Unopened Word document locked for editing: How to fix

Sometimes when trying to use Microsoft Word, you as the user will encounter certain issues when trying to access a particular file. One such issue is having a document that, though unopened, is locked to you when you try to access the file to edit it. Chances are, if you are struggling with this problem, then that is why you are currently reading this article.

Now, whilst slightly convoluted, there is a way by which you can solve the issue you are currently having. In order to fix an unopened Word document being locked for editing, you must end the process of Winword.exe within the task manager of your Windows security dialog box, before deleting the owner file of the document that was causing you issues.

For some, this alone may be enough detail for you to work with, and that is great if such a thing is the case. If not though, do not worry. As is the case with every article we publish on the site, we will break the process down further in two ways.

Before anything, it is worth noting that the tutorial will have a heavy focus on the task manager section of the walkthrough. We will discuss the steps that follow, but the task manager section of the process is the most complex aspect and therefore is the part on which we will focus the most.

First, we will offer you a step by step guide of the process you need to follow in order to solve this error in particular. As a bullet-pointed list, this again may serve to be of sufficient detail for some readers.

If you are still struggling after this though, then read on. Following the steps, we will offer you a detailed breakdown of the method in its entirety, complete with accompanying screenshots to best assist you as you progress through the walkthrough.

Step by step: Unopened Word document locked for editing: How to fix

  • Make sure your work is saved, and quit the application(s) you have open.
  • Press ‘Ctrl, Alt, Delete’ to open the dialog box of Windows Security.
  • Here, look to click ‘Task Manager’.
  • From here, navigate to the ‘Processes’ tab of settings.
  • Here should be something that reads, ‘Winword.exe’. Click this and click ‘End Process’.
  • Clicking this will present a warning box to you, on which you should click ‘Yes’.
  • Here, you may receive a message telling you that the program is not responding. If so, click ‘End Now’.
  • End the process of each instance of ‘Winword.exe’ that you see.
  • When done, go to the file menu and click ‘Exit Task Manager’.

As was aforementioned, we will now dive into this process further for those who need it.

First, make sure the work you are completing on Word, and indeed, anything else, has been saved. After checking this, close every application you have open. After doing this, you will be ready to begin with the process of truly closing every Word document of your computer.

Now, you will want to press ‘Control, Alt and Delete’. After doing this, you should be greeted with a menu that looks as thus:

From this screen, of all sections of options presented to you, you will want to click ‘Task Manager’, the final option of the list. It has been highlighted by the arrow in the below screenshot should you need the assistance in finding it.

Clicking ‘Task Manager’ will open a small menu for you to browse. To expand this menu, click ‘More details’ to see a larger version of this task manager menu.

Though you should be on this tab by default, you need to make sure you are on the tab labelled ‘Processes’, which again, has been emphasised in the below screenshot should you need further guidance in finding the section you need to be on.

It is this menu on which you will find any examples of a running ‘Winword.exe’ process. Once you have found it, make sure to click the process. Once that is highlighted, you should draw your attention to the bottom of your screen where there will be a prompt to end the task. The box that reads ‘End task’ is the next thing you will want to click.

Now, before we go on, a couple of pointers. Firstly, after opting to end the winword.exe task, you may be greeted by a Task Manager Dialog warning box. In this box, simply click ‘Yes’ to progress with stopping the task. Also, if you receive a message that tells you the program is not responding, then click ‘End Now’.

Also, it is worth noting that if you have several running ‘winword.exe’ programs, then you will have to go through the list of your processes and end each of them individually. Tedious? Completely, but it is equally as dull as it is important.

After doing this, click the ‘File’ tab at the top of your Task Manager menu. Under ‘File’, click ‘Exit’ to completely quit the task manager you have been working on.

After doing this, you have completed the complex part of this walkthrough. You have not, though, completed the process in its entirety. After completing the necessary work on the Task Manager, you will then want to open your File Explorer on your computer.

In the File Explorer, navigate to the folder that contains the document you initially tried to open.

Here, delete the owner file, which will be located in the folder of your original document. Microsoft, on their official website, offer a clear description on how to find the owner file.

After doing this, start Microsoft Word. Chances are the application will ask you whether or not you want to load changes that were made to the template, be that Global or Normal. Click ‘No’, open your document, and you will have successfully completed the process!

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, I hope you found it as helpful as you wanted it to be! As is the case with every piece we publish, if you encounter any sort of issue when following the walkthrough, or simply wish to share some thoughts you may have on the topic, then please don’t hesitate to get into contact with a member of our team.

Michael Fontana

Michael Fontana has been the managing director of telecoms and MSP Optionbox for over a decade and has worked in various telecommunication roles over the last 20 years. Michael has been involved in many exciting projects, such as co-founding telecoms and IT businesses and has now built up a team of more than 15 staff, serving over 300 clients nationwide. With a wealth of experience in IT and a passion for technology, Michael is now helping BTP to produce the highest quality guides on the internet. You can connect with Michael on LinkedIn.

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