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Before you start testing:

  1. First make sure you are updated. Many problems are solved by simply updating. Make sure you are using the latest versions for the Apple OSX and Microsoft Office.
  2. Restart your Mac. This often fixes many problems.
  3. Running Repair Permissions is another standard tool used to repair problems.
  4. One of the first steps many troubleshooters take when experiencing issues is to delete cache files and/or to check preference files for damage using a tool such as Onyx. Other troubleshooting tools are listed here.
  5. Eliminate files creating in older versions of Office by testing with only new files. Outlook users test with a new Identity. For help troubleshooting Outlook see this page.

Simple troubleshooting steps

Step 1: Determine where the problem is located so you can take the appropriate steps to correct the problem.

  • Testing in a new User will quickly tell you if the problem is system wide or if  it’s your User’s folder that contains the problem.
    • Create a new User
      • Go to System Preferences > Accounts
      • Add a new User account and make it an admin account
      • Switch to the New User by logging out/in or use Fast User Switching
      • Test Office in the new User More info below
  • Do the problems go away if you create a new User?
    • If no, the problems are at the base system level.
    • If yes, go to Step 2

Step 2: Boot your computer using Safe Boot Mode. Hold down the Shift key when booting your computer. You can let go of the Shift key when you see ‘Safe Boot’ and a progress bar. When booting into safe boot mode it forces your computer to run various maintenance tasks. These are some of the items disabled on safe boot:

  1. Disables all fonts other than those in /System/Library/Fonts
  2. It moves to the Trash all font caches normally stored in /Library/Caches/
  3. Disables all startup items and login items
  • Do the problems go away if you boot using safe boot mode?


If the issues exist in the new User

  1. First check that it’s not hardware related by disconnecting any peripheral devices (be sure to unmount drives before disconnecting).
  2. Run Repair Permissions from Disk Utility.
  3. Snow Leopard users….
    1. Download and run the latest Apple combo updater. If this fails…
    2. Re-install Office.
    3. Still having problems?
      1. Re-install  Snow Leopard. The Snow Leopard installer will work like a combo updater and install over the same version. This will bring you back to 10.6. You will need to run Software updater to update to latest version. If this fails…
      2. Erase and install Snow Leopard.
  4. Leopard users:
    1. Download and run the latest Apple combo updater. If this fails…
    2. Re-install Office.
    3. Still having problems?
      1. Do an “Archive & Install” of Leopard. If this fails…
      2. Erase and install” Leopard.
  5. Reset the PRAM memory (CMD+ALT+P+R keys together at start up for Three Bongs) and resetting the SMC/PMU on Laptops. Some newer iMacs reset PRAM by disconnecting power for at least 10 minutes.

If the issue is limited to your regular User account….

If it works in Safe Mode but not in normal mode…

    1. Remove Login Items. Open System Preferences > Accounts. Click on the Login Items tab. Remove items. You’ll have to test to see which one (s) is the culprit. Verify that you are running the latest updates for all applications. Some might not be Snow Leopard ready.
    2. Check your Fonts & delete font caches. There appears to be a widespread issue with FontBook and font substitution in 10.6. Something having to do with the fact that Snow Leopard has moved to .ttf as the preferred font library format over .dfont. Office does not need ANY of its fonts to “run.” See Font Management for details and help deleting font caches.
    3. Check for corrupt preferences.
      1. Test for corrupt Microsoft preferences. Sort for Microsoft in the User’s Library/Preferences folder.
      2. Test for other preference conflicts/corruption
        1. Go into your home folder and take the ~/Library/Preferences folder, and put all the files in there into a folder on your desktop called old_prefs. The Finder will lock up when you move them out the first time. Force quit the Finder.
        2. Now log out and back in, and you will see your Mac is now back to defaults.
        3. Test, if it works, you know its one of the preference files.
        4. Start with putting everything back in that starts with “” and log out/in.
        5. Slowly, a few preference files at a time, move the old ones back into place, and log out and back in, then test.
        6. Rinse and repeat until you find the bad preference.
      3. If the problem persists, try the same thing with the other sub-folders of ~/Library.
        1. ~/Library/Caches
        2. ~/Library/InputManagers
        3. ~/Library/Fonts (Office 2008 and 2011 no longer use this folder for fonts. You can delete or move to a Fonts disabled folder)
        4. ~/Library/PreferencePanes
        5. ~/Library/Application Support
        6. ~/Library/Application Enhancers

It’s not always a Microsoft preference that is causing the problem. An example of a preference that was causing a problem: User can’t type Shift H in Entourage. It was a corrupt preference for FlightCheck, a preflighting program used in conjuction with QuarkXPress that was the culprit.

Additional Troubleshooting Tips

  1. Check your RAM. Use your Apple Hardware Test CD that came with your computer.
  2. Severe problem can require you to wipe your drive and reinstall the OS.
  3. See Twenty steps to help diagnose and fix system issues for more help.
  4. If all of this fails, please don’t throw your computer out the window. 😕

Test in a new User

If you need to bring over files to test, you can drag the items to Shared.

The Shared folder is located in the Users folder on your hard disk, with your home folder and the home folders of any other people who have accounts on your computer. You can use the Shared folder to share files with other users on your computer. The Shared folder is set up so that all users on your computer can open files in the folder and copy files to it.

When you drag an item from Shared to a new User, it actually copies the file. Remember to drag back from Shared after the test. This is especially important if you are sharing your Entourage or Outlook Identity. If you don’t place your Identity back in the Microsoft User Data folder, Entourage or Outlook will create a new blank one.

Repair Permissions

Apple’s Disk Utility uses Repair Permissions to update and repair permissions on files. Using Repair Permissions after installing MS Office or any application that uses an installer is often advised.

To use Repair Permissions:

  1. Open Disk Utility in your Applications/Utility folder.
  2. Click on the First Aid tab and select Repair Permissions
  3. Click on the icon for your boot volume.
  4. Click the repair permissions button.

Don’t run from CD. Run Repair Permissions from the volume being repaired.

To run Repair Disk, you must run Repair Permissions from the install CD or another drive. If you have another disk you can use as a startup disk, start up your computer with that disk, and then repair the disk with problems as a nonstartup disk.

Apple Combo Updaters

If you are troubleshooting, applying the Apple combo updater might help with your Microsoft Office application problems. Running the combo updater overwrites potentially problem-causing files.

Mountain Lion:

OS X Mountain Lion Update v10.8.5 (Combo)  Oct 3, 2013-  831.81 MB


OS X Lion Update 10.7.5 Client Combo. Sept 19,2012 – 1.91 GB

Snow Leopard:

Mac OS X v10.6.8 Update Combo v1.1 July 25, 2011 – 1.09 GB


Mac OS X 10.5.8 Combo Update: 668 MB updated May 12, 2009

Apple updates available from the Software Update application are incremental updates. Delta updates are also incremental updates and are available from Apple Downloads (software updates are generally smaller than delta updates). The Combo updates contain all incremental updates and will update files that could have become corrupted.

Combo updaters will install on the same version as they’re applying–no need to roll back or do a clean install. So if you think you’ve got a borked 10.6.4 install from a regular update, just run the 10.6.4 Combo Updater on that system.

“Delta” updaters can only take you from one version to the next. For example: 10.6.3 to 10.6.4. If somehow the 10.6.3 is missing something it should have, and that something isn’t changed between 10.6.3 and 10.6.4 it will still be stale after the delta update.

If running the Apple combo updater and installing (then updating) Microsoft Office after using “Remove Office“, does not work, then the user should do an Archive & Install of the OS.

Caution: Before any update, users should backup everything. For Office, an easy way to do this is to stuff a copy of the Office folder. To be doubly safe, stuff your  Identity folder located in the ~/Documents/Microsoft User Data folder. Installs and Updates are not supposed to touch your data, but in rare circumstances it can happen.

Fast User Switching

To turn on fast user switching:

  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences and click Accounts.
  2. Click the lock icon to unlock it, and then enter an administrator name and password.
  3. Click Login Options.
  4. Select “Show fast user switching menu as”, and choose how you want the user’s to appear in the pop-up menu
    The current user will appear in the menu bar in the upper-right corner of the screen.


The terms Identity and User are often confused. A User is a term used by the Mac OS. Entourage & Outlook store your data in an Identity. Your Identity is named “Main” by default. Your User’s name was set when you installed OSX. It’s usually your name.

Creating a new User is often useful to troubleshoot problems  because you can eliminate corruption and conflicts that might reside in your Home folder.

The house icon indicates your User’s folder.

Switch User: You can switch Users using Fast User Switching or you can Log Out of your User’s folder then Log into a new User for testing. This helps to identify if the problems are system wide or if it’s your User’s folder that has the problem.

Switch Identity: You can use “Switch Identity” to see if your Identity is the cause of your problems.

“Switch Identity” for Entourage. Under Entourage in the Menu bar, select “Switch Identity”.

“Switch Identity” in Outlook is hidden away. Hold down the Option key when launching Outlook. This brings up the Database Utility. Select + “Create a new identity”, then “Set as Default”.
Set default Identity

Disable startup items to test for conflicts:

  • Choose Apple menu > Log Out
  • In the same window, select your account, enter your password,
  • Hold Shift Key down to disable all startup items when logging in.

For additional help:

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