General troubleshooting for MacOffice v.X

These are general guidelines and apply to MacOffice v.X. Many of the suggestions apply to other versions as well.

See specific Excel v.X troubleshooting tips and Word v.X troubleshooting tips.


The first order of business when troubleshooting MacOffice should be to make sure you've updated Office fully. You can find updates at Mactopia Downloads. See my page on Office v.X versions for more information.

Reset permissions

After applying any updates, you should reset disk permissions. This works surprisingly well in curing other ills, too:

OS 10.2.x or OS 10.3.x: Run the Disk Utility (in the .:Applications:Utilities folder). From the First Aid tab, click the Repair Disk Permissions button.

OS 10.1.5: Run Repair Privileges (same folder, or download from Apple)

Check your settings

The applications' Settings files are a treasure trove of potential corruption. To test them:

  1. Quit all Office apps.
  2. Navigate to ~:Library:Preferences:Microsoft, where "~" is your home directory
  3. Rename or delete these files: Excel/Word/PowerPoint Settings (10), Microsoft Office Settings (10), and Microsoft Component Preferences.
  4. Restart the application - it will recreate these files from scratch

If the problems is cleared, trash the renamed files (you will have to reset some of your Preferences).

If the problem persists, trash the renamed files and restore the orignal file names (if you kept them)

Carbon Registration Database

With Office apps closed, trash the Carbon Registration Database in your ~:Library:Preferences:Microsoft folder. This file contains the locations of various Office components, and can become corrupted when components are moved, or, seemingly, for no reason at all. When you restart an Office app, the file will be rebuilt with the proper locations. If you have a user folder that's not on the boot volume, replace your CRD with a copy from a user folder that is on the boot drive (this only works if the user on the boot drive has opened Excel and the relevant components - for instance, the location of components like Equation Editor may only be included in the CRD after the Equation Editor is run).

Check your drive integrity

Run Disk Utilities/Verify disk to verify the disk drive and repair if necessary. If you have another disk tool, such as Disk Warrior, Techtool Pro, or Norton Utilities, run them all to verify the problem is or isn't with the disk.

Old codecs crash the Project Gallery

An obscure problem may affect a few users. If you have installed third party codecs (eg: old DivX codecs), the Project Gallery may crash. This means that an Office application may crash when the app is opened directly, but not when opened by double-clicking on a document. The solution is to update (or remove) your codecs.

If you don't understand the preceding paragraph, it's extremely unlikely that it's your problem, so skip it.

Adobe PDF Toolbar

If you have Adobe Acrobat (not Acrobat Reader), the PDF toolbar has been known to conflict with Office 2004, as well as previous versions. You can permanently remove the toolbar using this technique.

Corrupted font(s)

If you haven't fixed the problem yet, it's likely a font problem. Microsoft has a pretty good troubleshooting procedure, but when they tell you to replace your fonts and restart Excel one-at-a-time, show that you're smarter than the technical editor and do a binary search instead: Take out half the fonts in the folder of interest. If the problem persists, it's in that half, so take out half of the remainder. If the problem is cured, it's a result of the fonts in the half you took out, so put half of them back in. Repeat, cutting down the suspects by half, until you find the one. Caveat: This works when there's one corrupted font. If you get to the end and find none (but the problem went away when you removed all) go back to the last combination that produced no errors and do the rest one at a time.

If you're using OS X 10.3 (Panther), you can streamline the process by using the Font Book application to turn off font collections, then reenable them:

Nuke it

Sometimes the measures above don't work, or things have gotten so fouled up that you can't keep track. In that case, run the Remove Office application from the Value Pack of the Office Installation Disk (If you're using Office98/01, download the Remove Office application from Mactopia - the ones on the CDs are too out-of-date). Run it, reinstall Office, including the updaters, repair disk permissions, and try again.

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