We all make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes involve saving over an important file we wanted to keep. Whether it’s a work document, photo, or other file type, accidentally saving over a file you wanted to keep can be frustrating. But don’t panic! There are a few ways you may be able to recover a previous version of that file.
Check your backups
The best way to recover an overwritten file is from a backup. Here are some places you may have backups of your files:
- External hard drive or storage device
- Cloud storage like Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc.
- Time Machine backups (for Mac)
- File History (for Windows)
- Your email if you emailed the file to yourself or someone else
Connect the external device, open the cloud service, or browse the backup on your computer to see if you can locate and restore the previous version of the file.
Use file recovery software
If you don’t have an existing backup to recover the file from, your next option is file recovery software. These programs scan your hard drive and look for remnants of files you may have deleted or overwritten. Some examples include:
- Recuva (Windows)
- EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard (Windows & Mac)
- Stellar Data Recovery (Windows & Mac)
- TestDisk (Windows, Mac & Linux)
Follow the instructions for the recovery software to scan your hard drive and restore the overwritten file. The sooner you run the recovery after saving over the file, the better your chances of getting it back.
Restore from version history
Some programs like Microsoft Office apps automatically save versions of files over time. You may be able to restore a previous version from the history. Here’s how to check:
- Open the overwritten Word document.
- Click the File tab and select Info.
- Click the Manage Versions button and choose Restore to restore a previous version.
- Open the overwritten Excel sheet.
- Click the File tab and choose Info.
- Click the Manage Versions button and select Restore to bring back an older version.
Other Office apps like PowerPoint have a similar version history you can try. Opening the overwritten file and looking for a versions option is the first step.
Check the temp folder
When you open and edit files in many programs, a temporary file is created and saved in a temp folder. After you properly save or close the file, this temp version is usually deleted. But if you accidentally saved over your original file, the unsaved temp file might still be available in the temp folder with the changes you didn’t want to lose.
To find temp files on your computer, go to the following folders:
- Windows: C:\Users\YourUsername\Appdata\Local\Temp
- Mac: Users/YourUsername/Library/Application Support/TemporaryItems
Search for any files related to the one you’re trying to recover, select it, and save it to another location on your computer.
Try undoing the save
If you just realized you accidentally overwrote a file, try undoing the save. Immediately press Ctrl + Z on Windows or Command + Z on a Mac to undo the save. This will work best if you realized the mistake immediately and haven’t saved or closed the file again.
Restore from the trash/recycle bin
If you deleted the original file before overwriting it with a newer version, it might still be in your trash or recycle bin. Carefully look through your deleted files and see if the older version you want is still there and can be restored.
Contact the app developer
Some apps save backups of your data in the cloud or on their own servers. You may be able to recover lost file versions by contacting the app developer directly and asking if they have any backups. Be ready to provide identifying information.
Accidentally overwriting an important file can be really frustrating, but in many cases you can recover that lost data. Check backups on external drives or cloud storage, use file recovery software, restore previous versions available in Office apps or your OS, or undo the save if you caught it immediately. With some effort, you can likely get that lost file back.