Word font corruption may cause OS X to hang

WordIconXThere may be some instances where opening a rogue Microsoft Word document on your Mac might result in a progressive hang of OS X applications and services, to the point where the system is no longer responsive to any input.

When this happens, the document will open without problems in PC versions of Word, but when you open it or preview it on the Mac, then at first you will see Word or Quick Look hang, followed by OS X losing network connectivity, and then each other application and system service subsequently hangs. At this point, you will see the spinning color wheel cursor appear and never go away, and while the system’s force-quit menu can be invoked by pressing Option-Command-Esc, no programs will respond to a force quit.

If this happens to you, then the problem at hand is likely an issue with the management of the fonts Microsoft includes with its Office suite. Therefore, try some of the following options to help fix this issue:

  1. Remove and rebuild the Fonts cacheThe easiest way to do this is to restart your system into Safe Mode and then reboot it normally; however, you can also do this in the Terminal with the following command:
    sudo atsutil databases -remove
  2. Disable specific Microsoft fontsIt is possible one specific font in Microsoft’s suite is causing the problem, so first try troubleshooting fonts to see if you can identify any duplicate fonts, damaged fonts, or other problems with your font library (especially any fonts in the Macintosh HD > Library > Fonts > Microsoft folder, that might related to this problem).This is perhaps the more challenging approach, since sometimes you might have to try disabling or removing various fonts before you identify the proper one. First check and troubleshoot each font in the Microsoft fonts folder, which can be done easiest by removing them all and then adding them back one-by-one and then restarting and re-trying Word to see which causes the issue.
  3. Clear the Quick Look cacheIt is possible the Quick Look cache may be damaged, resulting in the problem. If your Mac only shows problems when you invoke Quick Look, then try running these two commands in the OS X Terminal, to reset and clear the Quick Look cache:
    qlmanage -r
    qlmanage -r cache

5 thoughts on “Word font corruption may cause OS X to hang

  1. Art Busbey

    Another problem here that I, and many others, have had over the years is that with the Microsoft FontCacheTool. I have found the best way to deal with Office-Mac-font problems is just to delete this tool. Once done all the office components work just fine. I just have to remember to find it after every Office update and remove it.

  2. B. Jefferson Le Blanc

    I think an easier way to check your Microsoft fonts for problems, rather than testing all of them one at a time in Word, would be to remove the Microsoft folder from the (global) Library>Fonts folder (to the Desktop); launch Font Book and create a Microsoft collection and reinstall all the fonts there. Then you can select them all, Option (right)-click on one of them and select Validate Fonts from the pull-down menu. This operation will generate a catalog of all the selected fonts with a detailed properties list for each that will mark any minor or major problems. If you see no major problems (red flags), the fault troubling your system may lie elsewhere, perhaps in the font cache, which can be purged relatively easily (see Topher’s article at https://macissues.com/2014/04/18/how-to-troubleshoot-font-problems-in-os-x/ for details).

    This procedure will eliminate the Microsoft folder in the Fonts folder but will place those fonts in a collection in Font Book that, in my opinion, is more useful anyway. It should be noted that some older Microsoft fonts have equivalents in OS X and can result in duplicate font problems. These include all flavors of Arial, Brush Script, Comic Sans, Georgia, Times New Roman, Trabuchet and Verdana. If you’re not sure, check the dates on any questionable font. Unless you’re running a really old version of OS X, the newest fonts will be from Apple. If you’re still not sure, look at the dates of the non-english fonts in the fonts folder; a few of these may be from Adobe but most should be from Apple, especially if you didn’t prevent the installation of Extra Fonts when you installed or upgraded OS X. The dates on these fonts should reflect the date of the latest version of OS X on your system.

    Of course, if you install or reinstall Microsoft Office, you will get a new Microsoft folder in the fonts folder and will then have tons of duplicates. This can be resolved by either once again removing the Microsoft folder or by copying the fonts in that folder to the fonts folder and, accept for the Apple versions, replacing the old MS fonts with the newer ones.

    Though all this may sound like a lot of trouble, believe it or not font Management in OS X is much easier than in the “old days.” Microsoft Windows still does not have a native font management tool. So be glad you don’t have a font problem on Windows. If you do you’re looking in the wrong place for a solution. 🙂

    An even easier strategy might be to validate all the fonts on your system and look for any with red flags. These might or might not be Microsoft fonts, but you’ll want to deal with them anyway. And of course, as Topher has pointed out, duplicate fonts can be a major problem even if the fonts are not damaged in some way. Font Book can also check for duplicates (select all fonts [Command-A]), Control (right)-click on one item and select Resolve Duplicates from the pull-down menu).

    If I sound like a know-it-all it may be because this article moved me to go back into my fonts collection and check these various solutions myself. Needless to say, this refreshed my memory. It’s easy enough to forget some of these things if you don’t spend all your time managing fonts. And it’s easier to remember if you write a blog post about what you (re)learned. Even so, I see a lot more work I could do to improve my font organization. Whew!

  3. Bradley Dichter

    Installing Office 2011 installs older versions of several fonts. You should use Font Book to find and remove the lower versioned copies. I’d disable the extra fonts you don’t need if you have not already. There are many non Roman (English) fonts installed most can do without. Word will boot up much quicker with less fonts enabled. Don’t disable Symbol though.

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