Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Microsoft Office Safe Mode / UAC Catch-22 in Windows 7


When attempting to open Word, Outlook or another Microsoft Office Application, the program hangs or the ribbon or other features are missing or distorted. Being skilled troubleshooters, we know that we should start up our application in "/safe" mode to make sure that it is indeed an add-on that is causing the problem. Assuming safe mode starts up, we should (in theory) be able to disable the problem add-on.

But wait! Windows 7 with UAC enabled causes put the breaks on even these basic troubleshooting steps.

Recreating the Problem

In my case, I witnessed this on a Windows 7 SP1 computer with Microsoft Office 2007 and several COM add-ons installed. I was unable to open Word in normal mode without the Ribbon disappearing which meant I could not get to options to disable the addin. I went to run Word in safe mode by typing winword /safe in the Start Menu. Word popped up as expected so I made the assumption that this was indeed a Word add-on that was causing the issue. I went to disable the COM addon and got the following error: "This add-in is installed for all users on this computer, and can be connected or disconnected by an administrator".

This seems like a reasonable request given that we are disabling some software. The problem? This user is actually a local administrator on the machine! They should already have the needed rights to disable this add-on. Ok so how can we fix this?

The Solution

I was able to track down a solution for the error which includes right clicking Word and choosing "Run an Administrator". Unfortunately I was not able to actually perform the fix listed because my issue removed the ribbon from Word. Like I stated above, my only option was to go into Word's safe mode.

The biggest problem I ran into was when I typed "winword /safe" into the Start Menu then right clicked and choose "Run as Administrator". Oddly, this opens Word as Administrator, but in regular mode, apparently ignoring the parameters I tried passing it.

To actually fix it, you simply need to type cmd, right click, Run As Administrator. This will open an elevated command prompt. Now type: cd C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\winword.exe /safe Now you will get Word to run as an admin, in safe mode and can remove your faulty add-ons. This should work for any application and not just Microsoft Office applications. Oh, last step, turn off UAC. :)


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