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Description of the "/a" startup switch in Word

Support for Office 2003 has ended

Microsoft ended support for Office 2003 on April 8, 2014. This change has affected your software updates and security options. Learn what this means for you and how to stay protected.

This article describes what the /a switch is, what it does, and how to use it.

The /a Switch

The /a switch is a troubleshooting tool that you can use to determine where a problem may exist when you are working with Microsoft Word.

When you use the /a switch to start Word, the switch prevents add-ins and global templates, including the template, from being loaded automatically.

The /a switch also locks the setting files.The setting files cannot be read or modified when you use this switch.

Note We do not recommend that you use the /a switch as a typical operating startup switch. This switch prevents your preferred settings in Word from being retained. Use the /a switch only when you must troubleshoot Word to determine where a problem may exist.

How the /a Switch Starts Word

Note The default installation paths that are mentioned in the following list are the default locations and may be different on your system. The /a switch starts Word, bypassing or locking the following:
  • The global template ( that is located in the following folder:
    C:\Documents and Settings\user name\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates
  • Templates and files that are located in the following startup folder:
    C:\Windows\Application Data\Microsoft\Word\Startup
  • Files that were added as global templates or add-ins. These files can be located when you click Tools, and then Templates and Add-ins in Word.
  • Component Object Model (COM) add-ins. A COM add-in is a supplemental program that extends the capabilities of Word by adding custom commands and specialized features.
  • The Word Data key in the Microsoft Windows Registry at the following location:
    Word 2003
    Word 2002
    Word 2000
  • The Word Options key in the Windows Registry at the following location:
    Word 2003
    Word 2002
    Word 2000
  • Your currently selected Microsoft Office Assistant, whose settings are located at the following Windows Registry location:
    Word 2003
    Word 2002
    Word 2000

How to Use the /a Switch

To start Word by using the /a switch, follow these steps:
  1. Locate Winword.exe.

    Note By default this program is in the following location depending on your version of Word:
    Word 2003
    C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office11
    Word 2002
    C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office10
    Word 2000
    C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office
  2. Click Start, and then click Run.
  3. In the Open box, type the path for Winword.exe as you found it in step 1.
  4. Enclose the path in quotation marks that are similar to the following:
    "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office11\Winword.exe"
  5. In the Open box, move the insertion point to after the quotation marks at the end of the path statement.
  6. Type a space, and then type /a.

    The path statement now looks similar to the following:
    "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office11\Winword.exe" /a
  7. Click OK.
Note You must type the /a switch outside the quotation marks. If you type the /a switch inside the quotation marks, you receive an error message that is similar to one of the following when you try to run the command:
Cannot find the file 'C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office11\Winword.exe /a' (or one of its components). Make sure the path and file name are correct and that all required libraries are available.
Windows cannot find 'C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office11\Winword.exe /a'. Make sure you typed the name correctly, and then try again. To search for a file, click the Start button, and then click Search.

Article ID: 826857 - Last Review: 03/23/2006 02:26:48 - Revision: 4.2

  • Microsoft Office Word 2003
  • Microsoft Word 2002 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Word 2000 Standard Edition
  • kbinfo KB826857