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Open Old Document Formats [How To]

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As software changes, some file formats a deprecated and, if you don’t convert these files, you may find you simply cannot open them anymore. There are a few things you can do to remedy this problem, learn what you can do, to open an old file format, in this guide.

Opening an Old File Format

The usual suspects are document files that are no longer supported. If you have a document file in an unsupported format, this guide may help you open your document once again.

Open the File with a Program You Have

The first thing you should try is see if you can open the file with all your available programs. Simply do the following:

  1. Double click on the file
  2. Choose Select a program from a list of installed programs
  3. Uncheck Always use the selected program to open this kind of file

    Open Old File Formats - 2

  4. Choose a program to try and open the document with
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 until you’ve tried all your previously-installed programs

Use Zamzar to Convert Your File

If you don’t have a program capable of opening the file, the next step should be to use zamzar.com. Zamzar gets you to upload your file and then they’ll email you the converted file.

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Download a Program to Open Your Old Files

If the previous two methods of using current programs and using Zamzar don’t work, you have one more option. There are some programs out there, which are designed to open old file formats. Simply go to Google and search for “open .old format” (replacing .old with the extension of the file in question.) I’ve had lots of success with this method.

What Next?

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4 Responses to Open Old Document Formats [How To]



Thank you so much for this really helpful tip. I’ve had a couple of document files that I couldn’t open in the past, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to do about it. I appreciate the tip about the Google search, too. :)


Rob Dean

thank you for the tips!



For office type documents, give Open Office a try.
We had old Office 4.2 files that we just couldn’t get to open with anything, and I accidentally double clicked one and it opened with Open Office, fully visible, no screwed up formatting. Then it was easy to save as into the new formats, done, and done!

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