Office Error ‘Reference Source Not Found’ [Try these Fixes]

Some Office users are complaining that whenever they try to print documents with their home or work printers, the reference field disappears completely and all the reference text reads “Error Reference Source Not found“. This is reported to occur with Word. This problem is not exclusive to a certain Windows or Office version since is reported to occur on Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 with various Office versions including Office 2010, Office 2013 and Office 2016.

Office Error ‘Reference Source Not Found’
Office Error ‘Reference Source Not Found’ Fix

What is causing the Error Reference Source Not Found an error?

We investigated this particular by looking at various user reports and the repair strategies that are commonly being used to either fix or circumvent this particular issue. Based on our investigations, there are several potential different culprits that are known to trigger this error message:

  • Cross-referenced bookmark has been deleted – In most cases, the error message appears when a cross-referenced bookmark has been deleted. If this scenario is applicable, you will be able to resolve the issue by unlocking the affected fields and update them to a healthy state manually or by using a third-party tool. Additionally, you can lock the fields prior to printing the document.
  • Corrupted Office installation – There are some reports of people saying the issue can also occur due to a corrupted Office installation. Whenever this occurs, healthy cross-reference fields are triggering this error message. In this case, you can resolve the issue by repairing the Office installation.

If your situation is similar and you’re struggling to resolve this exact issue, this article will provide you with several troubleshooting steps that will help you fix the problem. Down below, you’ll discover a collection of methods that other users in a similar situation have successfully used. In fact, every method featured below is confirmed to be effective by at least one user.

In order to remain as efficient as possible, we advise you to follow the methods in the order that they are presented because they are ordered by efficiency and difficulty. One of them is bound to resolve the issue since we tried to cover every possible scenario.

Method 1: Locking the fields before printing (temporary fix)

If you’re looking for a temporary fix that will allow you to print the document in quickly and without the Error Reference Source Not Found by locking the field prior to printing the document. Several users that tried to resolve the very same issue have reported that this issue was effective in allowing them to circumvent the issue.

Note: Keep in mind that this fix is only a workaround and doesn’t fix the underlying problem that is triggering the error message. If you’re looking for a viable fix (not a workaround), move down to the next method below.

Here’s a quick guide on locking the fields prior to printing the documents:

  1. Open the document in your Word application.
  2. Select the whole document by pressing Ctrl + A or by using your mouse.
  3. Once the whole document is selected, press Ctrl + F11 to lock the cross-reference (REF) fields.
    Selecting the whole documents and locking the REF fields
  4. When the cross-reference fields have been locked, go to File (using the ribbon-bar at the top) and click on Print.
    Printing the Word document
  5. Once the document is physically printed, see if the Error Reference Source Not Found message has been resolved.

If you’re still seeing the same message or you’re looking for a permanent fix, move down to the next method below.

Method 2: Removing all broken references manually

If you’re dealing with cross-reference (REF) fields, chances are you’re struggling with the issue because the bookmarks have been deleted from the document. In this case, the most efficient fix is to unlock the fixes and then update them until they no longer contain errors.

Here’s a quick guide on how to do this:

  1. First, select all text by pressing Ctrl + A. Once the whole text is selected, press F9 to unlock the fields.
    Unlocking the fields of the text documents
  2. Once the fields have been unlocked, take the time to revise all text that is referenced to the broken content.
  3. After you’ve done this, save the changes and go to File > Print and print out the document to see if the error has been resolved.
    Printing the Word document

If the Error Reference Source Not Found error message is still occurring or you’re looking for a different fix, move down to the next method below.

Method 3: Using the Kutools for Word tool

If you’re looking to install a Word add-in, there’s a much more convenient way of deleting your corrupted Cross-References fields. If you have a whole lot of broken fields, these solutions should be preferred since it makes it very easy to correct the issue.

To use this shortcut, you’ll need to install Kutools for Word – it includes groups of tools that will make your job easier. Here’s a quick guide on using Kutools for Word to fix the Cross-References errors:

  1.  Visit this link (here) and click on the Free Download button to download the Kutools for Word installer.
  2. Double-click on the installation executable and follow the on-screen prompts to install the add-in on your Word application. When the install is completed, restart your computer.
  3. At the next system startup, open Word and go to the newly appeared menu Enterprise > More and click on Error Cross-References.
    Using the Kutools for Word
  4. After a short while, you will get a dialog box telling you how many errors where found. Decide whether you want to delete the text or not and click Ok to resolve the Cross-References errors.
    Deleting cross-references errors
  5. In a couple of seconds, all your broken references will be resolved.

If this didn’t allow you to resolve the issue, move down to the final method below.

Method 4: Repairing the Office installation

As it turns out, this particular issue can also occur if files from the Office installation have become corrupted. Several affected users have reported that the issue was resolved after they repaired the Office installation. After doing so and restarting their computer, printing the document no longer triggered the Error Reference Source Not Found message.

Here’s a quick guide on repairing the Office installation:

  1. Press Windows key + R to open up a Run dialog box. Then, type “appwiz.cpl” and press Enter to open up the Programs and Features screen.
    Typing in “appwiz.cpl” in the Run prompt
  2. Inside the Programs and Features screen, scroll down through the list of applications and locate your office installation.
  3. Once you see it, right-click on it and choose Change.
    Changing the Office installation
  4. At the repair prompt, choose Quick Repair and click the Repair button. Then, wait for the process to complete.
    Repairing the Office installation
  5. Once the repair sequence completes, restart your computer and see if the issue is resolved at the next startup.
  6. If the issue is still not resolved, use the Online Repair method instead.

Kevin Arrows

Kevin Arrows is a highly experienced and knowledgeable technology specialist with over a decade of industry experience. He holds a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) certification and has a deep passion for staying up-to-date on the latest tech developments. Kevin has written extensively on a wide range of tech-related topics, showcasing his expertise and knowledge in areas such as software development, cybersecurity, and cloud computing. His contributions to the tech field have been widely recognized and respected by his peers, and he is highly regarded for his ability to explain complex technical concepts in a clear and concise manner.