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Removing the Hidden Data in Microsoft Word

Most people might not realize this, but a Microsoft Word Doc can retain a lot of information pertaining to the history of the document, your personal information, annotations, and other invisible elements. This can be a huge security risk! Read on to learn how to remove that extra information.

What kind of data is hidden in a Microsoft Word document?

Word allows you to leave comments and annotations throughout a document while reviewing it (Go to the Review tab for those features). If you are sharing the document, you'll want to clear those out when the final version is done. Hidden metadata and personal information like the name of the author, company, and who last saved the file is stored, as well as watermarks.

More importantly, a Word Document will track and retain all content that was deleted. If you often reuse documents to retain a similar look and feel, it's pretty likely you are retaining a lot of text that isn't intended to be in the file. That text might not display in your document, but someone with a little know-how could reveal it. Let's look at a real-life situation where this would cause a negative impact:

Let's say you start with the same file for project proposals with your clients, you simply change some of the content around, save the document, and send it off. The content from the original proposal is still in the document. If the original document had sensitive information in it, it could become compromised.

How to remove hidden information in a Word Document

Fortunately, checking for and removing that hidden information is simple. Save your document and click File. Click Check for Issues and select the Inspect Document option.

The Document Inspector will pop up. Be sure all boxes are checked and then click Inspect.

After a moment, the Document Inspector will tell you what types of information is stored in the document. The first two options are the most important for privacy - click Remove All next to Comments, Revisions, Versions, and Annotations and Document Properties and Personal Information. If the Document Inspector detects Invisible Content or Hidden Text, remove those as well and then close the Document Inspector.

Before you save your document, check it. Ensure that nothing was removed or adjusted visibly throughout the text.  Once you review the document, save it.

Now you'll have a fresh document that doesn't retain all of the text and information from previous versions.

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Tagged in: Privacy Security

Joshua Van Berkum is passionate about embracing the positive change that technology brings to small businesses. Having been in the "technology trenches" for years, as well as owning his own business for 15 years, Joshua is equipped with the patience and know-how that it takes to make technology decisions carefully and implement proper plans quickly. Still learning and always adapting, Joshua is continually striving to grow his customers' businesses through innovation, while ensuring his client's return on their technology investment.

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Guest Thursday, 24 April 2014