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How to remove passwords from protected Microsoft Word documents

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There's always been a need to remove passwords from protected Microsoft Word documents when you need to make a change. My most common occurrence is with Human Resource (HR) forms. HR staff will create the MS Word document, password protect it, and then upload it to our company intranet. However, when I need to fill the form out, the only way to do so is to print the form, sign my name, scan the signed & printed form, and them email it back to them. What I would like to do, is to just paste a scan of my signature onto the form, save as a PDF, and them email them the PDF saving printing and scanning time and paper (which would then need to be shredded).

Here’s a trick that I learned a long time ago.

Make sure the MS Word document is password protected

  1. Open the document in MS Word
  2. Select the “Review” tab in MS Word
  3. Click and Hold the “Protect Document” button to reveal more choices
  4. Click “Restrict Formatting and Editing”
  5. You should see a “Stop Protection” button on the bottom of the opened panel
  6. Click the “Stop Protection” button

If it prompts you for a password, then let’s continue to remove the password.


Removing the Password from the MS Word document

Step 1. Convert document to RTF
  1. Click “Save As…” menu option, then choose “Other Formats”
  2. Select “Rich Text Format (*.rtf)” file type and provide a filename ending with .rtf
  3. Close the document and/or MS Word
Step 2. Remove password
  1. Open Notepad (or any text editor, I prefer Notepad2)
  2. Open the RTF file (from step 2) in the text editor
  3. Search for “passwordhash”. You should see text that looks something like this:
    {\*\passwordhash ########}
  4. Select the text after “passwordhash” until you get to the “}” (curly bracket). Make sure to not select the “}” or “{“ characters!
  5. Delete the selected text
  6. The text should look something like this now:
  7. Save the file and close your text editor


Step 3. Convert back to MS Word and Stop Protection
  1. Open the RTF file using MS Word
  2. Click “Save As…” menu option, then choose “Word Document (*.docx)”
  3. Select the “Review” tab in MS Word
  4. Click and Hold the “Protect Document” button to reveal more choices
  5. Click “Restrict Formatting and Editing”
  6. Click the “Stop Protection” button

All done! You should have an unprotected Microsoft Word document now.


James Welch

James Welch is a software engineer in Vermont working for a large information technology company and specializing in .NET. Additionally, he holds a Master’s Degree in Software Engineering and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science. Jim also enjoys local craft beer, comic books, and science-fiction and fantasy novels, games, and movies.

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Comments (79) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Thanks for the tip, that can be useful! I also found a way to see the code of protected VBA macros in Word by going in the Macro Organiser and copying the macro in another document. Then the macro is no more protected in the second document.

  2. Wow, what a great way to insult Microsoft. GREAT JOB

  3. Thank you so much! You saved the day for me! :)

  4. … What is this ?

    The word Document menu items & toolbar is disabled if you didn’t enter the password

    So how I’m supposed to open click on anything …. Explain briefly please.

  5. This was was awesome! I had the same issue with our HR and you fixed it – yay you!

  6. Thanks! This made my life 1000% easier.

  7. thanks man! u save my day!!!

  8. thanks a lot………….very helpful

  9. PERFECT! What a great feature. Glad I found this on a google search. Saved my day.

  10. Thank you – it worked, saved me having to retype and layout four forms again from scratch. Thank you ☺

  11. it works!! I love you!!! :-)

  12. lovely ! thanks

  13. Your so cool. it works help me 30 pages of document to edit.

  14. Lifesaver! Brilliant!

  15. Genius! These steps were easy to follow and saved me a big headache. Plus I look like a tech guru at the office and no one has to know the truth.

  16. Absolutely brilliant! This worked like a charm!

  17. Wonderful! Thank you!

  18. James Welch, you are an awesome, incredible, genius. Thank you so much, this is a massive help.

  19. Genius!!!!!! Thanks so much!!!!!


  21. Great tip, thanks!

  22. thanks so much. it is very helpful to me.

  23. Great stuff James, but there is also a MUCH easier way:
    1. Close the document that is password protected. Make sure it is saved on your pc.
    2. Open a blank Word document.
    3. Customize the Ribbon by adding “Insert File” from the Insert Tab to the Quick Access Toolbar.
    4. Now, click the Insert File button.
    5. Browse to the protected form document on the pc and select it.
    6. Click the Insert button.

    That’s it. You now have a new document that is now unprotected. Save it and give it a new name. The original document is still available and protected, but you now have a unprotected version as well.

    Now, the reason why I stumbled onto this forum, is that I was searching for a method to PREVENT users from doing exactly what I explained above.

  24. Really Great stuff James.
    is there a similar process for Excel documents?
    i am really getting Headache with excel documents. users left the organisations but forgot to forward the password to next person.

    thank you,

  25. Thanx man you saved the day!

  26. Awesome!!! Worked perfectly…will be using this A LOT. :-)

  27. Lifesaver right here.
    Bookmarked and will spread the word

  28. James, your advise is very good, I try to use it, it’s working well with my document. you’re expert



  29. Thax, saved having to re-do dozons of documents when someone protected everything and then left!

  30. Ohh… this was soooo great..!!!!
    Cheers :)

  31. Thanks, developer left things protected and then left!!

  32. You juste make my day!
    Thanks buddy

  33. Thank you so very much for this! Much happy tech karma to you!

  34. One minor quibble – in Step 2 you never state that you need to delete the password text after you select it. You do state not to delete the curly braces, but never mention actually deleting the selected password text.

    In Step 2, substeps 4 and 5, you have:

    4. Select the text after “passwordhash” until you get to the “}” (curly bracket). Don’t delete the “}” or “{“ characters!
    5. The text should look something like this now:

    So somewhere in 4 should be “Delete your selection”.

  35. hello it’s really a good post… I have a question, i have saved a word file (docx) with a password and now i have forgotten the password.. each time i access the file it needs a password to open it, unfortunately that i have forgotten..

    Now when i tried to convert the file to RTF format from online converters (websites) they are showing error and are unable to convert the file to RTF … so os there away that i can convert the password protected file to a RFT format so that i can follow the above steps and remove the password and recover my data…



  36. This worked! Thank you!

  37. Hi James,
    Thank you for the information. It worked a dream!! Saved a lot of work filling out the same form/report for 2013 as I did for 2012 when all that was need was to change the locked header to 2013.

    Thank You,

  38. I have a nice electronic signature which is made using Livescribe Smartpen. I always wanted to use it in protected word files. You are great. It helped me a lot.

  39. You saved me hours. Thank you!

  40. thanks soooooooo much, help me a lot

  41. Many thanks its really work and make easy my work

  42. Great tip, thanks. Much easier than everything else I found so far.

    For Excel, run the following macro (open Visual Basic by typing Alt-F11):
    Sub PasswordBreaker()
    ‘Breaks worksheet password protection.

    If ActiveSheet.ProtectContents = False Then
    MsgBox “The sheet is not protected”
    Exit Sub
    End If

    Dim i As Integer, j As Integer, k As Integer
    Dim l As Integer, m As Integer, n As Integer
    Dim i1 As Integer, i2 As Integer, i3 As Integer
    Dim i4 As Integer, i5 As Integer, i6 As Integer
    On Error Resume Next
    For i = 65 To 66: For j = 65 To 66: For k = 65 To 66
    For l = 65 To 66: For m = 65 To 66: For i1 = 65 To 66
    For i2 = 65 To 66: For i3 = 65 To 66: For i4 = 65 To 66
    For i5 = 65 To 66: For i6 = 65 To 66: For n = 32 To 126
    ActiveSheet.Unprotect Chr(i) & Chr(j) & Chr(k) & _
    Chr(l) & Chr(m) & Chr(i1) & Chr(i2) & Chr(i3) & _
    Chr(i4) & Chr(i5) & Chr(i6) & Chr(n)

    If ActiveSheet.ProtectContents = False Then
    pwd = Chr(i) & Chr(j) & _
    Chr(k) & Chr(l) & Chr(m) & Chr(i1) & Chr(i2) & _
    Chr(i3) & Chr(i4) & Chr(i5) & Chr(i6) & Chr(n)
    tmp = InputBox(“One usable password is in the box below. The sheet is now unprotected.”, , pwd)
    Exit Sub
    End If
    Next: Next: Next: Next: Next: Next
    Next: Next: Next: Next: Next: Next
    End Sub

    I tried to do the same in Word, but there is an annoying message for every failed attempt :( If anyone has a solution, please share!

  43. I wish I would have looked at this website first! You just saved me hours of work/ formatting. You are AWESOME!

  44. Thanks, it works :)

  45. Thanks! You saved me a lot of headache 😀

  46. very useful. thank you :-)

  47. Hello, How can i open a pwd protected docx file?

  48. Thank you for a helpful solution to a pesky problem!

  49. Saved me a LOT of hassle,

    I applaud you for giving an actual solution to the problem, instead of other copy/paste/insert file/etc. semi-solution-bullshit.

    As someone above already mentioned, nice insult to Microsoft.

  50. You just saved me!!!! THANK YOU!!!!

  51. Just wanted to add Re: MS-Word (2003), sometimes one gets a “password” with 8 digits in the RTF files as described above. In that case, COPY it and save to clipboard. Then delete the 8 digits as instructed above, and resave the RTF. Open that file in Word, and enter the password using paste. All functions will be unlocked. Save the file under a new-name.doc

  52. Thanks. It worked for me.

  53. Heck yes! Worked for me! Thank you!!

  54. Wow… Cool! This worked. Thanks so much for this!
    Who da man?… You da man!

  55. That’s awesome !! Thank you! You were a BIG help!

  56. Terrific–Worked perfectly! Thanks. Incidentally, the Insert File method mentioned above works, but it played games with formatting by pushing text onto a new page. It’s probably a margin issue. Anyway, I didn’t bother investigating since the original procedure worked very well.

  57. Had to search for “hash” because the doc was locked for editing, but could be opened as Raed Only

  58. Doesn’t work for Office 2013 but it put me on the path to figure it out. If you haven’t already solved it, let me know and I’ll share.

    I understand the need to restrict editing in forms and contracts but It frustrates me when someone provides a fillable form but then doesn’t provide a way for me to sign it electronically.

    • I know I’m almost a year late in replying to this, but could you please share what to delete or how you solved the problem for Office 2013? Thanks!

  59. Fantastic! You are seriously a genius, saved me from having to completely remake a document for a couple of edits.

  60. Favourited!!

  61. awesome instructions, you rock!

  62. Thanks this really help

  63. Worked like a charm, THANKS A LOT!!!

  64. Legend! Worked a gem!

  65. Thank you!

  66. Wow, you just saved me ALOT of time. Thank you!!!

  67. thomas i tried ur style of unlocking file but when i brose file it ask for password.plz help me out

  68. You saved my days of work. Thanks, Jim.


  69. helpfull thank!

  70. Bravo! Thanks so much.

  71. you’re my hero.

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