How to Recover a Word File

You've been working on a Word document for several hours, you left your computer for a moment and, when you came back, here's the bitter surprise: for an unspecified reason, the program you were working with closed and, most likely, the last changes you made to your document were not saved. I can imagine your regret for not clicking "Save" when you had the chance, but this is not yet the time to sink into despair: in fact, you can most likely recover the last changes made to the file you were working on in a few clicks.

Sounds too good to be true and yet you still can't believe it? I can guarantee you that it is and in the following lines I will prove it to you: in fact, below I will show you how to recover an unsaved Word file through a series of easy-to-apply procedures. In this case, you will learn how to do it both through Microsoft Word software and its open source alternative, LibreOffice Writer. I will also explain how to proceed manually in case automatic recovery fails.

So why hesitate any longer? Cut out a few minutes of free time for yourself, make yourself comfortable and read carefully everything I have to say on the subject: I am sure that, by the end of this reading, you will have learned perfectly how to proceed and will be perfectly able to move according to your needs. You will see, the result will surprise you. That said, I just have to wish you good reading and good work.

Recovering an unsaved file in Word

Recovering an unsaved file in Word is not at all a difficult operation: you just need to know where to look! In the following lines I will show you both the standard procedure, i.e. the one that allows you to recover automatic saves or drafts through the program, and the manual recovery procedure, which requires a little more effort, but is an excellent solution to consider if the previous method fails.

Note: I will use Word 2016 for Windows for the tutorial, but you can also use the same steps in different versions of the application. However, if you use Word Online, you don't have to do anything else: the files are automatically saved to OneDrive with every change you make in the web version of Microsoft's popular software.

Standard procedure

If you use the version of Microsoft Word included in your Microsoft Office 365 subscription, you don't have to worry at all about losing your files: the program creates backup copies of the documents on OneDrive and does so completely automatically. Therefore, if it closes unexpectedly, all you have to do is reopen the document of interest as usual and access the last available temporary save.

If you do not use Office 365 or if you decide not to activate synchronization with the cloud, the matter changes slightly: it is Word itself, at the next startup, that shows you the temporary drafts of unsaved documents and asks you how to intervene on them, giving you the possibility to retrieve the files that you have not had time to save manually (from a file that is automatically created locally on your computer).

The procedure is very simple: after closing Word unexpectedly, open the program again and take a look at its left pane. Then identify the Show recovered files item located next to a folder icon and click on it to proceed to the next step.

If you wish, you can open the unsaved document directly, skipping the startup screen and finding yourself directly on the next screen dedicated to file recovery.

In any case, when you reach the next screen, place the mouse over the version of the document you want to recover (if there are several versions, you can consult the most recent saved version using the date and time attached to the file name), click on the down arrow that appears and select one of the proposed menu items: the View option allows you to open the restored document in the current window, the Save as... option allows you to save a copy (different from the original document) and, finally, the Close option allows you to "abandon" the automatic saving, deleting it from the disk.

If this screen does not appear, it means that Word could not generate a provisional draft of the unsaved document in time or that it could not import it automatically: in this case, I suggest that you refer to the following procedure to try to recover the file manually.

Manual recovery

If the above steps did not have the desired effect, you can try to recover the file manually by calling it from Word's autosave folder. These recordings are usually stored on a disk with the extension . asd (unsaved documents), .tmp (temporary files) or .wbk (automatic backup file).

Once this is done, it's time to take action: if you have Word 2016 and want to recover a file that you started writing in but never saved before the unexpected shutdown (i.e. an Unsaved Document), after starting the program, click on the File menu located at the top left and identify the Manage Document item attached to the box that appears immediately after.

At this point, click on the icon that appears to its left and, from the drop-down menu, select the option Recover unsaved documents: in this way, you will be taken to the folder dedicated to unsaved Word files and you will have the possibility to select the unsaved file of interest.

If you have a version of Word equal to or less than 2010, proceed as follows.

  • Word 2010 - open the File menu located at the top left, select the Recent item and then click on the Recover unsaved files button located on the next screen. Use the proposed panel to view the automatic saves and restore the one you are interested in if necessary.
  • Word 2007 - press the Office button (top left), select Word Options and then click the Save button. Next, identify the Auto Save File Path box, make a note of the path within it (e.g. C:ProgramsMicrosoft WordUnsavedFiles) and close Word. At this point, open the above folder using File Explorer / Explorer, identify the asd file you are interested in, right-click on it and select the Open With item from the on-screen menu. At this point, choose Microsoft Word from the list of programs proposed for opening (unchecking, if necessary, the Always use this program/application to open this type of file checkbox), verify that it is the file you were looking for and save a copy of the new document as usual.

If, on the other hand, you need to retrieve a backup or temporary file, click on the File menu in Word 2016, select Options in the next pane (or go to Tools > Options if you are using an earlier version of the program) and click on the Save tab attached to the next pane.

Now, note the folder specified in the Autosave File Path box, close the program and access it via File Explorer, Windows Explorer or macOS Finder. Identify the .wbk/.tmp file you are interested in, right-click on it, choose Open with from its context menu and select the Microsoft Word option from the proposed menu.

As a rule, unsaved files have a name similar to Document Name_[Auto Save], while backup files can be recognized by the presence of the Backup prefix in the original file name.

If these solutions also don't have the desired effect, I suggest you manually search for all .wbk, .asd or .tmp files using the Windows Start menu, Spotlight on macOS or an alternative program like FileSeek. Don't know where to start? Don't worry, I have a specific guide prepared for you in which I explain step by step how to proceed.

However, to avoid future problems, I strongly suggest that you set a relatively low time interval for automatic saving, so that you can be sure that changes are saved (and recovered) even in case of unexpected program shutdown.

To do this, from the Word screen, click on the File menu and click on the Options item located in the side panel at the bottom left or, if you are using one of the earlier versions of the program, go to the Tools > Options menu.

Now, click on the Save tab located on the left (or top), check the box next to Save autosave information every [X] minutes and set a relatively low value in the box (for example, every 2 minutes), then confirm your choice by pressing the OK button at the bottom.

Programs to recover Word files

If the advice I gave you before, unfortunately, did not give the desired result, do not throw in the towel again! In fact, there are programs for deleted file recovery that could help you out of the quagmire you are in now.

Among the best programs in this category is the one produced by EaseUS: its name is EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard and it is available for both Windows and MacOS. Among its main advantages are its high efficiency in recovering deleted files, ease of use and compatibility with a wide range of devices: hard drives (both internal and external), SSD drives (both internal and external), USB devices, memory cards, cameras, smartphones, tablets and other storage devices.

It supports file formats from all versions of Word (DOC, DOCX, RTF, etc.), documents from other Office suite applications (e.g. XLSX, PPTX, etc.) and many other file types, such as photos, videos, music, compressed files and email. It can also work on formatted disks, damaged disks, deleted partitions and RAW partitions.

The program is available in two versions: EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Free, which is free and allows you to recover up to 500MB of data (which can be increased to 2GB if you share the program online) and EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro, which, on the other hand, has no limit but is chargeable (with prices starting at 66.69 euros). The Pro version of the software can be downloaded for free but, if you don't purchase the license, it only allows you to see which files you can recover and not export them.

That said, if you want to download EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Professional for Windows, connect to the EaseUS website and click the Free Trial button; if you want to download EaseUS Data Recovery WizardFree, connect to this other page on the EaseUS website and click the Free Download button.

When the download is complete, regardless of the version of the program you downloaded, open the .exe file you obtained and answer Yes to the warning on the screen. Then, if necessary, check the EaseUS license conditions box (bottom left corner) and click the Install Now button to start the download and then the installation of all the components required for the EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard to work.

If you do not want to send anonymous usage statistics, click on the Customize installation item (located at the bottom right) and uncheck the corresponding box. When the setup is complete, click the Start Now button and the main Data Recovery Wizard window will open.

Now just click on the icon of your PC's hard drive (or on the Recycle Bin icon, if you first saved and then deleted the Word document you now want to recover) and press the Scan button at the bottom right to start scanning the drive.

Once the scan is complete, to view only Word documents, click the Filter item at the top and choose the Documents option from the menu. Next, use the left sidebar to "browse" through all the folders in which the EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard has found recoverable files and locate the document you are interested in.

Once you have found the Word document you want to restore, select it (check the box), click the Recover button (bottom right) and select the folder where you want to save it. Easier than this?

Sorry? You use a Mac and not a Windows PC? No problem: you can download the EaseUS Data RecoveryWizard for macOS by visiting the EaseUS site pages I linked to you above and clicking on the Mac version of the program.

When the download is complete, open the obtained .dmg package, drag the EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard icon to the Applications folder on your Mac and then use the program by following the instructions I gave you earlier (the steps to follow are quite similar on Windows and macOS). The first time you launch the software, you will need to authorize it to run in System Preferences.

Recovering an unsaved Word file with LibreOffice Writer

Do you use LibreOffice to manage and edit Word files? Then this is the section for you. By default, Writer, the word processing program included in the popular open source suite, automatically saves every 10 minutes. Therefore, there is a high probability that you will recover an unsaved Word file after the software unexpectedly shuts down.

In what way? Very simple! All you have to do, in practice, is to reopen the writer as you normally would. Immediately after the program startup screen, if automatic saves have been generated, a small window is displayed with the list of documents opened before the unexpected termination of the program. To finish the file restoration procedure, all you have to do is click the Start button and then the Finish button.

If this screen does not appear, Writer has most likely failed to generate a document for automatic saving: however, before you throw in the towel, I suggest you take a look at the program's temporary files folder, looking for files with the same name as the original ones (e.g., Unnamed Document ) but with the .bak extension.

To see the save path, go to the Tools > Options... menu of the program, expand the LibreOffice section located in the left pane of the new window that opens on the screen, click on the [+] button that corresponds to it, then click on the Paths item and note the folder specified next to the Backups item (for example, C:UsersUserAppDataRoamingLibreOffice4UserBackup).

At this point, go to the aforementioned folder using Explorer/File Finder (if you cannot find it, you have to enable hidden file viewing for your operating system) and look for a file with the same name as the one you were working with and with the extension .bak: all you have to do, at this point, is to right-click on the file in question, select Open with from the proposed context menu and choose LibreOffice Writer from the list of installed applications, taking care to remove the check mark from the program Always use the program to open this type of file. Simple, isn't it?

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