Word Doc Bad, Is It Hard Disk or Software

I spent today finishing off a column I do for a magazine. I sent it on to my editor, who emailed back to tell me my word count was way off.

When I opened the article, done in Word 2003 on a PC with Windows XP, what I saw was a beginning fragment I was noodling with last Friday. Everything I had done since was gone.

I saved the file several times over the weekend. I did not shut down either Word or the computer in any way other than normal saving and closing Windows and shutting down.

I also found a second file that had a very early version saved instead of the finished copy.

What’s the most likely place to look for a cause? In the Word software? A corrupted hard disk? Something in the OS?

The computer and all the parts are about six years old, so anything and everything might be wearing out. I’d like some guesses whether I could just swap in a new hard disk or whether it might be time to force a move to a 2010-era machine. How is Windows 7?

Can you save the file from the email you sent out? If so, have you tried to save it as RTF or text, or open it in another program like OpenDocs or Google Doc? IOW, the information may still be there, but hidden by Word.

I printed out the file for copyediting before I sent it, so I was able to recover the text.

I’m more concerned about why this might have happened so that I know how to prevent it from happening again.

In terms of pure probabilities, mosty likely it’s MS Word. It has reputation for corruption. Especially if using templates, editing large documents and/or myriad of other things that makes MS Word susceptible to hiccups. Also, don’t use the “fast-save” feature; that can also lead to corruption.

Sure, it is possible you have a bad spot on the disk. You can run a error-checking scan of your harddrive to test that theory. Right-click C: drive and go to the Tools tab.

I use Windows 7 with MS Word 2007. Very stable.

I’ve published complete books with complicated formatting using Word. I know about all its normal pitfalls. This was a very ordinary 1600 word article.

One nitpick. After you right-click on the C drive, you have to choose Properties first and then the Tools tab to get to error checking.

Right… and have you ever lost text or ended up with a corrupted document in the past? If so, did you know if it was Word vs a bad spot on the hard drive? Just wondering what your personal sample of failures would show.

I’ve worked on 1000 page legal documents with long tables and schedules. This was larger than a typical 100,000 word book. If it was kept together in one massive DOC file, it would blow up after a large block of text was cut & pasted in. The doc had to chopped up into separate DOC files.

The point is all corruption of documents I’m seen were traced back to glitches in Word and not the harddrive. Surely, somebody out there has a trashed DOC file caused by a hard drive hiccup but that’s rare. In your OP, you asked about “likelihood.”

If you can’t look at the corrupted DOC file with a binary hex editor, you can try what Morgyn suggests (resave as RTF or plain ASCII text) to see if the missing text “reappears.”