Preventing / Cleaning Up Document Corruption (WP Users)

March 21, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Note: This article primarily addresses WordPerfect users, although some of the advice applies regardless of which word processing program you use. Sometime in the next few weeks, I will add a post with similar tips specifically for Word users.

Document corruption is an inevitable fact of technological life. It can result from problems with Windows, a faulty hard drive or other hardware, defective computer memory, power surges, errors during the “Save” process, improper shutdown of the computer, and other glitches and malfunctions.

Although you can’t necessarily avoid corruption entirely, there are a number of ways to minimize its likelihood — and its impact. I’ve provided a few pointers below (including a couple that might seem obvious, but bear repeating), along with some fairly reliable methods for cleaning up corrupted documents. I can’t guarantee that they will work in all cases, but they could prove invaluable.


The old saying rings true: It’s always preferable to take a few small, pro-active steps to keep things from breaking than to have to try to figure out how to put them back together after they’ve broken. Most of these preventive measures require very little effort, time, or money.

1. Back up / save files frequently and keep copies off site.

2. Save sequential versions of files (draft 1, draft 2, draft 3, etc.). Make copies and keep them off site and/or on at least one other machine (possibly a laptop computer owned by the firm) as well as an external hard drive, USB drive, etc.

3. Avoid “round-tripping” documents between WordPerfect and Word, a well-known cause of corruption.

4. Break long documents into master- and sub-documents (long documents tend to corrupt more easily than shorter ones, especially if they are also complex and contain lots of graphics, styles, tables, etc.).[1]

5. Use an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to help keep voltage stable.

6. Avoid (disable) write-caching, also known as write-behind and write-back caching.[2]


Before attempting any of the methods listed here, be sure to back up the problematic file by saving it under a new name.

1. Download and run the WPLOOK.EXE utility, which is designed to strip out corruption from WordPerfect documents. You can obtain WPLOOK from the WordPerfect 10 FTP site.

For detailed instructions on how to use WPLOOK, see Laura Acklen’s first-rate article, which you can find by clicking this link.

Note that the utility, while designed for WP 10, can be used with documents created in all recent versions of WordPerfect. It is important to run the utility at least three times, even if it reports no corruption.

You can run WPLOOK on a corrupted default template, too. Be sure to make a backup copy of the template first and also be sure to exit out of WordPerfect before running the template through WPLOOK.

2. Try the “X-retrieve” method, which removes corruption from file “prefixes” (a hidden portion of the document containing instructions about formatting). Inserting the file into a document that contains one character normally strips the file prefix, which often remedies the problem.

• First, make sure the affected file is not open. Then, in a blank document screen, type an “X” (or any character).

• Next, click the Insert menu, File, and browse to the problem file. Click Insert.

• With the file open, backspace over the X.

• Click File, Save As, and give the file a new name.

• Test to see if the corruption is still present.

3. If you can navigate through the file (perhaps up to a certain portion of the document where corruption causes the cursor to skip), copy as much as possible, then use Edit, Paste Special, Unformatted Text to paste the uncorrupted parts of the document into a blank document screen. You could also try selecting the entire document and using Paste Special to try to paste into a blank document. You might end up having to re-create part of the original document, but you should be able to salvage at least a good chunk of it.

4. Try opening the file (either with File > Open or with Insert > File) in QuattroPro, a spreadsheet program that comes with most versions of WordPerfect Office.

5. If the default template is corrupted, close out of WordPerfect, search for the default template, rename it (don’t delete it – in case you have made any customizations to toolbars and/or keyboards, which are stored in the default template). Then re-launch WordPerfect. The program will generate a new default template, which could solve the problem(s).


There is an extensive discussion of the WPLOOK utility on the WordPerfect Universe site.

See also this FAQ on the WPUniverse site that deals with repairing corrupted files.

Barry MacDonnell has written an excellent (and logically organized)–if quite lengthy–article about repairing WordPerfect files.

Another article on Barry’s site deals with repairing bad program files, rather than individual corrupted documents.

And yet another article discusses the two different types of backups available in WordPerfect and provides links to a couple of macros that make automatic backups a trivial matter.

[1] For step-by-step instructions on creating master- and sub-documents, see Laura Acklen’s tutorial on that topic on the Corel web site.

[2] For a useful, if somewhat disorganized, discussion of document corruption – including instructions on disabling write caching – see this thread on WordPerfect Universe. Special thanks to WPU superstars (and WP gurus) Barry MacDonnell, Roy Lewis (aka “lemoto”), and Charles Rossiter for compiling most of the tips in this thread.

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