Eliminating a Word macro virus

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A reader who wishes to remain anonymous has acquired a Word cootie and is at a loss as how to deal with it. Anonymous Person writes:

My copy of Microsoft Office 2004 seems to have picked up a virus, or some such thing. I’ve used McAfee’s Virus Scan for Mac to clean one of my Macs, but don’t have that available for the other three affected Macs (one of them still has Word X for Mac). The virus shows up as W97M/Thus.gen. Although our own Office programs seem to function just fine, Office documents show up on non-Macs as having a virus. This has become quite a problem.

You’ve managed to acquire a Word macro virus. Dealing with it is a two-step process. First, you need to clean the documents you have, and next, prevent further infections.

Because you have an antivirus application on hand, I’d suggest you take all your Word documents, bung ’em into a folder, copy that folder to the Mac that has the antivirus applications, and run them through the application to clean them. When you’re certain that they’re clean and that they open as they should, delete the originals on the other Macs.

Before copying them back to the other Macs, open Word on each of these Macs, select Preferences from the Word menu, and in the resulting window, select Security. In the Macro Security area of that window, enable the Warn Before Opening a File That Contains Macros option. With this option enabled, any time you open a Word file that contains a macro, you’ll be given the option to enable or disable those macros. If you weren’t expecting a document to contain a macro (indicating it’s probably infected), open it after disabling macros and then copy and paste its contents into a new document. This will remove the macro virus from that document. Then trash the original, infected file.

Enable the option to receive a warning when a Word document contains macros.

(“Won’t this be a terrible loss!?” you wonder. In some circumstances, yes. But consider this: The current Word 2008 can’t run macros at all.)

Finally, the Normal template document that Word defaults to is likely contaminated as well. This is a bad thing because any new documents you create based on that template will contain the macro virus. Quit all open Office applications, travel to your user folder/Documents/Microsoft User Data and toss out the Normal document. You can always create a new one by opening a new blank document, choosing File -> Save As, and in the resulting dialog box choosing Document Template from the Document Type pop-up menu.

For those in Readerland faced with this problem who don’t have an antivirus application and aren’t keen to get one, you can deal with these infected files in the tedious way I described earlier. After enabling the Warn Before Opening a File That Contains Macros option, open an infected document. You’ll be told that it contains macros. Disallow those macros. When the document is open, copy its contents, paste them into a new document, and save the macro-free document.

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