How to remove your private info from Word documents

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When you create a Word document, you know exactly what you are typing.  So, you are obviously in full control of what appears on the pages of that document.  But did you know that Word “hides” some information in the document that doesn’t actually appear as text on any of the pages?  And this might not be information you want to make public.

Microsoft Word

You can check this out for yourself.  Go into your Documents folder, and open one of your Word files.  At first glance, all you see is the text that you put on the page.

But what do you find if you dig a little deeper?  You might see:

  • the size of the file
  • how many pages and how many words
  • total time spent editing the file
  • the title of the file (this is different from the file name)
  • any tags that might have been entered
  • any comments that were entered
  • date of original creation, and when it was last modified
  • author’s name, along with anyone else who contributed

These are all items that are typically considered “behind the scenes” and not necessarily thing that you as the author want to make available to anyone that reads the file.

In Word 2010 and Word 2013, you can see all of that information by using the “Inspect Document” tool.  To do that, just open a Word document and click on File – Info.  In Word 2007, click the Office “orb” in the top left corner of the document, mouse over “Prepare” and click on Inspect Document.  Click the button called “Check for Issues” then click on Inspect Document.  You can check the boxes for the type(s) of information  you want to see, or just check all of them and see everything.

When the information is displayed, it looks something like this:

MS Word document info

 

In some cases, you might not care if everyone is able to see this information.  But there are some situations where you would definitely not want these details to be made public.

For example, you might be writing a book and you send this file to a publisher.  You include a cover letter explaining that you have been working on this book for at least an hour a day for the last 2 weeks.  But when the publisher looks at the document information, he sees: Total editing time: 5 minutes.  That could be a little awkward to explain!

Or, you could be working on a document that will list you as the sole author.  But what if, as part of your writing process, you send it to your friend Vanessa to proofread?  She makes a few corrections and sends it back to you.  At that point, if you send that Word document to anyone else, they can look at the hidden details and they’ll see you and Vanessa BOTH listed as authors on this document.  That might raise a few questions about how much of this document you actually wrote.

Maybe you’re planning a trip, so you create a trip itinerary to use.  At the last minute, you decide to send out the itinerary to your friends and family, just to let them know where you will be on each day in case they need to get in touch with you.  But what you forgot was the fact that in the “Comments” part of the document you also noted each of your passport numbers and Social Security numbers so you would have easy access to that information.  Nothing wrong with that of course, except that you really don’t need all of your friends knowing these personal identity details.

There are other examples but you get the idea.  The point is, any document you create in Microsoft Word should be inspected and “cleaned” before you send it to someone else to read or review.  And this is even more true if you are publishing a Word document to be visible on the internet (a website can offer a Word document as a simple download link).

How do you remove your personal information from a Word document?  It’s actually pretty easy.

NOTE: this process will remove personal information from a Word document, but some of the other document properties will still be visible such as Total Editing Time.

In Word 2010 and 2013, click File – Info and then click the “Check for Issues” button.  That will give you a dropdown menu – in that menu, click on Inspect Document.  That brings up the Document Inspector window, which will have all of the options already checked:

MS Word info

 

Click the “Inspect” button, and it will quickly come up with a report.  As you can see, this particular document has some personal information that can be removed:

MS Word document inspector

 

Just click the “Remove all” button.  Now, the same document shows these properties:

MS Word document

 

As you can see, some of the document properties are still there, but the personal information has been removed.

Obviously you might not want or need to do this with all of your Word documents, but I’ll bet there are certain instances where it would be a good idea.

Also – you might be interested to know that the process I described applies not only to Word, but to most MS Office programs, such as Excel and others.

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