How to edit a password protected Word document

This is the situation: You opened a word document, but then realize you cannot edit it because it is password protected from editing. Now you basically want to crack the password protection for editing in Word or remove the read-only lock for the case that you cannot recover the password. Cracking a password! Sounds highly illegal? That certainly depends on the situation. You can always break into your own house when you lost the keys. Similar case here.


I created a form document years ago and protected it from editing so that only the form fields can be edited. Now I needed to make some updates to the form and – you can guess – cannot remember the old password. So I could either write up the entire 10-page document again or try to remove the password protection. Typing it up would have taken me hours with all the formatting. To find the solution, however, took me only 30 minutes. Time saved, yeah! I want to share this solution with you so that hopefully it takes you less than five minutes:

Step 1: Display developer tab on the ribbon

office button plus options

  1. Open word options
  2. Click “popular”
  3. Check mark on “Show Developer tab in the ribbon”

 

Step 2: Save the document as rtf file

  1. Open your document
  2. Click “Save As” -> other formats
  3. Select “Rich Text Format” and chose a filename

 

Step 3: Remove the password in rtf-file with Notepad

remove password

  1. Open the rtf-file in notepad (All files(*.*) -> select file)
  2. What you will see will look nothing like the document, but don’t worry. Press CTRL + F (or click EDIT then FIND) and type “pass” without the quotes and search for it. Above you can see how it looked in my document.
  3. Delete the entire phrase including the waved brackets {}. Make sure to delete only one closing bracket per opening bracket. Otherwise you will get an error when opening it again. It my case it was only the password phrase, but you can also look for “readonly” and “writereservation” and remove these as well.
  4. Save the file

 

Step 4: Deactivate the protection

remove password protection

  1. Open the rtf-file in Word again. It will look exactly the same as before.
  2. Activate the Developer section in the ribbon and click “Protect Document” -> Restrict Formatting and Editing
  3. On the bottom of the sidebar that opens click the “Stop Protection” button. You will not be prompted for a password, because we removed it. Now the edit protection is also removed. You can close the sidebar.
  4. Save the file in the original format (*.docx) again.

Stop protection

That is it! You can now edit a formerly password protected word document.
I am aware that removing password protections is a sensitive topic. That is why I want to point out that you should only remove passwords when you set them yourself or you obtained the unambiguous consent of the document’s author. This method also obviously doesn’t work when the file itself is password protected. Please leave a comment if it worked for you and of course if it didn’t and I’ll try to find the problem.

 

  • Peter Solymos

    Brilliant. Works like a charm on Winword 10. (Unlocked my wife’s uneditable PhD study – that’s a relief I tell you.)
    Thanks a lot for the effort to publish.

  • critique456

    Excellent! Thank you 🙂

  • Wendy Taylor Griffith

    HELP!!! When I search for pass, nothing is found.

  • Pavel Esaulov

    Nice hack! Thank you, it works perfect!

  • disqus_hWw3hdPx2C

    I got stuck on step 2 – i don’t have an option to save as. When i try to open the doc it asks for a password and i can’t get any further. Any advice??

    • aliaspr

      same problem! Please help!

      • Tristan

        Here is my comment from above in case you did not get a notification. Save As is in the “File” menu. If you still cannot locate it you can press the “Alt” key then press the “F” key and finally then press the “A” key to open the save as command.

    • Tristan

      Save As is in the “File” menu. If you still cannot locate it you can press the “Alt” key then press the “F” key and finally then press the “A” key to open the save as command.

  • eatsham ahsan

    Worked like a charm. Thank you so much.

  • Jessica

    Thank you so much. The steps are clear and very easy to follow. Thank you again.

  • Enes GÖKÇE

    Thank you! It worked perfect 🙂

  • hcs

    There’s no need to use msword. Just use WordPad to open protected document & convert it to RTF/DOC/DOCX format. The protection on new file will be removed.

  • seanmorrissey

    I concur with the others: Genius and thank you!

  • Kristaps Lode

    Thank you sir for sharing your knowledges with us.

    • It’s my pleasure!

  • will

    You are a genuis!!! thank you sooo much

    • You are welcome! I am glad I could help.

      • waqasmadani

        how we save as the file….the option is disable in my case….

        • Can you open a new word file and copy-paste (CTRL+A and CTRL+V) all the content into the new file and save it?