’t open these files when you double-click to open in the Finder or another file browser, or when you drag and drop into the running app. But if you specifically go to Word, and choose File…Open, and locate the files one at a time in the Open dialog, it will open them (one at a time, of course), and you can save them in an updated file format.

When I encountered this, I used a search to locate all old-format Word files on my hard drive, dumped them into a single folder for convenience, and then used the Open dialog to work through the contents of that folder.


1 Like

This method (File/Open…) is not working for me. I just get this splash screen:

See what file thinks about it: open a Terminal, type file and a space, drag the Word doc to the Terminal window, hit Enter.

The question is if it can identify the Word document version.

Note the following from Microsoft’s documentation of this error:

The pre-XML “doc” format has changed quite a lot over the years. There are numerous mutually incompatible formats that all use the same filename extension (but probably not the same classic Finder file type code). Microsoft has dropped support for the oldest of these, but the error message is far from clear about this.

See also: Microsoft Word - Wikipedia

I’ve had good luck translating older files, including old Word files, using Document Converter (Rootrise Technologies, in the App Store).


Libre Office is my first choice for opening almost text-like file that won’t open in other application. It’s donation ware.

For the older Word doc files I moved to my MAC from older pcs I “open with” text edt. If it’s a doc I really want to save as a Word doc I copy and paste the text to a new docs file. The big question though is what format will work 10 years from now?

.txt or .rtf should always work.