Stuck with an error message that says Windows is configuring Microsoft Office? Here’s the fix.

Picture the scene: you’re coming down to the wire on a book report, or a work presentation, or an important spreadsheet — but when you go to open up the appropriate Microsoft Office program, you’re met with an error message that just won’t leave.

The dreaded “Please wait while Windows configures Microsoft Office” message can be a real drag, but fortunately there are fixes available.

The most frustrating part of this particular issue is that it’s so difficult to diagnose exactly what the problem is. However, one of these techniques should get you the answers that you’re looking for. Follow each process in the order that they’re listed here, and you’ll be closer to getting Microsoft Office back in action, so you can get on with the project at hand.

Repair Microsoft Office

If it seems that your installation of Microsoft Office has been corrupted or otherwise damaged, your first port of call should be the repair function. The process will check for common issues and could potentially fix the problem automatically, so it’s a great starting point.

Open the Control Panel and navigate to Programs > Programs and Features. Scroll through the list of software that’s installed on your computer and find your installation of Microsoft Office.

Programs and Features on Windows 10

Right-click the entry and select Change. At this point, you’ll be asked whether you want to carry out a Quick Repair or an Online Repair. A Quick Repair will fix most issues, so try that before you move onto an Online Repair.

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Office Quick Repair Prompt

If the process doesn’t work, then you can move onto some of the more in-depth fixes below.

Activate the Windows Search Service

One common cause of the stuck configuration dialog is a situation where the 32-bit version of Microsoft Office is installed to a 64-bit version of Windows. If this is the case, the message presented to the user will reference 64-bit components.

64-bit Windows Search Service

Happily, the fix for this problem is relatively straightforward. To get started, close any instance of the Office program that you’re trying to open up and then head to the Control Panel. Navigate to Programs > Programs and Features and then click Turn Windows features on or off.

Programs and Features -- Turn Features On or Off

Find Windows Search in the list, and ensure that its box is checked. Then click OK — you may need to restart your system for the changes to take effect.

Start Office in Safe Mode

Sometimes the configuration message can hang as a result of third-party add-ins. By starting Microsoft Office in safe mode and circumventing these additional components, you can determine whether or not this is the case.

To activate safe mode, search for your desired Office program using the search bar, then hold CTRL as you click on it. The following message will appear:

Start Microsoft Word in Safe Mode

Click Yes and see whether the program opens as normal. If it does, then you can disable the add-ins you have installed individually to find out which one is causing problems.

Disabling Add-ins

Head to File > Options and navigate to the Add-ins section. Make sure that the drop-down menu is set to COM Add-ins and then click the Go… button beside it.

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Microsoft Word COM Add-insDisable all your add-ins and restart the program to make sure that things run normally. Then, enable them one by one until you determine which one is to blame.

Fix Office With a Run Command

We can use the Run dialog to input commands that tweak the way that Windows programs are initialized. By doing so, we can work around whatever is causing the program to hang on the configuration message.

To open a Run dialog, press Windows key + R. Alternatively, you can just type “run” into the search bar.

Run Prompt on Windows 10

First, try entering the following string into the field:

reg add HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Word\Options /v NoReReg /t REG_DWORD /d 1

If this solution doesn’t work, then we might be able to use a switch to diagnose the problem.

Using Switches

Switches are instructions that change the way that a particular program behaves, that don’t require the user to open that piece of software. They can be particularly useful when we’re trying to diagnose a problem that’s preventing the program from starting up normally.

Here are some switches that you can enter into a Run dialog in order to sniff out problems with Microsoft Office:

  • winword /r — Resets Word’s registry values to their defaults.
  • winword /m — Prevents Word from loading macros.
  • winword /a — Prevents Word from loading its add-ins.

If you’re not working with Word, you can replace winword with excel for Excel and powerpnt for PowerPoint. Alternatively, you could write out the location of each program’s .exe file on the drive.

Do you know another fix for when Windows gets stuck configuring software? Or do you have a particular situation related to this error that you need help with? Either way, head to the comments section below to start the conversation!

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