"Microsoft Word has encountered a problem and needs to close"
If you receive this error while Word is starting up it could be due to template corruption. To verify whether this is the case, start Microsoft Word without templates and add-ins loaded, to see whether it still crashes: to do this, click the Start button in the bottom left of your screen, select Run, and type winword.exe /a. (You may need to specify the full path although you probably won't.)
Note the space before the forward slash! If you miss out that space, you'll get an error message such as: “Cannot find the file ‘winword.exe/a’ or one of its components”.
The /a switch is intended as a troubleshooting tool only, and you shouldn't continue to use it to start Word. Any customisations you make while in this mode will be discarded.1
If that fixes it, either your Normal.dot template or one of the files in Word's Startup path are probably corrupt, so the next steps to try are:
i) Try renaming your Normal.dot file (with Word closed – and if Outlook is your email editor, close Outlook as well, and if you have opened a Word document within Internet Explorer, close IE too).
For instance, try renaming Normal.dot to Normal.old – and make sure you only have one Normal.dot file. If you cannot see the file extensions (as in Normal.dot) see the reference to switching their display on in ii) below.
ii) If that doesn't fix it, try either
Moving any files that are in Word's Startup2 path to another folder, or
Renaming any files in Word's Startup2 path from [filename].dot to [filename].old.
If you cannot see the file extensions (as in [filename].dot), you can switch their display on in Windows Explorer. To do so, select View + Folder Options (or Tools + Folder Options, or View + Options, in some versions of Windows); and on the “View” tab of the dialog, deselect “Hide file extensions for known file types”.
If in doubt, move the files instead of renaming them.