Excel for Mac includes an AutoSave feature to help prevent data loss. When enabled, Excel will automatically save your open workbooks at regular intervals. This allows you to easily recover your work if you forget to manually save or experience an unexpected issue like a power outage or application crash.
How AutoSave Works in Excel for Mac
The AutoSave feature works by saving a temporary recovery file to your Mac at set intervals. By default, this occurs every 10 minutes, but you can customize the frequency in the Excel preferences. The automatic saves create recovery files that are separate from your original workbook files. They contain the latest edits since the last manual save.
When you open Excel again after a crash or reopen an unsaved workbook, the AutoRecover dialog will appear. It lets you restore unsaved workbooks and recover any changes since the last manual save. The AutoSave files are also accessible from the File > Open Recent menu for up to four weeks before being deleted.
Enabling AutoSave in Excel for Mac
Follow these steps to turn on AutoSave in Excel for Mac:
- Open Excel for Mac and go to Excel > Preferences > Save (or press Command + , to open Preferences).
- Check the box for “AutoSave OneDrive and SharePoint Online files” to enable AutoSave.
- Adjust the “Save AutoRecover info every” minutes setting as desired.
- Click OK to save the changes.
Once enabled, Excel will now automatically save your open workbooks based on the frequency you set. A colored dot will appear next to the workbook name on the title bar to indicate an unsaved change exists.
Locating and Recovering Unsaved Changes
If Excel crashes or you forget to manually save, you can recover your work using the AutoSave files:
- Reopen Excel and you will see the AutoRecover pane listing any unsaved workbooks.
- Click “Restore” to reopen the unsaved workbook and recover changes.
- Alternatively, go to File > Open Recent and look for workbooks with “AutoSaved” in the name.
- Open the AutoSaved file and use Save As to name and save a new copy of the workbook.
This will restore your work up until the last AutoSave. Any changes after that point would not be recovered.
Customizing AutoSave Frequency
You can customize how often Excel saves recovery files by adjusting the AutoSave frequency:
- Go to Excel > Preferences > Save.
- Change the “Save AutoRecover info every” minutes setting.
- Shorter durations like 5-10 minutes can help minimize data loss but create more frequent saves.
- Longer durations up to 120 minutes reduce system overhead but risk losing more work.
Choosing an appropriate AutoSave frequency depends on your comfort with potential data loss versus system resource usage.
AutoSave vs. AutoRecover
Excel for Mac’s AutoSave feature is different than the AutoRecover functionality in Excel for Windows. Here is a comparison:
|AutoSave (Mac)||AutoRecover (Windows)|
|Saves recovery files at set intervals automatically||Only saves on exit or by manually enabling|
|Creates separate recovery files from originals||Recovers unsaved changes to open workbooks|
|Enabled by default with adjustable frequency||Disabled by default|
So while AutoRecover only runs in specific scenarios, AutoSave consistently saves your workbooks in the background to enable recovery.
Limitations of AutoSave
While AutoSave provides a valuable safeguard against data loss, it does have some limitations:
- Changes after the last AutoSave are not recovered if a workbook is unsaved.
- It only saves workbooks open in Excel, not entire application crashes.
- Recovery files are deleted after four weeks.
- It can slow performance if set to save too frequently.
Regular manual saves are still recommended alongside AutoSave to ensure your work is fully protected.
In some cases you may want to disable AutoSave, like if you find it’s slowing Excel performance. To turn it off:
- Go to Excel > Preferences > Save.
- Uncheck the box for “AutoSave OneDrive and SharePoint Online files”.
- Click OK to save the change.
This will completely disable background AutoSaving. Just be aware you lose the protection against data loss when it’s off.
Best Practices When Using AutoSave
Follow these tips to get the most value from Excel’s AutoSave feature:
- Set the save frequency appropriately – start with 10 minutes.
- Manually save often for mission critical work.
- Open and rename AutoSaved files after a crash to prevent overwrites.
- Adjust the AutoSave frequency if performance lags.
- Save your actual working files regularly to your storage system.
Used properly in conjunction with manual saves, AutoSave can help mitigate the risk of losing your important Excel work on Mac due to crashes or forgetting to hit save.
Excel for Mac’s AutoSave feature provides an automated way to regularly save your workbooks and help prevent data loss. By saving recovery files in the background, it enables you to easily recover unsaved changes when you experience a crash or forget to manually save.
Enable AutoSave in Preferences, customize the save frequency, and remember to open AutoSaved files when recovering work. Set the interval appropriately for your needs to balance system performance with data protection.
While not a full substitute for manual saving, AutoSave serves as an useful fallback to help you avoid losing your editing progress on critical spreadsheets. Use it as part of a broader data protection strategy to give yourself the best chance of recovering your Excel work.