When Microsoft Word crashes while you are editing a document, it leaves behind temporary files which may give the impression that you are still editing the document. Then, next time you try to open the document, you will receive an error message saying that it’s already locked for editing by you.
It may help to give an overview of what happens during normal use of Word. When you start Word, Word creates a selection of hidden temporary files, in various locations on your hard drive. If you open a document more temporary files are created. Likewise when you edit a document. If all is working correctly, these files are deleted when they are no longer required (i.e. when Word is closed), but if Word crashes, they may be left behind.
However, there are steps you can follow to get around the problems that these temporary files cause when left behind. First of all, close all instances of Word. To make sure they are all closed, press CTRL+ALT+DELETE to open the Windows Security dialog box > Task Manager > Processes tab > select Winword.exe > End Process. Start Windows Explorer, and then navigate to the folder that contains the document file that you tried to open when you received the error message. Delete the owner file. The owner file is located in the same folder as the document that you tried to open. The owner file name is the same as the real file name, except that the first two characters are replaced by ‘~$’. For example, the owner file for testing.docx is named ~$sting.docx. When the owner file is gone, start Word. If Word asks you whether you want to load the changes that were made to the Global or Normal template, click No. Open your document.
If all goes to plan, the above steps will have resolved your problem, and you will now be able to edit the document. If these steps, haven’t helped, you will need to go to Plan B.
Plan B involves finding those pesky temporary files that Word created but never got round to deleting, and deleting them yourself. You will need to be able to see hidden files and folders, and also file extensions. In Windows Explorer, go to the View Tab and in the Show/Hide group make sure that File name extensions and Hidden items are checked.
Locating Word Temporary Files
We need to delete those troublesome temporary files, and there are several places we should look to find them:
Windows Temp Folder
If you don’t know the path to your Windows Temp folder (it changes with the version of Windows you are running), you can type %temp% into the address bar in Windows Explorer and press Enter.
It is safe to delete everything you find in this folder.
User Templates Folder
Press Windows + R and type in %appdata%\Microsoft\Templates and press Enter.
If you were using a document template that was stored somewhere other than the User Templates folder when Word crashed, then you will need to remove the temporary file associated with the template in that folder.
Word Startup Folder
Press Windows + R and type in %appdata%\Microsoft\Word\Startup and press Enter.