How To Fix A Scrambled Registry


Q. My laptop somehow got terribly screwed up. When I double-click on a Word file in Windows Explorer, a program other than Word tries to load it—and, of course, it fails. Can you help?

A. It sounds like the Word portion of your Registry (Windows’ “brains”) got scrambled so it no longer instructs Word files to use the winword.exe command to open a Word file. Fortunately, the fix is relatively easy. First, we’ll unregister all the Word files and then tell winword.exe to reset them correctly.

To do that we’ll evoke that old Disk Operating System (DOS). You’re probably thinking it’s my brain that’s scrambled because DOS is no longer loaded in Windows. Although it’s not widely known, Microsoft tucked a little kernel of DOS inside Windows to solve problems like this. The next Windows operating system will indeed be without a trace of DOS.

To open a window in DOS, go to Start , point to Programs (some computers list it as All Programs ), Accessories , and then choose Command Prompt . Unless your computer’s name is Stanley, your prompt will not look like the screenshot below; instead, Stanley will be replaced by the name you gave your computer when it was set up.

Type in the following command—including the quotation marks and the spaces:


Then press the Enter key.

Editor’s note : In the unlikely event you get an error message, that shows that the winword.exe file isn’t where it usually is (as shown in the above command). To find it, use Windows Explorer’s Search tool and then adjust the path in the command accordingly.

Then, while you’re still at the command prompt, enter this command to rewrite Word’s Registry keys (again adjusting the command to the correct path for your machine):


That should put you back in business.


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