Removing read-only protection from MS Word

Recently I needed to fill up some form for submission, in soft copy. The template file provided was a MS Word document, but for some really stupid reason it was marked read-only. When I tried to edit the document, this helpful sidebar appeared.

When I clicked the “Stop protection” button I was prompted for a password. I didn’t want to waste time trying to recreate this whole form, nor do I wish to hand-write it.

Luckily the new DOCX word format is based on XML, so let’s go. Save the document as .docx. Use your favourite archiver program (I use 7zip) to view the contents of the file. Edit this file called settings.xml. The read-only protection line looks like this:

Remove the entire element <w:documentProtection ... />, save the file and update the docx file and voila!

I searched on the interweb but all I could find were password crackers and brute-force software. There was no reason for the whole document to be encrypted to make it read-only, so this is the simpler and fuss-free solution.


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