Password-protecting sensitive documents is always a good idea, right up until the point where you forget the password. There are many password-recovery tools out there covering most bases, but the vast majority cost money. Thankfully, Free Word / Excel Recovery Wizard is just that, a free tool that can recover most forgotten passwords for opening legacy Word 97-2003 (.doc) and Excel 97-2003 (.xls) documents up to eight characters in length.

Once installed – launch the app, read the brief instructions and click Next. Select your password-protected file, click Next and then choose which method to use to try and recover the files. The tool supports the two most common types of password cracking: dictionary and brute force. By default, Dictionary is selected, but if your password is a combination of letters and numbers you’ll need to try the Brute Force Attack instead.

Once selected, you’ll be able to tweak the recovery settings further – Brute Force Attack in particular allows you to select a character set and length of password, which will help the program successfully recover your password and potentially speed up the process. Finally, it’s a case of clicking Next followed by Go and waiting while the program attempts to do its work, hopefully delivering you with the password you’d forgotten.

Be prepared for a long wait, particularly if you’re using the brute force method. This is definitely a tool for documents where you can afford to wait hours – days even – for the magic password. Dictionary searches tend to be much quicker – seconds or even fractions of seconds.

Version 2.0 introduces a really slick, easy to follow interface, multi-language support (you switch languages in the program itself) and promises to recover passwords up to five times faster than before.


It’s only of use if your password is eight characters or less, but if you fit the bill, Free Word / Excel Recovery Wizard could save you a tidy sum in password recovery fees.