Introduction: Unprotect MS Word Doument.

Picture of Unprotect MS Word Doument.

This is a how to on how to recover access to a word document that has been protected to disable editing.

In MS word if you go to the tools menu then select 'protect document' you can set the password to protect the document from editing. Useful feature if it s a memo or a form that needs to be passed about and you don't want anyone to make changes to it.

Now what happens if you forget the password and you need to make changes to the document?

For this instructable you will need.

1) A protected word document.
2) Ms Word.
3) Text Editor (like WordPad or Notepad).
4) Hex editor (Like WinHex).

Step 1: Method 1: Copy Contents of the Document Into a New Document.

Picture of Method 1: Copy Contents of the Document Into a New Document.

One of the disadvantages of using this method is that you might mess up some of the formatting especially if you don't have all the fonts etc. Also some of the protection options even might prevent copying.

Open the protected document do a Ctrl + A to select everything in the document.

Do a Ctrl + C to copy the selected area

Open a new document

Do a Ctrl + V to paste the selected area

Save the new document.

The new document is ready for you to make changes.

Step 2: Method 2: Format the Word Document.

Picture of Method 2: Format the Word Document.

a. Make a copy of the protected document incase you mess it up ;0)
b. Open the protected document in MS word.
c. Under the file menu select 'Save As'.
d. Under 'Save as type' choose "Web page (*.htm; *.html)" and click save
e. Close word.

Step 3: Method 2: Find the Password.

Picture of Method 2: Find the Password.

In WordPad (or notepad) open the HTML document you just created.

Search through the document for tag.

The value between the open and closed tag represents the password. It should be eight characters in length. Write this value down. (Characters: 12345678).

Close WordPad

Step 4: Method 2: Hack the Document.

Picture of Method 2: Hack the Document.

Open the protected document in WinHex (or other hex editor).

Search the document for the characters you found in the previous step 12345678 (1FC6CBEB)

but in the order 78563412 (EBCBC61F)

Once you have found the hex values overwrite them with 0's (zeros)

Save the document

Step 5: Method 2: Open the Document.

Picture of Method 2: Open the Document.

Open the protected document in MS word.

Under the Tools Menu select Unprotect document

Don't type anything in the password box just click ok.

Document is now unprotected and is ready for you to make changes.


lokerin (author)2017-01-06

works love it

pecker (author)2013-09-24

This works if you've got Acrobat Pro.
Open your MS Word document.
Save as PDF.
Open the PDF file.
Save as MS Word.

Silverstream (author)pecker2015-10-15

Great tip, thanks

zambi007 (author)pecker2013-12-25

nope. even if you have the latest acrobat x, your method doesn't work. acrobat doesn't include tags/comments/notes &c from a protected word doc in its pdf. so if one has a header/footer, it gets all mixed up in the finally retrieved doc from acrobat. of course, you get a final protection-removed word doc but just have a look at the formattings. everything you get is so clunky and goofed up like a badly dressed salad.

mr_e has given a way far easier and quicker than yours.

AlisonJ1 (author)zambi0072015-04-06

worked for me!

JeshurunY (author)2015-10-08

Thanks a million!! Simple yet effective instructions.

Sparxter (author)2015-02-25

Worked great, thanks. I was able to recover some documents for the company I work for and make them usable again.

Mohammad ArifP (author)2014-12-18

Hi, I tried but in step, the eight charter which I found was 00000000, what should I do now?

josep.vallverd (author)2014-10-27

Thank you very much, it has helped me a lot, God bless you!!!

nurchi (author)2014-01-10

This is plain awesome.

Thanks a lot, just saved me a ton of time...

I can't believe there are paid tools to do this...

controlsgirl (author)2013-02-28

My unprotected password showed up as 00000000. I typed in nothing in the password section and it told me I have the wrong password.

zambi007 (author)controlsgirl2013-12-25

a value of 0 means your document is unprotected. or protected with a null password. which means a password string of one or more zeros were used.

IPR123 (author)2012-01-11

Thank you for the good idea.

I tried it on a file with edit protection in word 2010

At this stage I opened it up in Notepad++ and I found the password was shown as all zeros (was not blank in word however). So couldnt use the hex approach.

So I just deleted the two xml lines referring to protection, re opened in word and it seems to be fine. Note that you have to reset the view mode from web to normal otherwise the document looks odd on screen.

I also noticed that openoffice ignores the protection.

amclean4 (author)2011-12-12

it lets me go to tools but it doesnt let me select protect or unprotect document :@

ixilon (author)2010-08-23

It worked for me, Office 2003 + Notepad++ and HxD. Great work!

juiya (author)2010-08-18

Thanks, Jezza Bear! Worked for me

riskrail (author)2009-03-04

Here is the easiest way I have found to unprotect a word document: save file as a Rich Text File File will appear with file name followed by .rtf Open .rtf and save as a word document click Tools and select Unprotect This should give you the file unprotected.

squirmster (author)2007-05-16

Any idea how I would get this to work with password protected pdfs? I often have to capture contents of these and I can't copy the text from them.

ScottMcLeod (author)squirmster2009-02-03

Use Colorsync in OS X. Open document Save as... (new name) TA-DAA! No password. Google if you have any more questions.

pixil (author)2008-10-16

hey, i tried this but couldn't find the string in the hex editor. so i just went back to the html file, deleted the entire line that referenced the password protection. then i saved the modified html file, opened it in word, and was able to turn off the protection. silly users locking themselves out of their own documents. thanks for the tips though!

jchar77 (author)2008-09-23

You don't even need hex editor... You save it as a .htm file, find the 8 letter code and replace it with 8 zeros. Nice try though!

zaeka_dori (author)2008-02-29

10x, Jezza Bear. That's brilliant and very useful.

alvincredible (author)2008-01-14

omg that could be used to hack a grades sheet or something at school. like my teacher does that and lets us see our grades from the network drive, but they are unchangeable. i promise never to put this info to bad use. :-)

Jezza Bear (author)2007-05-17

Even simpler way is this: 1) Create a blank new document. 2) Select Insert | File... 3) Browse to the document, then click Insert. You'll have the unprotected form document on your hands. Much simpler and not underhand.....the reason this is done is to protect the document from changes for version control

lemonie (author)2007-05-15

I'm not sure that I get this. How do you open a password protected doccument? The password would prevent you from doing this? If you can open the protected doccument and view it, where is the advantage in de-protecting it? (please explain, I'm tired and must have missed something) L

rislejay (author)lemonie2007-05-16

There are two levels of password protection in Word. Password needed to open the document and password needed to modify the document.

lemonie (author)rislejay2007-05-16

And you can get around the 'modify' password with 'save as'. The actual unprotection of the original is interesting, but I can't see the use(?)


tuxracer66 (author)2007-05-16

You don't need it with OpenOffice - it ignores the protection by word (in most cases)

rimar2000 (author)2007-05-16

The step 5 doesn't work in MS Word 97.

rislejay (author)2007-05-16

Tried this in Word XP and 2003 without any luck. Maybe an update patched this hole or it never existed in these versions.

Taotaoba (author)2007-05-15

I just tried it in Word 2000. The protected document cannot prevent you from openning and even editing, but the later changes will be prevented or marked as red (Depends on what you choose to protect). Thanks for sharing.

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