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Why does Word tell me a document has changed when it hasn’t?

Hey Leo, what can I do, when I close out of an existing saved Word document, to stop the “Do you want to save changes to your document?” window from coming up every time, even when I haven’t made changes or touched a thing?

Microsoft Word asks if you want to save changes if you try to close or exit with a document open that Word thinks has changed.

Chances Word is correct, and it has changed. Even if all you did was look.

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The most common cause happens when you have receive a document from someone else, and you have “background repagination” set. If your printer is slightly different than the printer the originator used, then the first time you look at a document it will be reformatted to fit your printer, resulting in what Word considers a change.

Another common cause is something called “fields”, which are in essence calculated results. For example, you can insert a field into your document that includes the last date that the document was saved or printed. The problem arises when fields are recalculated just by looking. Fields including date and time are often culprits, though in complex documents there are several approaches that could result in Word thinking the document has changed. It’s difficult to say exactly which, because that will vary based on the document in question.

Finally Macros and Add-Ins can also cause Word to think something has changed. Macros can be set to trigger when a document is opened or at other seemingly random times. Add-Ins similarly can make subtle changes that may not affect the document visibly, but can cause Word to think it’s changed.

The long, drawn-out, bottom line is that it can often be hard to tell why Word might consider a document to be changed even though you haven’t done anything. Hopefully I’ve provided a few clues.

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17 comments on “Why does Word tell me a document has changed when it hasn’t?”

  1. I noticed this behavier with my office also. but it started after i opened one of my old files that had macros and custom tool bars. ever since I got this problem with all documents that never had it. I made sure that non of the macros did run (Highe security) and for some reason the custom bar is copied to the default settings file. i deleted it but this did not fix the problem. I’m on this case. Now and I hope i fix it.

  2. I did have access to freshly formatted PC, I did open one of the documents that keep causing this issue in that PC and it did not ask me to save when i closed it . This is a clue that the problem is in the setting of Office

  3. I have got a different problem, word files appear with dates of “last time this document was opened”, that are impossible. For example, the computer will tell that such a word document was opened at such hour when nobody was home, and the computer was disconnected.

    Have any clues?, Virus? Bug? Bios batery?

    Strange stuff.



  4. I get the same msg, but only on some documents. My problem is that I can click yes when it asks if I want to save the changes, but when immediately reopen it, and do nothing but close it, it asks once again if I want to save changes. I’ve checked this with nothing else running, no other document open, etc., and it still asks if I want to save the changes. This really is annoying. I would appreciate any help anyone could give. Thanks.

  5. I had the same problem and created a new file line by line until I got the “do you want to save” etc. The lines forcing the save for me were dates that were assigned smart tags. When you put the cursor over the date you get an I icon with a drop down that gives you the clue.
    So if this is what is getting you then you can go to Tools then autocorrect options and select smart tags. At this point I just disabled the “label text with smart tags” then clicked on Remove smart tags and I no longer am having the problem. You might want to check out this possibility.

  6. I had the same problem and I knew that it had to be a setting in Word because I could open and close the same document on one computer without any prompting, but on the other it would ALWAYS prompt me to save. The solution was to uncheck the “embed smart tags” in the tools -> options -> save tab. I am glad I found that. What a pain.

  7. Ian & Kevin, you guys are AWESOME.

    Now, I haven’t tried the solution yet, as I need to do testing first, I know one or the other will work cuz it makes sense.

    It has taken me years to actually find this solution. It has annoyed me for long enough. I did a search before but found nothing. On some forums, people even made fun of the people saying there is no such thing as this problem, because their PC didn’t do that.

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Ian & Kevin – top stuff.
    What Jeff, Andy & Alex said, only louder!!!
    A total pain annoying me for years, solved in seconds!
    The next question is … “why would someone create software that irritating?”
    Don’t answer that!

  9. After days of frustration and hours of trawling through Google with different search phrases….at last….the solution. Unticked the “EMBEDED SMART TAGS” box and resaved the template…….et voila! Thank you.

  10. Much appreciated. I was able to correct this problem by going to “Insert”, then “AutoText”, then “Smart Tags” and disabling the “Label text with smart tags” box. Though I don’t know why the problem occurred with some Word files but not with others. So thanks all.


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