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Help this absent-minded person recover (or not need) his password.
March 9, 2011 12:21 AM   Subscribe

How can I view an old Microsoft Word document that is password protected, when I cannot remember the password?

I have an old Microsoft Word file from many years ago which I inexplicably password protected, and now have forgotten the password. It is not a vital document, but I would like to get access to it again, but I don't know of a way to do it.

What is the best way to break the lock on the file to view it again, or better yet, to recover the password I used back then?

Thanks!
posted by khelvan to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Elcomsoft has been in the password-cracking software business longer than most. I've always found their stuff pretty solid.
posted by flabdablet at 12:41 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


What version of Word was it created with, specifically?

The protection offered by Word prior to 2002 was pretty trivial (40b RC4?), IIRC. But later versions are somewhat less poorly designed (128b RC4 or AES?), although I think the better encryption was optional and not enabled by default until Word 2007.

In general, the older the version it was created with, the easier it'll be to crack.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:03 AM on March 9, 2011


Thanks for your responses! The file is dated 2002, I'm not quite sure what version of Word was used to create it.

I see that Elcomsoft has a trial version of their software. Is that the type where if I run it, it will tell me that it has successfully cracked open the file but I am required to pay to see the results?
posted by khelvan at 2:43 AM on March 9, 2011


Actually, check that, it appears to be Microsoft Word 8.0. Which would make it part of Office 97, yes?
posted by khelvan at 2:48 AM on March 9, 2011


I've successfully used Rixler to recover password protected Word and Excel files. It won't crack the password and return it to you, but you'll get a non-password protected version of your document.
posted by Mountain Goatse at 5:46 AM on March 9, 2011


I see that Elcomsoft has a trial version of their software. Is that the type where if I run it, it will tell me that it has successfully cracked open the file but I am required to pay to see the results?

No. From their FAQ:
• for brute-force and mask attacks, the maximum password length is limited to 4
• some dictionary attack options are disabled
• passwords longer than 3 characters cannot be recovered (with the exceptions listed above)
• log file is not created

posted by Busy Old Fool at 5:57 AM on March 9, 2011


Here is a free brute force and dictionary attack tool. Never used it but it looks promising.
posted by ChrisHartley at 7:25 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


ChrisHartley's suggestion (which I've bookmarked, thanks Chris) is apparently limited to a maximum of 8 character passwords. Any idea what length of password you used?
posted by Busy Old Fool at 7:44 AM on March 9, 2011


I have used Elcomsoft's Word document password cracking software back in 2001, when computers were much slower. After running for 3 days straight and still not finding the password, I guessed the first 4 characters and wildcarded everything following, with a successful cracking in under 5 minutes.

Given how fast computers are now, those times would likely be greatly decreased unless your password is quite long.
posted by MonsieurBon at 1:36 PM on March 9, 2011


Ok, thanks to Elcomsoft's trial version, I now have the encryption key of my Word document. However, in order to decrypt the file, I need to purchase the software. So, now I'm looking for some free software that will allow me to decrypt the file given an existing encryption key.

Any ideas? :)
posted by khelvan at 3:09 PM on March 9, 2011


This is not an area where I have particular expertise. However, Elcomsoft know what they're doing and I doubt they would provide a trial version that made it trivial to decrypt the document without upgrading to the full version.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:46 AM on March 10, 2011


Thanks, the Word/Excel free password recovery wizard freeware thing actually worked for me!
posted by khelvan at 8:09 PM on March 17, 2011


Great news!

Out of interest, how long was your password, what character sets (case, digits, symbols) did it use, how long did it take to crack and what hardware did you run it on?
posted by Busy Old Fool at 1:10 AM on March 18, 2011


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