Have you ever been in a place where you’ve been working on an Excel file for hours, and suddenly all of your work has been lost?

how to recover unsaved excel files

It might be due to an unexpected power loss or a system crash, accidentally closing the excel file without saving, or even a virus/malware attack. Losing data is no fun.

Yes, this is frustrating, but luckily, there are a few methods you can use to recover your lost Excel file in just a few steps. Whether you lost Excel files due to a power outage, lost files without saving them, or want to recover a previously saved version of an Excel file, we have you covered.

In this guide, we will show you how to recover unsaved Excel files and how to prevent Excel files from losing data.

How to Easily Recover Unsaved Excel Files

There are two simple and straightforward ways to recover unsaved Excel files. Let’s have a look.

Recover an Excel File With Unsaved Changes with Built-in Tool

If you are editing an Excel file and the file suddenly closes without giving you the opportunity to save the new changes, you can easily use the built-in Excel document recovery tool to restore the new changes you made to the Excel file. Make sure that auto-save is enabled before using this method.

image showing excel app on windows highlighting auto-save option

  • Step 1: After a crash, once everything is back to normal, reopen the Excel app. A new section for recovering documents with different files will pop up.

    image showing excel document recovery options on windows

  • Step 2: Select the file you were working on before that crashed.

    image showing windows excel app document recovery save option

  • Step 3: Select the file you want and save it to save the last changes you made to the file.

Restore an Excel File to a Previous Version

Excel has a built-in feature that records the version history of any Excel file you create. Using the file history method, you can easily restore an Excel file to a previous version. If you have an Excel file from a hard drive that you want to restore, you can use the workbook feature. Follow the steps below to restore the previous version of the Excel file.

  • Step 1: Open Excel and open the Excel file you want to restore to a previous version.

    image showing file info options on excel windows

  • Step 2: Click on the “File” option and then click on “Info“. You can select the version history if you want to see previous versions of the same file stored online.
  • Step 3: Once you open the version history, you can see the list of previous versions of the file.

    image showing excel file version history

  • Step 4: Now select the version you want to restore and click “Restore” to save the file.
  • Step 5: If you want to restore the previous unsaved version of the Excel file, click the Workbook option and then click the “Restore Unsaved Workbooks” button located at the bottom.

Related Read: 70+ Best Microsoft Excel Shortcut Keys

How to Recover Unsaved Excel Files on Mac?

The procedure to retrieve unsaved Excel files on Mac is pretty much similar to how it’s done on Windows. Assuming you have the AutoRecover, or AutoSave feature enabled, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Click the Finder app on your Mac, go to Go > Go to Folder.
  • Step 2: Go to /Users/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery
  • Step 3: Open the AutoRecover Excel files and save or copy them as needed.

Alternatively, you can recover unsaved Excel file on Mac from the Temporary folder by locating Excel temp files.

  • Step 1: Open Terminal, and in the window, type “open $TMPDIR” and press “Enter.”
  • Step 2: This will open the folder “Temporary Files.” Select the folder “Temporaryitems“.
  • Step 3: Under “Temporaryitems,” the unsaved Excel file will start with ‘~Excel Work File‘. Locate the Excel file you want and restore it. Copy it and save it to another safe location by changing the extension from .tmp to .xls/.xlsx.

How to Recover an Overwritten Excel File

One of the easiest ways to recover an overwritten Excel file in Windows 10/11/7 is to look at the temporary files:

  • On Windows 10/11/8, navigate to the temporary files by following this path: C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\UnsavedFiles\
  • Alternatively, you can use the Office feature to restore unsaved files from temporary files. First, open your Excel and select “File.”
  • Click on “Manage Workbook” after selecting the “Info” tab at the left end. Select the “Restore unsaved workbooks” option.
  • Then select the file in question and click “Open.”
  • Finally, recover the overwritten file by selecting “Save As” and completing the operation.

How to Enable AutoSave & AutoRecover on Excel

Excel has a built-in Autosave feature that, as the name implies, automatically saves your work without requiring you to manually click the Save button each time you want to save the version of the file. The new Autosave feature is only available in Microsoft Office 365. If you are not using the latest version of Excel, you can use the autosave feature, which automatically saves your work every 10 minutes (or after a period you specify). When this option is enabled, a temporary copy of your work is saved and resaved every 10 minutes.

To enable the auto-save feature, do the following:

  • Step 1: Open the Excel file and click on the File tab.
  • Step 2: Now click on Options at the bottom.

    image showing excel file main options

  • Step 3: In the Excel Options dialog box, click the Save option on the left panel.

    image showing excel save options

  • Step 4: Now check the option – “AutoSave OneDrive and SharePoint Online files by default in Excel“. This option works only for Microsoft Office 365 and saves your work in real-time every few seconds.

    image showing autosave onedrive and sharepoint online files by default in excel

  • Step 5: If you are using an older version of Excel, look for the option – “Save AutoRecover information every” and check the box. By default, it is set to 10 minutes, but you can choose a lower or higher value if you want. In my case, I set it to 2 minutes.

    image showing save autorecover information every

  • Step 6: Click OK to save the changes.

How to Back Up an Excel File

Automatic backups can be very handy, especially if you work with large Excel files. They allow you to restore your data in case it is lost or damaged. Follow these simple steps to enable backup for an Excel file.

  • Step 1: Go to File and click Save As.
    image showing windows excel file save option tools
  • Step 2: Click the Tools button and then General Options in the Save As dialog box.

    image showing tools options on windows excel

  • Step 3: Check the box next to Always create backup. Then click OK.

    image showing excel file back up option

  • Step 4: Click Save in the Save dialog box.
It may sound frivolous, but sometimes you can recover files from the Recycle Bin that you forgot to check. Open your Recycle Bin and look for *.xlsb files.

In case you don’t find the .xlsb file in the Recycle Bin, you can look at some of the data recovery software to help restore the deleted Excel files.

Recover Excel File if You Forgot to Save

Excel is mainly used for tasks such as creating budgets, managing financial data, analyzing large amounts of data, etc.; therefore, losing it can have a significant impact on personal and professional projects. We hope that the methods we have presented will help you recover unsaved Excel files. We have also shown you how to enable automatic recovery and create a backup copy of your Microsoft Excel file to prevent its loss.

FAQs on Recovering Unsaved Excel Files

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To recover an unsaved Excel document, you can use the Document recovery pane, or you can use the workbooks feature to recover. The document recovery pane appears when you reopen excel after the crash. You can open excel document file options > info > workbooks to access the workbook feature.

You can use the workbook option to recover an Excel file from a hard disk. Launch Excel and go to the File tab. Click Open and then select the Recent Workbooks option. Scroll down and click the Recover Unsaved Workbooks button. Locate the lost file and open the document.

The best way to recover an unsaved Excel file is to use the Recover Unsaved Workbooks option. To do this, you must first open an existing Excel workbook or create a new one. Then go to the File menu, click Open and select the Recent tab. At the bottom, you'll see the Recover Unsaved Workbooks button. Click it, and you'll be able to select the unsaved file in the Open window. Double-click the file to open it, click the Restore button in the banner, or navigate to File and save it.

Saving an Excel workbook with unsaved changes is a simple process. First, open any Excel workbook, go to the File tab, and click Open. Then click Recent Workbooks, scroll to the bottom of the list and click the Recover Unsaved Workbooks button. This will open a list of unsaved files, and you can double-click any file to open it. Once the file is open, click the Save As button in the banner to save the file to the desired location.

If you need to access the "Excel Auto Backup" folder, here are step-by-step instructions:

  • Go to the "Finder" and locate the search box.
  • Type "/Users/username/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery" in the search box.
  • Press Enter or Return, and you will see the AutoRecovery folder.
  • Find the Excel files you want to recover, select them, and save them to another location on your Mac.
  • This way, you can easily access your previously saved backup versions and ensure your work is always safe.

Wondering where the unsaved Excel files are stored? By default, unsaved Excel files on Windows 10/11 are stored in the C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\UnsavedFiles folder.

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