How to unprotect Word files when you don’t know the password

How to remove unknown passwords from protected Microsoft Word files I’m regularly annoyed at password-protected Microsoft Word files that only permit editing of certain aspects of the document such as form fields. By itself, Word’s “Restricted Editing” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s the fact that file creators are usually very conservative and prefer to disallow editing something “just in case”, rather than giving users the option to add text somewhere unexpected.
The result is often that in order to complete a form, one must print it out and amend it with a pen, or convert to PDF and use the “comment” function.

Looking for a way around, I recently found out how to remove the Document Protection from Word files without knowing the actual password*:

* Note that this method only works with Word Docs that are protected from editing, not files that require a password to open.

    1. Open the Word file in question (doc, docx)
    2. Choose “File”, “Save File As”, and make sure the file format is set to “Rich-Text-Format (*.rtf)”. Close the file in Word (important!)
      Choose "File", "Save File As", and make sure the file format is set to "Rich-Text-Format  (*.rtf)".  - ow to remove unknown passwords from protected Microsoft Word files
    3. Open the new Rich-Text file with a text editor (e.g. Notepad or Notepad++). You can do so by dragging and dropping it into the editor window, or choose “File”, “Open File”, and set the file format to “All files (*.*)”.
    4. Find (ctrl-f) “passwordhash” and replace the string that follows with something else (e.g. “nopassword”). Save and close the file in your text editor.
      Find (ctrl-f) "passwordhash" and replace the string that follows (marked here in green) with anything else (e.g. "nopassword"). Save and close the file in your text editor. - How to remove unknown passwords from protected Microsoft Word files
    5. Re-open the modified Rich-Text file in Word, go to “Review”, “Restrict Editing” and click on “Stop Protection” (german version: “Überprüfen” – “Bearbeitung Einschränken” – “Schutz aufheben”). Uncheck all tick-boxes.
      Re-open the modified Rich-Text file in Word, go to "Review", "Restrict Editing" and click on "Stop Protection". Uncheck all tick-boxes. - How to remove unknown passwords from protected Microsoft Word files Re-open the modified Rich-Text file in Word, go to "Review", "Restrict Editing" and click on "Stop Protection". Uncheck all tick-boxes. - How to remove unknown passwords from protected Microsoft Word files
    6. Done. You’ve unprotected your Word file without ever knowing the password.
    7. Optional: Convert your file back to its original file format by selecting “File”, “Save As”, and choosing the original file format.

I’ve successfully tested the above workaround with Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010 and Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2013. Please let me know whether this works with older/newer Office versions by commenting on this post!

227 thoughts on “How to unprotect Word files when you don’t know the password

  1. You just saved me hours of creating a document from scratch. Thanks! Worked in Word 2010

  2. Worked for me as well in Office 365. Saved me sooo much time! Thank you!

  3. That’s great if you don’t mind losing tables, etc.
    I’ve done it through saving the document as an xml file, and deleting all of the <W:documentProtection entries through to the W:salt entry.
    save it as a *.docx file, and its all good to go, without losing any formatting.

  4. Worked as a charm here too. Office 365. But I would love to get a more detailed explanation on your solution via XML, Aaron.

  5. Thank you very much….you have saved my plenty of time man. Great work man.

  6. Fantastic. It worked well. Your instructions were flawless.

  7. Very cool… totally works on O365, and if you feel like it, you can re-protect by replacing the hash value previously yanked (to get it back to their unknown password), return it to the .doc format, and boom no one will be the wiser.

  8. Awesome – you just saved me a LOT of re-do work on a file that a former employee created and password protected!! Thank you!!

  9. worked for me but as the document was a fill-in form lost the form controls however saved a lot of retyping

  10. You are brilliant. Worked perfectly and saved me hours of work having to retype a form someone else created before they left! Thank you!!!

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