How to Recover an Unsaved Word file

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

Does it seem too good to be true and you still can't believe it? I can guarantee you that it does and I'll prove it to you in the following lines: in fact, below, I'll show you how to recover an unsaved Word file using 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 the automatic recovery fails.

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

Recover an unsaved file in Word

Recovering an unsaved file in Word is by no means a difficult operation - you just need to know where to look! In the following lines, I'll 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 bit more effort, but it's an excellent solution to take into account if the previous method should fail.

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

Standard procedure

If you use the Microsoft Word version included in your Microsoft Office 365 subscription, you don't have to worry at all about losing your files: the program creates document saves 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 are not using Office 365 or you have decided not to activate synchronization with the cloud, the issue changes slightly: it is the Word itself, at the next start, that shows the provisional drafts of the unsaved documents and asks you how to intervene on them, giving you the possibility to recover files that you have not had time to save manually (from an archive that is automatically created locally on your computer).

Proceeding 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 go to the next step.

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

However, when you get to the next screen, place your mouse over the version of the document you want to recover (if there are several versions, you can refer to the most recent save using the date and time attached to the file name), click on the down arrow that appears and select one of the items from the proposed menu: 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 no such screenshot appears, it means that Word was not able to generate a provisional draft of the unsaved document in time or that it was not able to import it automatically: in this case, I suggest you to refer to the next procedure to try to recover the file manually.

Manual Recovery

If the previous steps haven't had the desired effect, you can try to recover the file manually by calling it from the automatic save folder in Word. These saves are generally stored on disk with the extension . asd (unsaved documents), .tmp (temporary files) or .wbk (automatic backup file).

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

At this point, click on the icon that appears on its left and, from the drop-down menu, select the Recover unsaved documents item: 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 your interest.

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

  • Word 2010 - open the File menu at the top left, select Recent and then click the Recover unsaved files button 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 the Word Options item and then click the Save button. Then 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 (removing, if necessary, the checkmark from the box Always use this program/application to open this type of file), 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 recover a backup or temporary file, click on the Word 2016 File menu, select Options from the next panel (or go to Tools > Options if you're using a previous version of the program) and press on the Save tab attached to the next panel.

Now, note the specified folder in the Autosave File Path box, close the program and access it through File Explorer, Windows Explorer, or the 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.

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

If these solutions don't have the desired effect either, I suggest you to search manually all the .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 ready for you in which I explain step-by-step how to proceed.

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

To do so, from the Word screen, press 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 previous versions of the program, go to the Tools > Options menu.

Now, click on the Save tab on the left (or top), tick the Save Auto Save information item every [X] minutes and set a relatively low value (e.g. every 2 minutes) in the Save information box, and then confirm your choice by pressing the OK button at the bottom.

Programs to recover Word files

If the advice I gave you before, alas, did not give the desired result, do not throw in the towel again! There are, in fact, software for recovering deleted files that could help you get out of the impasse you're in now.

Among the best software 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 effectiveness 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.

Supports the file formats of all Word versions (DOC, DOCX, RTF etc.), documents from other Office package applications (e.g. XLSX, PPTX etc.) and many other file types, including photos, videos, music tracks, compressed archives and email. It can also operate 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 limits whatsoever but is paid (with prices starting from 66.69 euros). The Pro version of the software can be downloaded for free but, if you don't buy the license, it only allows you to see which files you can recover and not to export them.

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

When the download is complete, regardless of the version of the program you downloaded, open the obtained .exe file and answer Yes to the warning that appears on the screen. Then, if necessary, tick the EaseUS license conditions box (bottom left) and press the Install now button to start the download and then the installation of all the components necessary for the operation of the EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard.

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

Now, all you have to do is click on the hard disk icon on your PC (or the Trash 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 you have finished scanning, to view only Word documents, click on the Filter item at the top and choose the Documents option from the menu. Then use the left side bar to "browse" all the folders in which 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 (by checking the relevant box), click on the Recover button (bottom right) and select the folder where you want to save it. Easier than this?

I beg your pardon? Do you use a Mac and not a Windows PC? No problem: you can download EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for macOS by visiting the EaseUS site pages I linked to you earlier 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 into the Applications folder of your Mac and then use the program following the instructions I gave you before (the steps to do are quite similar on Windows and macOS). The first time you start 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 best suited to you. By default, Writer, the word processing program included in the popular open source suite, makes automatic saves every 10 minutes. Therefore, there is a very good chance that you will recover an unsaved Word file after the software unexpectedly closes.

How? Very simple! All you have to do, in practice, is reopen Writer as you would normally do. Immediately after the program start screen, if the automatic saves have been generated, a small window is shown showing the list of documents opened before the unexpected interruption of the software. To finalize the file restore procedure, all you have to do is click on the Start button and then the Finish button.

If this screen does not appear, it is very likely that Writer was not able to generate a document for automatic saving: however, before throwing in the towel, I suggest you take a look in the temporary files folder of the program, looking for files with the same name as the original ones (e.g. Document without name) but with the extension .bak.

To view 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 the [+] button that corresponds to it, then click the Paths entry and note the specified folder next to the Security Copies entry (e.g. C:UsersUserAppDataRoamingLibreOffice4UserBackup).

At this point, go to the above mentioned folder using File Explorer/Finder (if you can't find it, you have to activate the hidden files display for your operating system) and look for a file with the same name as the one you were working on and with the extension .bak: all you have to do, at this point, is 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 checkmark from the Always use the program to open this type of file. Simple, isn't it?

Bibliography consulted in Spanish

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