NEVER keep using a normal.dot for a long time. It collects for lack of a better word, CRUFT. Over time Word will then crash in many glorious ways until you remove the normal.dot which lets it create a clean new one.
If you do need some standard normal.dot, then create it, but NEVER use the one you created. Copy it to normal.dot and when the cruft content crashes Word, copy in the clean version.
This issue is now some 10+ years old and Microsoft has yet to publish a normal.dot cleaner or recovery tool. No one knows why this issue continues to this day.
We just upgraded from Word 2000 to Word 2003 and are having problems getting 2003 to accept or acknowledge the previous Normal.dot global template which contains hundreds of autotext entries and macros. We have renamed, added, deleted, searched, edited registry, to no avail. Still defaults to the standard Normal template. Very frustrating, any assistance would be greatly appreciated.