Reduce Microsoft Word File Size and Avoid Slowness, Corruption and Crashes

by Avantix Learning Team | Updated July 5, 2018

Applies to: Microsoft® Word ® 2010, 2013 and 2016 (Windows)

In general, the more content you add into a Word document, the larger it will be. However, there are various factors that can increase the file size of Microsoft Word documents including many pictures, images placed by copying rather than inserting, large image files, a lot of manual or direct formatting, many versions of the same file, and excessive use of track changes.

There are also reports of certain other features increasing file size as well as issues reported by many Word 2013 users relating to increased file size and sluggishness that have apparently been fixed in 2016.

There are several strategies you can try to reduce the size of your Word documents and improve the speed of Word during editing and saving. Before trying any of these techniques, you should save a copy of the Word file with a new name and work in the copy.

If you’re a keyboard only user, you may first want to check out our series No Mouse? Using Keyboard Only Navigation in Microsoft Office.

Recommended article: How to Add or Remove Page Breaks in Microsoft Word

To view file size in Word:

  1. Click the File tab in the Ribbon.
  2. Click Info. In the Properties area, file size is listed beside Size.

For some of the following strategies, you will need to close and save the file and then check file size again to see a difference in file size.

1. Use styles instead of manual formatting

The more manual or direct formatting you use in a Word document, the larger it will become. This becomes problematic with very large documents. Use styles as much as possible to reduce file size and automate formatting. Instead of applying 14 point, bold, and blue to a heading, consider using a style instead.

To apply a style:

  1. Select the content to which you wish to apply a style (such as a heading).
  2. Click a style in the styles group on the Home tab in the Ribbon.

To modify a style:

  1. Right-click the style in the Styles group on the Home tab in the Ribbon and choose Modify.
  2. Make the necessary changes.
  3. Click OK.

2. Delete extra versions

Word is set by default to autorecover files if there is a crash. This can result in many versions of the same file being saved and, therefore, larger files.

To delete extra versions of a file:

  1. Click the File tab on the Ribbon.
  2. Click Info. Versions will be displayed in the versions area.
  3. Right-click any of the versions to delete and choose delete this version. A dialog box appears.
  4. Click Yes.

Microsoft Word dialog box to delete versions.

3. Use Save As to remove versions

You can remove all previous versions using Save As:

  1. Click the File tab on the Ribbon.
  2. Choose Save As.
  3. Navigate to the desired location and name the file with a slightly different name (such as MarketingPlan2).
  4. Click Save.

You can choose to regularly save new copies of large files you’re working on using Save As (such as MarketingPlan1, MarketingPlan2 and so on).

4. Turn off or change AutoRecover settings

You can turn off AutoRecover entirely or change the time when Word creates an autorecover file. However, Word will no longer recover your Word files if you have a crash if you turn off AutoRecover completely so use this technique only if you are comfortable with this setting.

To turn off AutoRecover:

  1. Click the File tab on the Ribbon.
  2. Click Options.
  3. In the categories, click Save.
  4. Uncheck Save AutoRecover information every 5 minutes.
  5. Click OK.

Microsoft Word File Options Save category.

Alternatively, you can change the AutoRecover save time to a longer time such as 30 minutes.

To change AutoRecover save timing:

  1. Click the File tab on the Ribbon.
  2. Click Options.
  3. In the categories, click Save.
  4. In the Save Autorecover information every 5 minutes, change the time.
  5. Click OK.

On another note, if AutoRecover is turned on and you leave your Word file open when you leave your computer, the file continues to increase in size as Word creates new versions of the file. Consider closing the file when you’re not working on it.

5. Insert pictures instead of copying and pasting

It’s best to insert pictures, rather than using standard copying and pasting from another file. When you copy and paste, the image can lose compression, change file type and also bring in other data that can increase file size.

To insert a picture in Microsoft Word:

  1. Click the Insert tab and click on Picture. A dialog box appears.
  2. Navigate to the location of the picture.
  3. Click the picture and click on Insert or double-click on the picture.

You also have the option of linking to the file by clicking on the arrow beside Insert in the Insert Picture dialog box and then choosing Link to File. However, the picture is not actually “in” the file (which reduces file size) and if you email the document, the pictures will not be included.

6. Compress pictures

Ideally, if you use small sizes for the original picture, this will reduce the size of your Word documents. However, you can compress one or all pictures in a Word file. You may wish to try this with one picture at a time to be sure you are happy with the result after compression.

To compress a picture:

  1. Click the picture.
  2. Click the Picture Tools Format tab on the Ribbon.
  3. Click Compress Pictures.
  4. Choose to compress the current picture or all pictures.
  5. Choose to delete cropped areas of pictures if necessary.
  6. Choose the desired document resolution.
  7. Click OK.

Microsoft Word dialog box to compress pictures.

7. Turn off thumbnails (preview picture)

Thumbnails (formerly preview picture) is the miniature picture of the document’s first page which shows in Windows Explorer when you select a file. Usually, this isn’t an issue unless your first page displays a graphic.

To turn off thumbnails:

  1. Click the File tab on the Ribbon.
  2. Click Info.
  3. In the Properties section, click the down arrow beside properties and choose Advanced Properties.
  4. Click the Summary tab.
  5. Uncheck Save Thumbnails for all Word Documents and click OK.

Microsoft Word dialog box to save thumnails.

8. Avoid embedded fonts

Another reason Word files may get very large is because of font embedding which is not required unless you are using a non-standard font.

To turn off font embedding:

  1. Click the File tab on the Ribbon.
  2. Click Options.
  3. In the categories, click Save.
  4. Ensure Embed fonts in this file is unchecked and click OK.

Microsoft Word File Options Save category.

9. Save as an RTF file

Another technique you can try if a Word file seems to be too large or slow is to save the file as an RTF (Rich Text Format file) and then reopen it and save it again in Word.

To save as an RTF file:

  1. Click the File tab and choose Save As.
  2. Choose RTF as the file type.
  3. Navigate to the desired folder and enter a name.
  4. Click Save.
  5. Close the file.
  6. Click the File tab and choose Open.
  7. Double-click the RTF file.
  8. Click the File tab and choose Save As.
  9. Navigate to the desired folder and enter a new name. Set the file type as Microsoft Word document (.docx).
  10. Click Save.

Note that some Word 2013 users who have experienced significant sluggishness have chosen to save all of their files in .doc format. You can also work in files saved in RTF format.

10. Turn off Allow background saves

You can try turning off Allow background saves if Word is crashing (Allow background saves is different from Fast Save which has been removed from Word). However, if you turn this option off, you will have to wait while Word saves your file.

To turn off Allow background saves:

  1. Click the File tab on the Ribbon.
  2. Click Options.
  3. In the categories, click Advanced.
  4. In the Save area, uncheck Allow background saves.
  5. Click OK.

Microsoft Word dialog box to allow background saves.

Some users report that enabling Always create a backup on save in this area also helps.

Other features

Other features that have been reported to cause problems include excessive use of track changes and drawing objects, inserting cross-references and grouping captions with images so you may decide to avoid or limit the use of these features.

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Summary
How to Reduce Microsoft Word File Size and Speed Up Large Documents [10 Ways]
Article Name
How to Reduce Microsoft Word File Size and Speed Up Large Documents [10 Ways]
Description
Reduce the file size of Microsoft Word documents and avoid slowness, corruption and crashes in Word. You can use many strategies to compress Microsoft Word documents if they are too big because of large images, direct formatting and other causes. Here, we'll talk about several techniques to reduce file size.
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Avantix Learning

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