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Has PowerPoint crashed? Here's how to fix it

PowerPoint logo
(Image credit: Microsoft)

PowerPoint is an incredible tool. If you use it a lot, you’ll quickly master those little tricks and hacks to help you work faster and more creatively. However, no matter how proficient you are do you know what to do if PowerPoint refuses to work? What do you do if PowerPoint keeps crashing?

Knowing how to handle a total shut down from Microsoft’s famed presentation software is a handy string to add to your bow. From errors caused during the design process, to crashes and freezes that could strike during your actual presentation, here are my tips to fixing PowerPoint.

1. Update

With any luck, the problem might have already been fixed. We all hate update notifications but running out-of-date software can lead to failures and even security issues.

Make sure you’re running the latest possible version of PowerPoint and try to open your presentation file as usual. If you need to manually download updates, you can do so from Microsoft.

If there is no longer a problem after doing so, great. But if PowerPoint continues to fail, it’s time to try something else.

2. Consider your hardware

You might love your old laptop, but ask yourself: is it up to the task? New software takes advantage of new technology’s advanced capabilities. Is there a chance that your machine is simply too old and under-powered to smoothly run your presentation file?

Consider the available RAM on your computer, as well as the processing speed and storage capacity. Remember that the older a computer gets, the more prone it is to glitches. If you’re concerned it crashed because of your machine, try your PowerPoint file on another, faster device.

3. File size

A PowerPoint file filled with high-res images and video, not to mention all those creative transitions and animations, will be big. A large file choked with needlessly large content might also be the cause of the crashes, so think about saving space wherever you can.

Reducing file sizes within PowerPoint is refreshingly easy. Just select them and click on the Picture Format tab, then Compress Pictures. Select the level of compression you want. I suggest you go for ‘Web (150ppi)’ as this will save you a lot of space but will ensure it still looks good on screen.

Video content can be compressed in a similar way. In File tab, click Info, and then in the Media Size and Performance section, tap Compress Media. PowerPoint then finds all video content in your file and offers you the choice to compress them to Presentation Quality, Internet Quality or Low Quality. Go for Internet Quality as, again, it looks clear on a screen.

4. Computer stress

If you’re anything like me, your laptop is more than a work machine. Gaming, streaming Netflix, and web browsing will all take their toll on your computer. Even the most modern and high-powered of laptops will start to experience glitches and crashes once their operation limits are pushed.

Shut down all non-essential processes and applications and see if that helps. Also check that no other programs are accessing media that you’ve copied into your presentation file. Be sure to close the likes of Photoshop as images could still be open there.

5. Add-ins

Personalising your presentation software is a useful way of building a unique slide deck. However, all those third-party installed add-ins might be the cause of your frozen PowerPoint issues, so run this simple test.

Navigate to where the add-ins are listed and uncheck them all. Now, restart PowerPoint and see what happens. Begin turning the add-ins back on, one by one, restarting after every time. If the problems kick in again after a particular add-in is reactivated, there’s your issue. Try looking into the source of the add-in, if it can be updated, or consider uninstalling it altogether.

But if PowerPoint is still experiencing crashes with all add-ins unchecked, time to move on.

6. Fix Office

PowerPoint is a part of Microsoft’s larger Office suite. Check how the other Office programs you have are also running, as the fault may lay there. Open Word, Excel etc and have a fiddle around. Create new documents and save as new files. Are they also crashing in a similar way?

If so, it might be a case of fixing Office. On a Windows PC, close all the apps and navigate to the Control Panel. Find "Programs and Features", then find Microsoft Office. Right click on it, select "Change", then click on "Repair". Restart PowerPoint and check to see if the frozen issue is ongoing.

Hey, Apple Mac users… it's worth checking with Microsoft about how you go about fixing Office. It’s a tad more complicated.

7. Antivirus complications

It might seem like the two are very distantly separated, but outdated antivirus software can be trouble for many other applications. So update it.

If even with the most up-to-date antivirus software (opens in new tab) installed PowerPoint is still crashing, try uninstalling it. Make sure you still have either a physical back-up, or the correct product keys to re-download the antivirus, then try opening PowerPoint without it there.

8. Help!

If, after all those steps, the problem persists, get in touch with Microsoft. The Office team can help and should be able to see you right. Plus, as you’ve done all the above already, you’ll be able to supply them with a lot of information that could help in working out what the actual problem is.

I love building engaging slide decks in PowerPoint, but even the best presentation software on the planet will sometimes experience a hiccup or two. These tips will help you get out of trouble, so if you use PowerPoint regularly keep them close by.

Further reading

We've got plenty of guides on how to undertake tasks across Microsoft 365 software, including: how to insert a tick or cross symbol in Microsoft Word and Excel (opens in new tab); how to insert a checkbox in Microsoft Word, Excel, and Google Docs (opens in new tab); and how to start page numbering from a specific page in Microsoft Word (opens in new tab).

In turn, we've outlined the best Microsoft Office alternatives (opens in new tab), compared Microsoft 365 vs Google Workspace (opens in new tab), and discussed the 10 best features of Microsoft 365 for small businesses (opens in new tab).

Marketing professional Lyndon Nicholson is CEO of presentation design agency Buffalo7. With a career spanning three decades, he has advised some of the world’s leading brands.