Recovering a Corrupted PowerPoint File

We went round to a friend’s house today and after her ‘Hello’ to Sharon, Janelle’s next question was ‘Is your husband here?’

Most of us in IT are very accustom to being called upon to fix computer related ailments, much like the doctor friend who gets asked about some physical ailment at a social engagement. And I’m happy to oblige.

In this case, it was a corrupted PowerPoint file Janelle had spent a number of hours preparing for her work.

The Symptoms:

The file would not open through any of the ordinary means: double clicking; opening PowerPoint and selecting “Open…”. The response was always the same: “There was an error opening this file. [Ok]”. No, not, Ok: Unhelpful and no real description of the problem or how to solve it.

The Cause:

A bit of Googling quickly brought up that this problem is caused by a corruption in the PowerPoint file. The exact causes listed for this type of corruption were numerous, mostly related to failures in writing the file to storage. In Janelle’s case, she’d been moving the USB key with the file on it between computers for printing and making edits when something went wrong. One was a Mac and the other a Windows PC with a different version of Office, but I don’t know how much that played into the issue.

Trial and Error:

I followed a fairly helpful and detailed article on Microsoft’s site about recovering from this error, but alas, none of the suggestions worked. I even tried downloading a dedicated PowerPoint file recovery tool, but I had issues getting that working. And time was ticking away – there was time with the kids in the pool waiting for me…

So, I started getting creative about alternative options. What else can open PowerPoint files? And the two answers I came up with are Google Docs, and LibreOffice (a free, open source, productivity suite – yes, MS Office competitor). I started downloading LibreOffice and whilst waiting emailed the file to my Gmail account.

Opening the file in Google Docs from my Gmail account gave me an HTML form of the text from the PowerPoint file – but no pictures. This was a good step forward as it meant no retyping, but pasting and cutting.

The Cure:

LibreOffice, downloaded and installed now, was the gold medal winner. The corrupted PPTX file opened first time and I was able to confirm that everything was there as I had a printed copy to check against. I saved the file under a different name, retaining the PowerPoint format (.ppt as opposed to using the LibreOffice format). I then opened the new file in MS Office PowerPoint – it worked, and I saved it to the 2007+ format (.pptx). I then closed the file and opened it again just to make sure that it worked.

My work was done. Time to hit the pool.

This entry was posted in Technology. Bookmark the permalink.