Stop 'Pick up where you left off' in Word 2013

How to block the ‘Welcome back’ message in Word 2013.

Last week told you about how Word 2013 document details are saved without disclosure in the Windows Registry. Many readers asked how the feature can be turned off.

A reasonable request in the circumstances but not according to Microsoft. Despite the privacy implications there’s no direct way to turn off ‘Welcome Back’.

You won’t find a switch or setting in any of the places it should be:

  • Tools | Options menu
  • Group Policy
  • Registry setting

The only way we can find to disable this feature is a nasty registry hack that’s not documented nor recommended. In short, making the registry tree that stores ‘Reading Location’ details ‘read only’ so that Word 2013 can’t write any information there. We’re wary of doing this because we’re uncertain how Word 2013 will behave in the medium-long term to such a change.

Details of how to make the change are below.

The ‘Welcome Back’ feature in Word 2013 appears to have received little thought during development. It appears that Microsoft dropped in the feature because it looks great in demonstrations and was obvious to customers who didn’t know about the similar Shift + F5 trick.

The reading location details are dumped into the registry ‘in the clear’, probably because that was the easiest and fastest choice for Microsoft’s developers.

No consideration was given to the privacy implications nor connections to related features like the MRU list and its ‘Remove from List’ option.

The last reading location belongs within the document – not elsewhere. That’s where customers expect it to be and allows more privacy. But to do that would have cost Microsoft more development money, so they took the cheaper path.

Turning off ‘Pick up where you left off’ in Word 2013

If you do want to try the registry hack, do this.

Open Regedit and make a backup of the registry first.   This hack is NOT recommended by Microsoft.

Go to HKCUSoftwareMicrosoftOffice15.0WordReading Locations image from Stop

Optional – Choose each of the ‘Document n’ keys and delete, so finally you’re left with just the ‘Reading Locations’ key and no sub-keys.

Now make the ‘Reading Locations’ key ‘Read Only’ so Word 2013 can’t write document details there. Exactly how you do this depends on your setup and so the exact steps vary. Here’s what worked for us.

Right-click on the ‘Reading Locations’ key and choose ‘Permissions’ then Advanced’. Select the current user then ‘Disable Inheritance’ and OK. image from Stop

This makes the permissions for ‘Reading Locations’ independent of permissions for other keys.

Now you’re back in the Permissions dialog. Select your user then make sure that ‘Full Control’ is Unchecked in the Apply column. ‘Read’ should be checked in the ‘Apply’ column. image from Stop