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.



  1. Olsen November 23, 2017 at 7:28 AM

    Step 4 is a bit different in Office 2007, as ribbon button has no sub menu – instead the button appears anyway in lower right corner of screen. Method works great. Thanks!!!

  2. Samuel Wolf August 29, 2017 at 7:04 PM

    what if the whole Word 2010 document is protected not just fields where it wont even open any part of the document without password

    • bigbug04 September 6, 2017 at 3:44 AM

      Rename to zip > Extract > Edit out password in xml

  3. Tracy Lane August 1, 2017 at 3:03 PM

    Worked perfectly. Thanks.

  4. Moorthi July 2, 2017 at 11:41 PM

    This is not working

  5. Moorthi July 2, 2017 at 11:40 PM

    HELP!!! When I search for pass, nothing is found. , Pls tell me clearly

    • Geoff Caldwell July 7, 2017 at 9:17 AM

      Use the edit function to “select all” first, then search for pass. I had to do that to get it to find on mine. Then it all worked as described.

  6. Melissa Ogden June 16, 2017 at 6:17 PM

    Amazing!! It worked within 5 minutes!

  7. Peter Solymos March 19, 2017 at 1:13 AM

    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.

  8. critique456 February 28, 2017 at 3:09 PM

    Excellent! Thank you 🙂

  9. Wendy Taylor Griffith February 15, 2017 at 3:50 PM

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

  10. Pavel Esaulov February 14, 2017 at 2:44 AM

    Nice hack! Thank you, it works perfect!

  11. disqus_hWw3hdPx2C February 9, 2017 at 2:55 AM

    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 February 28, 2017 at 10:37 PM

      same problem! Please help!

      • Tristan March 13, 2017 at 9:26 AM

        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 March 13, 2017 at 9:25 AM

      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.

  12. eatsham ahsan January 25, 2017 at 7:31 PM

    Worked like a charm. Thank you so much.

  13. Jessica November 2, 2016 at 1:32 AM

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

  14. Enes GÖKÇE August 7, 2016 at 5:53 PM

    Thank you! It worked perfect 🙂

  15. hcs December 5, 2015 at 8:36 AM

    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.

    • Terrie Pugh May 1, 2017 at 10:37 AM

      This was simple and easy and worked like a charm! Thank you!

  16. seanmorrissey November 3, 2015 at 8:39 AM

    I concur with the others: Genius and thank you!

  17. Kristaps Lode September 10, 2014 at 7:16 AM

    Thank you sir for sharing your knowledges with us.

    • Alex September 10, 2014 at 5:44 PM

      It’s my pleasure!

  18. will July 31, 2014 at 7:51 PM

    You are a genuis!!! thank you sooo much

    • Alex August 4, 2014 at 7:48 PM

      You are welcome! I am glad I could help.

      • waqasmadani November 22, 2015 at 10:50 PM

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

        • Alex November 23, 2015 at 7:23 AM

          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?

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