Fix: Word could not create the work file when Opening Word Documents

When you try to open or save a document in Microsoft Office Word, you receive the following error message:

Word could not create the work file. Check the Temp environment variable.

word cannot create a work file

The error message can also appear when you preview a .docx or .xlsx file using File Explorer preview pane.

The same error occurs when you start any other Office application — e.g., Outlook, Excel, etc.,

Outlook could not create the work file. Check the Temp environment variable.

outlook cannot create a work file

Cause

This problem occurs because the Temporary Internet Files location for Internet Explorer is set incorrectly. It could be possible that the Temporary Internet Files location is pointed to a folder location in which the user does not have permissions to create new temporary files. Office applications use the Temporary Internet Files folder to create temporary files when you open Office documents or preview a document using the File Explorer preview pane.

Fix: “Word could not create the work file” error

To fix this problem, change the Temporary Internet Files location for Internet Explorer. To do this, follow these steps:

Method 1: Using Internet Options

  1. Open Internet Options (inetcpl.cpl)
  2. In the Internet Options dialog box, click the General tab.
  3. In the Browsing history section, click Settings to open the Website Data Settings dialog box.
  4. In the Website Data Settings dialog, click Move Folder to open the Browse for Folder dialog box.
  5. In the Browse for Folder dialog box, select the following location:
    C:\Users\<user name>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows
  6. Note Whichever location you select, a folder that is called INetCache is created.
    word cannot create a work file
  7. Click OK to close the Browse for Folder dialog box.
  8. Click OK to close the Website Data Settings dialog box.
  9. Click OK to close the Internet Options dialog box.
  10. Logoff and login back to your user account.

Method 2: Using the Registry Editor

  1. Start the Registry Editor (regedit.exe) and go to the following branch:
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders
  2. Double-click Cache and set its data to:
    %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache

    (Make sure that the value named Cache is of type REG_EXPAND_SZ. If it’s showing up as REG_SZ, delete the value and create a new one.)

  3. Exit the Registry Editor.
  4. Logoff and login back for the change to take effect.

Automate using .reg file

You can also apply the above settings using the following .reg file:



Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders]
"Cache"=hex(2):25,00,55,00,53,00,45,00,52,00,50,00,52,00,4f,00,46,00,49,00,4c,\
00,45,00,25,00,5c,00,41,00,70,00,70,00,44,00,61,00,74,00,61,00,5c,00,4c,00,\
6f,00,63,00,61,00,6c,00,5c,00,4d,00,69,00,63,00,72,00,6f,00,73,00,6f,00,66,\
00,74,00,5c,00,57,00,69,00,6e,00,64,00,6f,00,77,00,73,00,5c,00,49,00,4e,00,\
65,00,74,00,43,00,61,00,63,00,68,00,65,00,00,00

In the above .reg file, the hex code simply refers to the following path:

%USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache

Create the Office app temp folders

If the above solution isn’t sufficient, create the temp folders for Word, and/or Outlook manually. To do so, run the following commands via Command Prompt:

cd /d %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache
md Content.Word
md Content.Outlook

word cannot create a work file


Check INetCache folder permissions

The INetCache folder has the following permissions by default:

NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM:(I)(OI)(CI)(F)
BUILTIN\Administrators:(I)(OI)(CI)(F)
Computer_name\your_username:(I)(OI)(CI)(F)

To check the permissions, run the command in the Command Prompt window.

icacls %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache

Hope the one or more of the above methods helped you resolve the error “could not create the work file. Check the Temp environment variable” when starting Microsoft Word or Outlook. The solution should work in any version of Office and Windows, even in Office 365 Word 2016 running on Windows 10.


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About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and he has been a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for 10 consecutive years from 2003 to 2012.

5 thoughts on “Fix: Word could not create the work file when Opening Word Documents”

  1. Tried these and still have the problem, verified I could create a file in cd /d %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word and delete it.
    Verified the pointers in the registry.
    Still have the same problem.
    Windows 10 PC
    Office 365
    The issue is with Word

  2. Can confirm… it seems to be related to the Preview Pane. If it’s off… problem goes away. Anyone found a full resolution?

    • @Cliff: Have you tried some of the methods discussed in the page? the INetcache folder path and permissions…

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