How To Recover Unsaved Excel Files & Word Documents

There is nothing worse than spending hours, days, or even weeks building an Excel spreadsheet or Word document, only to lose all of your data. Whether you failed to save your work, accidentally deleted your document, or simply cannot locate the file, it can be a huge headache. Fortunately, even when you think your files are completely lost, there is usually a workaround to access them. If you’re currently struggling to recover unsaved files, check out our troubleshooting tips below or reach out to Geeker for more personalized assistance.

How to Recover Unsaved Data On Windows

The exact steps you will need to follow to recover lost data will depend on several factors, including your settings at the time that you created the file and even the type of file you want to recover. In the sections below, we will outline how to locate and recover unsaved Word and Excel files on Windows.

The easiest way to avoid issues related to unsaved Word documents is to turn on the autosave feature in advance. Even if it is too late to enable autosave for the current file you need, you can still ensure that any future files are not lost by following these steps:

  1. In Microsoft Word, go to File > Option > Save
  2. Check the box for “Save AutoRecover information every ___ minutes” and select the time interval you desire
  3. Check the box for “Keep the last autosaved version if I close without saving”
  4. Select “OK” to finalize your changes and enable autosave

If you already had autosave enabled, you can find your autosaved Word documents on Windows here:

C:\Users\Owner\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\UnsavedFiles

If you’re unsure how to access your unsaved files using the path above, you can follow these steps instead:

  1. In Microsoft Word, go to File > Manage Document > Recover Unsaved Documents
  2. Look for the name of the file; recent files should appear immediately
  3. Open the Word document and select “Save As” to create a new save file

Recover Word Documents Without Autosave (Windows)

The aforementioned method works if you have already enabled autosave. Fortunately, it can also work if you forget to enable autosave beforehand. Assuming that you simply forget to save your Word document before closing the program or Microsoft Word crashed before you had a chance to save, you can follow the same steps to recover lost Word documents:

  1. In Microsoft Word, go to File > Manage Document > Recover Unsaved Documents
  2. Look for the name of the file; recent files should appear immediately
  3. Open the Word document and select “Save As” to create a new save file

Recover Deleted Word Documents

If you accidentally deleted an important Word document, you’ll need to follow a slightly different process to recover the file. Deleted files are stored in the Recycle Bin as temporary files. To recover deleted files, follow these easy steps:

  1. Click the Recycle Bin icon on your desktop
  2. Find the file you want to recover
  3. Right-click on the file and select “Restore”

Recover Damaged Word Documents

Sometimes, files are not missing or deleted, but simply damaged. When this happens, it can be difficult to open your most recent save and continue working. Fortunately, you can often fix damaged Word documents using these steps:

  1. In Microsoft Word, go to File > Open
  2. Find the damaged file you want to recover
  3. Click the arrow on the Open button to see the submenu
  4. Select “Repair” or “Recover”

Search For Word Backup Files

If your Word settings allow automatic backup files, then you’ll have a much easier time accessing unsaved Word documents. These backups can be identified by the “.wbk” extension and are created alongside saved documents. This means that you can find the most recent version of your unsaved file if you accidentally deleted it. To find the Word backup file you need, simply follow these steps:

  1. Select Start and type “.wbk” in the Search box
  2. Look for “Backup of [Your File Name]”
  3. Double-click the file to open it and save the document as a new file

You can also look for backup files using either of the following paths:

C:\Users<UserName>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Word

C:\Users<UserName>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\UnsavedFiles

Recover Unsaved Excel Files (Windows)

With autosave, you can easily locate your unsaved Excel files when you open the program. Simply click the File tab and open the pane on the left side of the screen. This will show all of the autosaved versions of the Excel file. If you’re searching for the root Excel autosave location, you can typically find all of these files in OneDrive or SharePoint.

Without autosave turned on, there are two relatively straightforward ways to recover unsaved Excel files on Windows. First, you can try using Excel’s built-in recovery process:

  1. In Microsoft Excel, go to File > Open > Recent
  2. Select “Recover Unsaved Workbooks”
  3. Choose the unsaved file you want to recover

Alternatively, you may have an Excel file that has not been updated to include your most recent changes. In this case, follow these steps to recover the file:

  1. In Microsoft Excel, go to “Document Recovery”
  2. Choose the unsaved file you want to recover
  3. Save your recovered document as a new file

How to Recover Unsaved Data On Mac

If you own a Mac or a machine that runs macOS, the steps to recover unsaved data are very different. Additionally, Mac and Windows use different features to automatically store files and prevent permanent data loss. In any case, you can refer to the following sections to learn how to recover unsaved Excel and Word documents on Mac.

To help make it easier to recover unsaved Word docs, Word on Mac has the AutoRecovery option enabled by default. This feature within Word ensures that each file will be saved every 10 minutes, assuming that changes have been made within that time span. If you have Word AutoRecovery enabled and the program crashes, you can restore the Word document’s most recent save using these steps:

  1. In Finder, select Go > Go to Folder and use this path: ~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Word/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery
  2. Click on the AutoRecovery folder and locate relevant files by typing in “AutoRecovery save of”
  3. Select the files you want to recover and give them the “.doc” or “.docx” extension
  4. Open the file and save it as a new Word document

Recover Unsaved Word Documents Without AutoRecovery (Mac)

Even if you have AutoRecovery disabled, you can still find unsaved documents in your Mac’s Temporary folder. You can find and recover your file by following these steps:

  1. Go to Applications > Utilities > Terminal
  2. In Terminal, type “open $TMPDIR” to access the TMP folder
  3. Find the “TemporaryItems” folder
  4. Locate the file you want to recover, right-click the file and go to Open With > Microsoft Word
  5. Save the Word file as a new document in a different location

If you have not saved your Word document yet, you can also try finding it in the “Recovered Items” folder:

  1. Click on the “Trash” icon
  2. Find the “Recovered Items” folder
  3. Search for your unsaved Word file and right-click the file to open and save it

Recover Unsaved Excel Files (Mac)

Just like Word documents on Mac, Excel files also use the AutoRecovery feature by default. So, if you have this feature enabled, you can access your unsaved Excel files this way:

  1. In Finder, select Go > Go to Folder and use this path: /Users/<username>/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Application Support/Microsoft
  2. Select the file you want to recover and open it in Excel
  3. Save the file to a new location

Recover Unsaved Excel Files Without AutoRecovery

If you do not have AutoRecovery enabled, you can still recover unsaved Excel files using the same process you would use for Word documents:

  1. Go to Applications > Utilities > Terminal
  2. In Terminal, type “open $TMPDIR” to access the TMP folder
  3. Find the “TemporaryItems” folder
  4. Locate the file you want to recover, right-click the file and go to Open With > Microsoft Excel
  5. Save the Excel file as a new document in a different location

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