thinkoholic.com - a blog by markus nolf
[posted: Monday, 2015-02-16] [category: computers & technology] [tags: , , , ]

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!

147 comments:

  1. Sarah says:

    worked for me in Word 2013! Thanks so much!!

  2. kenneth says:

    NICE. thanks.

  3. tester654 says:

    Worked perfectly – thank you!

  4. Ei says:

    I can’t open my word file because I forget password. How should I do that?? Please help me if you can.

  5. cc says:

    Thanks very much!

  6. awesome says:

    wuhooo! this post is awesome! :) thanks for the help. huge relief! :)

  7. Sandy says:

    AWESOME! Thank you so much.

  8. intotalkaos says:

    One of the best solutions I’ve come across for any of the PC problems I’ve ever had! And there have been A LOT…

  9. BomberHQ says:

    Tried and failed a lot of other methods … this worked! Many thanks.

  10. annegoldenberger says:

    Saved my day on a 200 page document!

  11. John Silver says:

    Works perfectly. Thank you so much!

  12. Cristina says:

    Excellent!!!!

  13. Mel Hughes says:

    No luck. Any other suggestions?

  14. Cee Thaxter says:

    THANK YOU!

  15. no one says:

    wrks on 2010 as stated above; thx!

  16. G. Sines says:

    No matches found in the rtf file for “passwordhash”; also no matches found for “password”, “pass” or “hash”, so couldn’t identify what text to replace. Tried saving the rtf from doc and docx (2010) with no success. Any suggestions?

  17. markus says:

    I haven’t come across such a case. All I can offer is to have a look at the file myself (e.g. via dropbox link) if it’s not a confidential one.

  18. Brad says:

    G Sines – don’t include the quote marks in the search string???

    (This worked very well for me – just as described)

  19. Carl says:

    Worked a treat! Thanks very much.
    Cheers

  20. wayne says:

    sorry but I am struggling at step 1. 1.» Open the Word file in question (doc, docx), that the whole point, I cannot open the file to save it as an rtf file. Appreciate any advise

  21. markus says:

    hi wayne,
    this method only works with word documents that are protected from editing, not word files that don’t allow opening without the password.

  22. Lisa A Park says:

    OMG, you just totally saved my bacon at work! (Or at the very least saved me hours of having to recreate a 42 page document by hand!) THANK YOU!!!!!

  23. Danny says:

    I found this video very useful for unlocking a word document that is password protected and you dont know the password.

  24. Poyoma says:

    Thanks for the help!

  25. Michael Miele says:

    It works! thanks a lot…

  26. jack says:

    You rock man. worked wonders

  27. M says:

    Thank you, works a treat.

  28. Martin Mego says:

    Wow! Works perfectly! It even keeps all of the formatting intact! Thanks man!

  29. rrr says:

    Worked perfectly – thank you!
    Word 2016

  30. Coloradler says:

    Awesome step-by-step advice – worked like a charm. Big THANK YOU!!

  31. Kanzler says:

    Vielen Dank!

  32. Bogdan says:

    Works with Word 2016 also

  33. Madie says:

    No luck at all. It also states that it was created in an older version of microsoft word and it has macros. I am at a loss of what else to do.

  34. Scott Stech says:

    Wow. Worked perfectly. Very helpful

  35. Albert says:

    Thanks – It works

  36. Felicia says:

    Worked great! Thank you so much!!

  37. Quiver says:

    Magnifico!!!

  38. Joe says:

    Works in Outlook 2016. Thanks.

  39. David Grimes says:

    Perfect. You da man!

  40. Andrew Poretz says:

    Thanks a million! This was brilliant! I had tried a convoluted method that involved creating an HTML page, finding a “unprotect password” string of eight characters, then opening the Word file with a hex editor (which I had to download) and finding this string inside out — didn’t work. This method was so simple and brilliant, and now I can do what we intended without a typewriter to fill in the missing fields.

  41. Triryche says:

    Awesome!!!
    This work perfectly, the original author of the Doc did not even know their own password and this saved me from reinventing the wheel.

  42. Robin Domek says:

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! Easy peasy!

  43. Les Moore says:

    Thank you.

  44. Sean says:

    Worked for me. The password protected document was such a nuisance before, Cheers :)

  45. Dooto Ngwandu says:

    Tested in word 2016, works perfectly

  46. Jordan Tetzlaff says:

    Damn! Nice work, thanks a bunch!

  47. Fiaz Ansari says:

    it works with me Thanks

  48. kevin says:

    Great work, I really appreciate it! However, all the cool little drop boxes and links don’t work anymore, do you have any ideas why that would be?

  49. markus says:

    Yes: RTF is an old format that doesn’t support them.

  50. Sanjay Das says:

    Its really nice, you save my time.

  51. Samantha says:

    thanks for your work on this. worked perfectly for Office 2016.

  52. mabat.eng@gmail.com says:

    better is to save as HTML, it is save forms.

  53. piecevcake says:

    I have a weird form where whole table cells are locked, the content greyed out, and you cant select part of your inserted text within the cell: if you use shift+anything it selects the whole cell! (But you can select and edit your input in wordpad, thanks for the idea). Can’t select the whole document to copy it. Can’t select anything!

    Search of RTF with notepad did not find password, or protect, or edit, or any other string I could think of… it did find the word “author” which specified the author’s name… but looking around the screeds of surrounding gobbledegook I couldn’t see anything else that looked promising.

    My workaround with other protected documents has been to simply copy the entire document to a new document (have to copy the headers and footers separately for some reason), but in this document, you can’t select all!

    But I could select the whole document in wordpad and paste to new wordpad doc. it removed all the fields, but at least i can edit the dam thing now! PROBLEM: of course wordpad can’t access headers so there is no way to copy the headers which cant be accessed in the original form… aargh!

  54. piecevcake says:

    Addendum to previous comment-RESOLVED: In my document, in the original word docx, I clicked developer tab, clicked “stop protection” button, unticked “allow only this type of editing in this document”. Now I CAN format and edit it. (I didn’t even need to select the whole document, copy paste to a new document in this case, I don’t think it password protected.)

  55. Lowb says:

    Works great on Word 2016

  56. Mike says:

    Good work, very handy tip.

    Mike in Michigan.

  57. marina says:

    Thank you, this saved me a lot of work!

  58. 4dtp says:

    Thank you very much it worked with me.

  59. Ammar says:

    Thanks a lot,, it works also on Word 97-2003

  60. Dave Thorne says:

    thanks worked great with office 2016

  61. Peter says:

    Fantastic! I am so useless when it comes to IT and always technically challenged but this worked like magic! Does this make me an expert now :)? Thanks a lot!

  62. Hank says:

    Perfect, worked on Word 2016.

  63. Anas Naim says:

    Perfect.. thanks

  64. Lori S says:

    Worked for 2010. Helps to know a little code. :)

  65. Anthony says:

    Thanks a lot for this!!

  66. Daniel says:

    Thank you my friend, it worked perfectly on Word 2016!

  67. norafidah14@gmail.com says:

    thank you. good information. its really works.

  68. Herman says:

    Worked perfect in 2003. Thanks a lot! You saved me a lot of keyboard work

  69. adfkk says:

    Thank you man it worked for me in MS office 2013

  70. Joseph says:

    Thank you. May good Karma give you good fortunes for you kindness.

  71. soniab says:

    Thank you for this very useful tip

  72. Richard S says:

    Excellent, you saved me the day with this! :)

  73. davrog says:

    Worked perfectly, thank you!

  74. youpidou says:

    Very useful, thank you!

  75. Roger says:

    Thank you. Worked in Word for Mac 2011

  76. Irfan Saleem (Saudi Arabia) says:

    Super information help me alot

  77. Jai P Sharma says:

    Hey Team,

    I have a word 2016 file, which I encrypted with a password and forget the password. It’s critical from me. I tried above steps and seems missing something and unable to retrieve. Help me with the steps please :)

  78. markus says:

    these instructions only work for the protection against editing parts of a document, not for document encryption (i.e. only being able to open the document with the right password).

  79. chris says:

    HUGE THANK YOU – WORKS BRILLIANTLY!

  80. kruti majmudar says:

    thank you so much! worked simply and perfectly and saved me loads of work.

  81. JRz says:

    Thank you. Worked Word 2003

  82. D.B says:

    Lol so easy, thanks man :D

  83. anda says:

    Thanks dude, this is really helpful

  84. MOIN says:

    Thank you very much. It worked.

  85. BB the Doc Editor says:

    Works in Word 2007, thanks a bunch

  86. Ola says:

    Works in Word 2016!! It helped me a lot Danke :)

  87. Rachel Dassin says:

    Awesome! I usually open .doc files like this: http://www.coreldraw.com/en/pages/doc-file/ and I use CorelDRAW to open and edit all Word files but I recently got some password protected files which I couldn’t edit . Thank you very much for sharing , I think you just solved my problem

  88. Sue says:

    thanks that worked perfectly :-)

  89. dana says:

    great it works for me thanks a lot, appreciate

  90. Add says:

    Thanks for sharing, it worked out.

  91. Yoli says:

    thank you…you’ve saved me from so much stress!

  92. foodandfood.co says:

    Thanks for this tip… it really works…. my document is now unprotect and i can change any field and taxt.

  93. Richard says:

    Thanks. Worked perfectly for me on Word 2016

  94. Jake says:

    Works on the latest version of Office 365 as of Aug. 10, 2017. Thank you!

  95. Patty says:

    Thank you. Just used today, Aug. 2017, in Word 2010 environment and did exactly what I needed it to do! So simple and easy. Knew there had to be a way! Thank you!

  96. Zanita Whitley says:

    You are AWESOME! WORD 2013 worked perfectly.

  97. Josh von Helper says:

    THE EASIEST AND FASTEST SOLUTION: 1) Save the protected doc-file as pdf 2) Convert the PDF to doc. Voila.

  98. Carolyn Tubbs says:

    this worked in 2007, thanks! Now I’m having to figure how to pull the info out of the box it’s in. Any suggestions on getting rid of the box without losing the info?

  99. Robbany says:

    you save my day man, thanks.

  100. Erin says:

    Thank you so much! Works with Office 2007

  101. Wenas41 says:

    Many Thanks, it works for Word 2016

  102. Vivien Gattineau says:

    Works like a Charm!

  103. hospitaldocomputador says:

    Great! Thanks!

  104. Kartina says:

    Awesomeee! Thanks

  105. JP says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!! Works on docx files.

  106. Peter says:

    Excellent. Really helped me thanks.

  107. Agnese says:

    Wow, thank you! Works with 360office (2016).

  108. Patrick Desaunay says:

    Be blessed!!!!

  109. Amber Frey says:

    Worked great for me – thanks!

  110. Steve D. says:

    I love you. Ten thousand thank-yous are not enough to express my gratitude! Live long and prosper, Friend.

  111. James says:

    365 got it messed up — lost all fillable fields

  112. N.T. says:

    Man, you are great!
    This helped me a lot!

    Many thanks to you and to all others who share their knowledge!

  113. Lee says:

    Brilliant – thank you!!!

  114. Lahcen says:

    Great!
    Thank you

  115. Anette says:

    Genious. Thank you.

  116. Ryan says:

    Great – Thank you very much!

  117. David S. says:

    Fantastic! It works! God bless you!

  118. dtguitartuitionDavid says:

    Brilliant – worked in Office 365

  119. pradeep says:

    Thanks a lot man, it really works wonderfully

  120. MOHD IZUAN NIZAM BIN YAHYA says:

    Thanks a lot. It work!!!

  121. VM says:

    can’t find the passwordhash

  122. games4masters says:

    it doesnt work

  123. Andrew Pike says:

    You’re the bomb! Thanks so much. So helpful!

  124. ABC says:

    10/10!! Great work. Works a charm, please follow instructions as detailed.

  125. nutridietetica113 says:

    How can i do it if I can’t open the document withouth the password??

  126. markus says:

    by following the instructions above.

  127. andrea says:

    Worked like a charm, thank you!!!!

  128. pkpots says:

    AWESOME!!!

  129. SupervirgiN says:

    Thanks, love!!!!

  130. alfranco17 says:

    Thank you! A real time saver.

  131. Patti says:

    This did eliminate the password protection, thank you. However, I’m working with a form that has drop down menus/choices which were lost. Any insight on how to do this and not lose the functionality of the form?

  132. Karen says:

    Mine didn’t have drop down menus to deal with, but it did work! THANKS!

  133. Carol says:

    Thanks for figuring this out. Goes to show how relatively useless the feature can be.

  134. Mylo says:

    TANK YOU!

  135. Paul says:

    Fantastic – worked a treat ????

  136. ledolodoJa says:

    working 100% thank you

  137. Elizabeth says:

    Amazing! Worked great with Word for Office 365. Lifesaver! Thank you.

  138. Yani says:

    YOU ARE A LIFE SAVIOUR! THANK YOU VERY MUCH

  139. Haral says:

    Thank you. Perfect solution ????

  140. qauzisam says:

    Thanz a million. it worked with 2016.

  141. Olaf says:

    thank you. But, at step 2, when i convert to .rtf, a error shapes and text boxes will be converted to effects available in this format.

  142. David says:

    Worked great, thanks for the work-around.

  143. prabhakargulla says:

    thank you for suggestion for unprotected document

  144. ravenbioacoustics says:

    Very helpful– thank you! Worked in Word 2016 on Mac.

  145. Mary says:

    In Office 2016 PC, I click on Restrictions, and it just pops open a box on the side that informs me that the document has restrictions.
    I’ll keep trying – something is bound to work. Thank you so much for sharing.

  146. Mary says:

    Oh, hey, never mind. Word great on one saved in .doc format.
    For a .docx, I followed the .rtf instructions, then converted it to a .pdf
    Exported the .pdf to Word, and voila!
    Thanks again!

  147. Hiesya Spring says:

    Oh my….. It doesn’t work for me. Can you please do it for me?

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