Microsoft 'Hotfixes' Office 2003 Rights Glitch

Microsoft has good news for Office 2003 users who were warned just on Friday that they would no longer be able to access files saved using the company's rights management software (RMS): It's got your fix.

Just a day after making the announcement, the software giant wound up addressing the bug responsible for the problem, issuing hotfixes for several of the impacted pieces of software.

"The issue of the inability to open Office 2003 documents protected with RMS has now been resolved," Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) said in a post on the Office Sustained Engineeringblog on Saturday afternoon.

The post provides links to the hotfixes for Office 2003 as well as for the Word 2003 and Excel 2003 Viewers necessary for users of older Office version to view the documents. However, the company cautioned users that the hotfixes are designed to fix only this particular issue, and that they should install it only if they have the identical problem.

The cause of the problem had to do with the expiration of an Office 2003 RMS certificate, a Microsoft spokesperson told And while the issue affects a number of Office 2003 applications, including PowerPoint 2003 and Outlook 2003, they do not impact Office 2007 or the beta of Office 2010.

Microsoft first notified users of a problem in a poston Friday on the Office Sustained Engineering blog.

The post reported that users who were encountering the issue were seeing the message: "Unexpected error occurred. Please try again later or contact your system administrator."

Microsoft shed some additional light on the problem in the hotfixes' documentation, where it added that Office 2003 customers had been unable able to open or save Office 2003 documents protected with the Active Directory Rights Management Service (AD RMS) or Rights Management Services (RMS).

The company has not yet said when it will release an official bug patch for the problem beyond the hotfixes. Typically, patches go through more rigorous, time-intensive testing than do hotfixes, which are aimed at providing more immediate solutions.

That's not to say that a patch might not be shortly forthcoming. The company generally releases patches for its products on the second Tuesdayof each month -- the so-called "Patch Tuesday" event. When a bug is critical, though, Microsoft will often release a patch when it's ready rather than waiting for the next Patch Tuesday event.

However, Microsoft's spokesperson declined to say what the company's current plans are, if any, for further addressing the RMS issue.

About the Author

Stuart Johnston

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news network for technology professionals.


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