Word: Document goes to ‘read-only’ for no reason

Note (3 July 2020): This is an updated version for Word 365 (for Windows) of the original post for Word 2007 (https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/word-2007-document-goes-to-read-only-for-no-reason/).

I’m not sure how widespread this problem is, but I’ve seen it a few times, and one of my work colleagues gets it regularly:

  • You’re happily working in a Word document, saving as you go, when all of a sudden you can’t save as you get a message that the document is set to ‘read-only’
  • You save and close a Word document, re-open it, work on it, try to save it again but get the ‘read-only’ message.

The workaround I’ve used to date has been to do a ‘save as’ and save the document with a slightly different file name.

However, after my colleague said that she’s getting the message all the time on a specific document, it was time for me to go off to Google and check if anyone else gets this and how they solved it.

Here are some possible solutions I found:

  • Turn off Allow Background Saves. There may be a conflict with when you do a manual save and the automatic save (File > Options > Advanced > Save subsection).
  • Turn off AutoRecover (File > Options > Save > Save AutoRecover information every xx minutes).
  • Open the Save As window (quickest — press F12 to open the Save As window, OR File > Save As > More options (link), Once you’re on the Save As window, click the Tools drop-down (to the immediate left of the Save button) > General Options > the clear the Read-only Recommended check box if it’s checked.
  • Reboot your computer and immediately check your Temp and Templates folders for lurking temporary files not deleted properly (don’t open any Office applications until after you’ve done this—your Temp folder should be empty after a fresh reboot). Your Temp folder is located here: C:Users<UserName>AppDataLocalTemp. Also check in C:Users<UserName>AppDataRoamingMicrosoftTemplates to make sure that there are no temp files there too. Temp files are easy to spot—they have a tilde (~) in front of the file name and have a tmp file extension.
  • Try saving to your Documents folder (if you normally save to a network location or some other folder) to see if this makes any difference.
  • Make sure the document you have open is not sitting inside a Zip file.
  • Check Windows Explorer and make sure you don’t have the document open in Preview pane view as this will lock it (in Windows 10, open Windows Explorer and go to View > Panes group > Preview pane).
  • Make sure the document you are trying to save is not an Outlook attachment that’s still open in Outlook.
  • Set your anti-virus (AV) software to not scan Word 365 files. Personally, I’d try this one as a last resort; also, in some corporate environments, you may not be able to change your AV settings.

[Link last checked July 2020]


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