Corrupted PowerPoint file; Issue #206 March 23, 2010

PowerPoint Tip: Corrupted PowerPoint file

I got a panicked call recently from a past workshop participant. She supports presenters who were out on the road doing a major presentation in venues across the country. Whenever they started the presentation, its gives them the Blue Screen of Death (BSoD as it’s known). It is likely that the PowerPoint file got corrupted. How could it have happened and what can you do about it? Here are some thoughts.

The problem may have occurred because they are running the file from a USB drive. I always suggest that you copy your presentation from a USB drive to your computer’s hard drive for two reasons. First, it runs faster. Second, the file can get corrupt if you pull the USB drive out of the computer without properly ejecting it. Many people don’t properly eject USB drives and it can cause major problems.

They also suggested that when they tested the presentation at the office, they had not tested it with the presentation remote. It is always a good idea to test with as close to the exact setup as you can. Plug in the remote, connect to the projector, and plug in the speakers. If you suspect that a piece of hardware is causing the issue, unplug it and try the presentation again. I have over 25 common problems and possible solutions on a special site designed for access by your mobile phone. Go to to access the free site (it works with regular computer browsers as well, just don’t expect fancy formatting).

Sometimes drives or files do get corrupt. It has happened to me before. That’s why I always have a backup of the file with me or easily accessible. You can carry a copy of the file on a USB drive, on your phone, or on your MP3 player. I always back up my files to the web so that I am not reliant on physical media. You can e-mail the file to a web mail service such as Gmail or Hotmail, or you can copy it to a web repository.

How can you quickly access a web-based copy of your file? If you have a mobile phone that you can tether to your laptop, you can access the file from there. If you are in a hotel, you can likely go to the business centre and they will have Internet connected computers that you can use to download the file onto a USB drive.

What should you do to prepare for these unfortunate possibilities? First, always carry a USB drive. It can contain a copy of your file or you can use it to copy the file from another computer. Second, test as thoroughly as you can to catch problems before you go out on the road. Finally, practice recovering from glitches. Know how to reset the equipment and deliver the presentation if a piece of equipment stops working.

Running into problems during your presentation is never fun. But use these ideas to try to prevent issues and recover from them.