It took you hours to make the Excel workbook that your boss had asked you to make and, just before you could make the final save, the computer decided to shut down abnormally, leaving you impaled (and terrified!) in front of the screen! After a few seconds of disorientation, you decided to take matters into your own hands and google to find a solution that could contain the damage caused by the unexpected.
Well, know that you found it! Below, in fact, I will explain to you by a thread how to recover an unsaved Excel file on both Windows and Mac computers. Specifically, I will show you how to achieve this using Microsoft Office program, LibreOffice Calc software and finally, directing you to other software specifically dedicated to data recovery.
So, without hesitating further, make yourself comfortable and read carefully everything I have to explain on the subject: you'll see, the result will satisfy you. That said, I have nothing left to do but wish you good reading and good luck with everything!
How to recover an unsaved Excel file on Windows
If you need to recover an unsaved Excel file and you have a Windows PC, this is the chapter of the tutorial that suits you best. Below, in fact, I will explain you all the steps to recover an Excel workbook, a LibreOffice Writer worksheet and finally, to attempt a recovery through some specific third party software acting from Microsoft's home operating system.
If you are using the Microsoft Excel version included with your Office 365 subscription and you have synchronized your data with your Microsoft account, don't worry about losing your files - the program can create automatic backups on OneDrive. For this reason, if Excel should close abnormally, you simply have to reopen the document you are interested in as usual and access the last available temporary save (you will see a special box when you open the program).
If, on the other hand, you are not using Office 365 or if you have not activated data synchronization in the cloud, the matter is slightly different: it will be the same Excel to propose, at the first start after the unexpected shutdown, to restore the files that you could not save manually, recovering them from an archive automatically created locally.
Basically, what you need to do is open the program and take a look at its left pane: locate the Show recovered files item, identified by a folder shaped icon, and click on it to access the recovery stage. Alternatively, you can directly open the worksheet that you failed to save to find yourself directly in the file recovery screen.
At this point, all you have to do is move your mouse over the version of the working folder you want to recover (helping you, if necessary, with the date of the last saving), click on the downward arrow located in its correspondence and choose whether to Display the document in the current window, Save as a copy of the file or Close the restored document, thus eliminating automatic saving.
To limit the chances of data loss during recovery, you can decrease the time interval between automatic Excel saves, which by default corresponds to 10 minutes: to do so, go to the File tab and click first on the Options item and then on the Save item located on the left side of the screen.
Finally, place a checkmark next to the Save automatic save information each, specify the time interval (in minutes) in the text field immediately adjacent and also check the Keep last version restored automatically if you close without saving. Finally, press the OK button to confirm the changes.
If this option is not present, it is very likely that Excel was not able to generate a temporary draft of the workbook: in this case, you can try to recover the autosave files using the manual procedure. To do so, first locate the Excel Temporary Archives save folder by clicking on the File menu at the top left, going to the Options tab and then to the Save tab, which is attached to the window that appears later.
Next, copy the specified folder path to the Autosave File Path box (e.g. C:UsersnameAppDataRoamingMicrosoftExcel) and close Excel. After this step, open a File Explorer window (the yellow folder icon located in the Windows taskbar), click the address bar at the top, delete its contents, paste the previously copied path, and press the Enter key on your keyboard.
The game is practically done: with a bit of luck, you should see some autosave files with a name similar to DocumentName_[Autosave] and extension . xlk/. tmp, or backup files, called Backup Of [DocumentName] with the extension .asd. Once you have identified the file you are interested in, right-click on the file icon, choose Open with from the context menu and select the Microsoft Excel file.
If you cannot find files with the extension .xlk, .asd or .tmp, you can carry out an in-depth search using the Windows Start menu or a program like FileSeek: I have explained everything in the guide for searching for files on your computer.
If you manage Excel files using LibreOffice, then I have good news for you: by default, Calc, the spreadsheet management program included in the well-known open source office suite, automatically saves processed documents every 10 minutes. For this reason, it is very likely that you will be able to retrieve an unsaved Excel spreadsheet using one of these automatic saves.
In practice, all you have to do is to open Calc again as usual and wait for the window that warns you of the presence of unsaved documents, left open before the software crashes: to recover them, you simply have to click on the Start and End buttons.
If there is no trace of the above mentioned window, Calc may not be able to generate an automatic backup of the open worksheet. In that case, you can take a look at the program's backup folder, looking for a document with the same name as the original one and the extension .bak.
To locate this folder, go to the Tools > Options... menu of Calc (top), expand the LibreOffice section attached to the left pane of the window that opens, click on the [+] button, then the Paths section and note down the folder specified under Security Copies (e.g. C:UsersnameAppDataRoamingLibreOffice4UserBackup).
To make LibreOffice automatically save files more often, go to the Tools > Options... menu of Calc, go to the Upload/Save section (on the left) and indicate the time interval to be used in the text field corresponding to the Save automatic restore information each (which must be checked). To finish, press the OK button.
To finish, open a File Explorer window, go to the previously recovered location (taking care to activate the hidden files view) and locate a file with the same name as the one you were working on with the .bak extension: when you have found it, right-click on its icon and choose the Open items with > LibreOffice Calc from the menu you are offered. Remember, in any case, to remove the checkmark from the Always use the program to open this type of file.
Data Recovery Software
Were the procedures I showed you on Excel and LibreOffice Calc for Windows not helpful? You weren't able to recover the Excel file you were working on and are you thinking of throwing in the towel and starting all over again? Wait a minute. As an extreme solution, you can try to get the file back using a special data recovery software like the ones I list below.
- Recuva - is one of the most powerful and efficient data recovery applications for Windows. It allows you to recover data from hard drives, SSDs, USB flash drives and so on with a very simple wizard. I have told you about it in detail in my thematic guide on the subject.
- PhotoRec - this is another great data recovery software, free and open source, which allows you to get access to deleted, damaged or overwritten files from the operating system again. I have explained how it works in my hard disk recovery guide.
- MiniTool Power Data Recovery- other great software that, within a couple of clicks, allows you to restore any type of deleted or lost files from internal and external drives. In its free version, it allows you to recover up to 1GB of data. For more information about it, you can refer to the appropriate section of my guide to data recovery from external hard drives (also valid for internal drives).
How to recover an unsaved Excel file on Mac
Regarding the recovery of unsaved Excel files on Mac, it is quite similar to what you have already seen for Windows: you can try to get access to the files again using the procedures provided by Microsoft Excel, LibreOffice and, in extreme cases, with the help of some software specially designed for data recovery.
Did an unexpected closure of Microsoft Excel result in the loss of the workbook you were about to finish? No problem: in all probability, the next time you restart the program, you will have the chance to easily restore the file. I'll tell you how to do it right away.
If the shutdown occurred as a result of an unexpected shutdown of the program (without restarting the entire operating system), you should automatically display a warning window about the event that has just occurred: when this happens, all you have to do is place a checkmark next to the Restore job and restart Microsoft Excel and click the OK button, so that you can try to restore the file automatically.
If the above window should not appear (if, for example, the closing of the program was caused by a power failure or a programmed restart of macOS), the steps to follow are slightly different: start Microsoft Excel as you would normally do, wait for a small screen to appear notifying the previous unexpected closing of the program and click on the Open button, to restore the last save of the file.
If you wish, in order to avoid the accidental loss of data in case of unexpected closing of Excel, you can set a saving interval shorter than the default one (10 minutes), so that the program will automatically create a backup copy of the file, ready to be restored if necessary.
To do this, go to the Excel menu > Preferences... (top left), click on the Save button, put a check mark, if it is not already there, next to the Automatically save every time item and define the time interval you prefer in the text field (e.g. 2 minutes).
The procedure for automatically recovering an Excel document lost after an unexpected shutdown of LibreOffice Calc is virtually identical to the one already seen for Windows: what you need to do, in practice, is to start LibreOffice again, select the document you want to recover on the screen and click on the Start and End buttons to finish the recovery.
If the previous steps are not effective, I recommend, in this case too, to look for automatic backup (of the type NameDocumentOriginale.bak) inside the LibreOffice backup folder: to find out where it is, start LibreOffice Calc, go to the LibreOffice > Preferences... menu (top left) and, after clicking on the Paths entry, note the corresponding folder under Security Copies (e.g. /Users/UserName/Application Support/LibreOffice/4/user/backup).
After that, open a Finder window (the smiling face attached to the Dock bar), go to the Go > Go to folder... (top) menu, paste the previously copied path into it and press the Enter key on your keyboard. To finish, activate the display of hidden files by pressing the cmd+shift+ keys simultaneously and search for a file named DocumentName.bak, then open it with LibreOffice by right-clicking on its icon and choosing Open with from the proposed menu.
Note: if necessary, you can have LibreOffice automatic backups run more often. To achieve this, go to the LibreOffice > Preferences... menu, click on the Load/Save item and specify the time interval you want in the text field attached to the Save automatic restore information each (also make sure that the corresponding box is checked). Finally, click the OK button at the bottom of the window.
Data Recovery Software
Although you followed the instructions I gave you in the previous sections of this tutorial, were you not able to successfully recover the Excel file you were working on? In that case, you can try to get access to it again using a data recovery program, which is useful in case the backup of the document of your interest was accidentally overwritten by the operating system.
- Time Machine - this utility, included "standard" in macOS, allows (if properly configured) to restore previous versions of files and folders very easily. I told you about it in my tutorial dedicated to its operation.
- Disk Drill - excellent and powerful data recovery program. Available for a fee (it costs 79€), it can be tried for free to view previews of recoverable files. For more information, please refer to the dedicated section of my deleted files recovery guide on Mac.
How to recover an unsaved Excel file on smartphones and tablets
Are you used to work through the Excel apps available for Android and iOS and would like to know how to recover a file you were working on that you didn't save manually?
In that case, you have little to fear: in a moment you will understand why. You should know that documents created through these apps are by default stored on the OneDrive space that is paired with the Microsoft account used to sign in. This also applies to documents opened through apps - once you open them, a copy is created in the cloud.
Fortunately, the Excel app (as well as all Office apps for smartphones and tablets) automatically saves documents in the cloud when the device is connected to the Internet; otherwise, a copy of the document is saved in a specific storage area and synchronized in the cloud as soon as the device connects to the Network.
For this reason, recovering an unsaved Excel file on smartphones and tablets is very easy: after opening the app, tap the Recent tab (bottom left) and touch the name of the file you want to open. It will contain all the changes you've made over time, including those you haven't saved manually.
Note: You can also access saved Excel files in the cloud from your PC by connecting to the OneDrive website, synchronizing with Microsoft Excel Desktop (from the File > Account menu) or using the OneDrive program for Windows and Mac.