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The ways to recover an unsaved Excel document


In case of Excel emergency shutdown, the file you're working on at that moment might be lost. As a result, after the app is launched, the document opens without any made changes. In this article we're going to tell you what you should do in such situation.

Table of Contents

Recovery Auto Recovery feature

If your system fails, the power turns off or you accidentally close a file, the built-in autorecovery feature of MS Office will help you to retrieve everything. By default, a document is automatically saved every 10 minutes. In order to avoid losing important information, we highly recommended to set for creating a copy a minimum timespan. After that you're unlikely to do double work and edit an unsaved file one more time.

In order to configure autorecovery, you have to:

  1. Press "File" button and go to "Options" tab.
  2. Then go to "Save".
  3. The first line is responsible for the format of saving and you shouldn't make any changes there.
  4. In "Save AutoRecover information every" checkbox placed below you should select "1 minute" which is the most desirable timespan for working with the app.
  5. You also have to make sure that the checkbox next to "Keep the last autosaved version if I close without saving" is ticked. Microsoft suggests using an automatic file recovery system, but without the appropriate settings after an emergency shutdown the latest version of a document is often unavailable.

Now, every time you open the program, you can easily recovery the previous version of any file. However, after the settings are changed, only the documents which have been saved at least once will be available for recovery. If there are no copies of the files you need, in order to salvage the data from them we suggest following the steps described below.

How to recover unsaved Excel file from Temporary files

In Microsoft Excel temporary files are saved as backups, which means that they can be easily found and recovered. Such documents can be divided into two types: unsaved workbooks and Excel autosave items. In order to find and recover unsaved Excel file, you have to:

  1. Open a document with unsaved changes via Excel,
  2. Click on "File," then "Info" and "Manage Workbook»,
  3. Select "Recover Unsaved Workbooks",
  4. Open the Excel document you need.

In order to find the folders with automatically recovered files, you have to go to "File", then click on "Options" and "Save". After it you'll find out the location of documents.

How to recover overwritten Excel file

In order to save the changes of a file you can use the feature of the recovery of an overwritten Excel file. In order to do this, you have to:

  1. Press "File" tab,
  2. Select "Info",
  3. Click on the tab of version control and you'll see the information on the documents which were automatically saved in Microsoft Excel.

However, the versions of a document are available only before this document is saved, after it all the previous versions will be deleted. We recommend using backup in order to save them. Creating a backup copy allows you to revert to the old versions at any time in case of a system failure or an emergency shutdown of your device. In Excel 2010 and 2013 / 2016 backups are created as follows:

1. Click on "File" and "Save as", tap "Browse" button,

2. Select "Save as" and "Tools" tab will appear at the bottom,

3. Press "General options",

4. In the opened window check "Always create backup" box.

Excel document recovery from OneDrive Storage

OneDrive keeps version history which is easy to view or recover, if needed. The simplest way to work with the storage is via the interface of a browser. Online version history supports various file types, including photos and videos.

In order to recover previous version of Excel file, you have to:

  1. go to OneDrive website (you might need to sign in with a work/ academic or personal Microsoft account),
  2. select the document that you need to recover,
  3. open "Version history".

Your further actions depend on the type of account you've logged in with:

  • If via Microsoft, a document will be shown in a viewer and you have to select its previous version and click on "Recover".
  • If via a work or academic account, "Version history" will appear. In this case you have to click on the ellipsis located next to the version of the document you're recovering.

We'd like to turn your attention to the fact that when you sign in OneDrive via Microsoft account, all the items in the Recycle Bin are deleted after a month. The more files are there, the more often it's cleaned.

In order to avoid the loss of changes made in a Excel document, we recommended to configure the feature of autosave and use backup storage which supports managing the versions of a file (e.g. Dropbox).

Ilia is a professional writer. He has expert knowledge in GPS and cartography with 15 years of experience. Additionally, Ilia has extensive experience in data recovery on PC and mobile. He started his career as a journalist by reviewing PC and mobile apps. His current responsibilities are to keep track of users' questions on MGT and answer them.