Actually the maximum size is limited to 32 MB for the total document text. This limit does not include graphics. A document that contains both text and graphics is limited to 512 Mb.
Do you know how hard it is to create a document that big though? We were trying to test Word 2013’s text only limits, so we “only” needed a document that totalled 32 Mb, but it took an age to create one. We went for the brute force approach of creating some random text with = rand(100, 10), then we copied that text and pasted it a bunch of times, copied that text and pasted that a bunch of times, etc. The laptop did complain! And at the 8,000 page mark, Word 2013 started to really slow down, too!
What we did run into, before the maximum size limit, was the maximum page limit that word imposes. We got the “You have exceeded the maximum number of pages supported by Microsoft Word” message. We had to give up at the 1.7Mb mark but we don’t know how many pages the document had because Word messed it up.
Anyway, onto the solution for opening a file that is larger than 512 Mb. Assuming that the vast majority of the document’s size is accounted for by graphics or other media, we have a way to separate out this hefty content. Rename the document to have a .zip extension. This doesn’t mean compress the document, it just means change the file extension. No compression is necessary. Then, in Windows Explorer, open the zip by double clicking on it, then open the Word folder. Inside the media folder you’ll find all the images etc. that were used in the document.
You can either delete these files if you don’t need them, or move them to a different location if you want to keep them. Next, rename the document’s file extension to .docx and you’ll be able to open the document in Word again. Whenever you get to a location in your document where an image used to be (before you deleted it), you will see a placeholder.
You can leave it as it is, select it and delete it, or replace it with another image. To replace it, select it and then on the Format tab in the Picture Tools tab, click Change Picture (in the Adjust group). Navigate to a new picture, or search for one, select it and click Insert.
Note that Word will take a long time to open up a large document. Don’t reach for ctrl + alt + delete just yet, though. Word provides a progress report and will open the large document eventually.