Why bother with bulk conversion of old Office documents to new formats


Should you even bother bulk converting old documents (.doc .xls .ppt) into the newer Office formats (.docx .xlsx .pptx etc.)?

It’s tempting to look at your older documents (doc etc) and think about converting them into the newer Office formats.  There’s some advantages to conversion but it’s more difficult than you might expect and probably not worth the trouble.

Many people and organizations will have folders of old documents that were made with Office 2003 or before and haven’t been touched for years.   We just checked our own store and found over 1,700 .doc files alone, going well back into the 20th Century.

Aren’t .doc .xls .ppt bad?

Yes, the older MS Office formats are common virus carriers.  Office-Watch.com is only slightly tongue-in-cheek suggesting that these days the main use of .doc is for spreading viruses.

It’s a concern for incoming documents – mostly email attachments but also messaging, memory sticks etc.   They are an infection risk and should be treated with suspicion.

Existing ‘old format’ documents in your local, network or cloud folders are a different story.  It’s remotely possible they have some old virus still lurking but that’s unlikely and easy to check.

Checking your old Office documents for viruses

The risk from old Office documents already on your computer is low.  Most likely, any security hole they exploit has been fixed by Microsoft in one of their never-ending security patches.

In addition, all files should have been checked many times by regular anti-virus scans over the years.

If you want to make extra sure.  Just select the files/folders with the older documents, right-click and choose ‘Scan with Windows Defender’.

That will force the in-built Windows anti-virus to check those documents.  Third-party anti-virus systems should have similar options.

If the old format documents aren’t infected, we suggest you leave them alone.  They aren’t hurting anything and it’s a hassle to bulk convert.

Saving space

The only advantage to a bulk conversion is to save disk space.  That’s less of an issue these days with drives in the terabyte range, cloud storage in Gigabytes and faster Internet speeds.

Before going the bulk conversion route, consider some space saving alternatives like the NTFS compression that’s available at the file and folder level in Windows.  Right-click on a file/folder | General | Advanced | Compress contents to save disk space.

This option is often forgotten because many modern file formats (not just Office) are already compressed.  But for older documents, this option can save roughly 50% disk space without affecting accessibility.

Or archive the old documents into ZIP compressed files.    Windows has in-built tools to do that.

You’ll still find the files when you need them because documents inside ZIP files are indexed and searchable by Windows,

Personally, I prefer to leave old documents in their original folders and not in ZIP’s.


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