It can be extremely frustrating when you realize you forgot to save your Excel file before closing it or your computer crashed before you had a chance to save your work. Losing hours of work is never a good feeling. The good news is that even if your unsaved Excel file doesn’t show up in the Document Recovery pane, there are still some things you can try to recover your lost data.
Check Temp Folders
The first thing you’ll want to do is check your computer’s temp folders. When you are working in Excel, it will periodically auto-save a temporary copy of your work. You can find these auto-saved versions in your temp folder.
To access your temp folder in Windows:
1. Open File Explorer
2. In the address bar, enter %temp% and hit Enter
3. Search for files with the extension .TMP – these are your temporary Excel files
1. Go to Finder
2. Hit Command+Shift+G
3. Enter ~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/Temp
4. Search for files ending in .TMP
Look through your temp files for the one that matches the name and date of the file you lost. You may have several versions, so you’ll need to open each one to find the most recent auto-save.
Search Your Hard Drive
If you can’t find your unsaved Excel file in the temp folder, the next step is to do a full search of your hard drive.
1. Open File Explorer
2. Click on This PC
3. Select Computer or your main hard drive
4. In the search bar, enter *.xlsx (or *.xls if it’s an older Excel version)
This will show you every Excel file on your computer. Check the file sizes and dates modified to determine if any match the unsaved file you are looking for.
1. Open Finder
2. Hit Command+F
3. Enter *.xlsx (or *.xls)
4. Check file sizes and dates modified
Searching your full hard drive can take a while, but is often the best way to find a lost unsaved file. Check every folder to be thorough.
Recover from AutoRecover
If Excel crashed or closed unexpectedly before you saved, any work from that session should have been auto-saved as part of AutoRecover. Here’s how to access those files:
1. Open a new Excel file
2. Go to File > Options > Save
3. Look under “Save workbooks” for AutoRecover file location
4. Open the folder shown
5. Find auto-saved file for the lost work
1. Right click Excel icon and click “Show Package Contents”
2. Go to Contents > SharedSupport
3. Open the folder called “AutoRecovery”
4. Look for auto-saved file
The AutoRecover files will be named beginning with ~$ followed by the file name. Open them up to find your unsaved work.
Recover from a Backup
If you regularly back up your computer or important files, you may be able to recover a previous version of your Excel file from a backup. Check your cloud storage, external hard drives, or other backup disks for copies of the file.
If you use a service like Time Machine on Mac or File History on Windows, you should be able to restore the Excel file to a previous version before it was accidentally deleted or lost. Use your backup software’s recovery tools to locate and restore the file.
Use Excel Recovery Software
As a last resort, you can turn to third party Excel recovery software if you can’t locate the unsaved file through any other methods. Here are some top options:
Stellar Repair for Excel – Works on Windows and Mac to recover corrupted, damaged, or deleted Excel files. Scans drive and pulls unsaved files from temp folders.
EaseUS Excel Recovery – Another good cross-platform choice that digs deep to recover unsaved, deleted, or corrupted Excel files.
Remo Repair Excel – Repairs heavily corrupted Excel files and claims to recover lost Excel documents in just 3 steps.
Be sure to only download recovery software from trusted providers. Scan downloads for malware before installing. Follow all on-screen instructions carefully during the file recovery process.
How to Avoid Losing Work in the Future
Losing unsaved work is a painful lesson about the importance of regularly pressing save. Here are some tips to avoid a repeat data disaster:
– Turn on AutoRecover in Excel to automatically save your work at regular intervals.
– Set reminders to save your work every 5-10 minutes.
– Save different versions as you work using Save As to create file backups.
– Store files on cloud sync services like OneDrive or Dropbox for real time backup.
– Use version history in cloud services to restore previous drafts.
– Back up your computer regularly to preserve previous versions of files.
– Open crucial Excel files from the backup copy first to avoid overwriting with unsaved changes.
– Close files properly and check for unsaved changes prompts before exiting Excel.
Losing work is always frustrating, but being diligent about saving and backing up your files can help you avoid most data disasters in Excel and other Office apps. Following the recovery steps in this guide will hopefully help you get back that important unsaved work when needed. Just be sure to reinforce good file management habits going forward.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some common reasons Excel files become unsaved?
The most common reasons Excel files become unsaved include:
– Forgetting to manually save your work
– A crash, freeze, or force quit causing premature exit
– A power outage or computer shut down before saving
– Accidentally closing the file without saving changes
– File corruption errors preventing saving
Where does Excel store temporary files?
Excel’s temporary file location depends on your operating system:
– Windows: C:\Users\[Username]\AppData\Local\Temp\
– Mac: ~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/Temp
Check these folders for any temporary versions auto-saved by Excel.
Can you recover an old, deleted Excel file?
It is often possible to recover old, deleted Excel files using file recovery software as long as the file has not been fully overwritten. You can also restore previous versions from cloud backups like OneDrive or Dropbox if available.
What are some best practices for avoiding lost Excel work?
Save your work frequently, set auto-save to every 10 minutes or less, keep backups on external drives or the cloud, close files properly, watch for unsaved changes warnings, and use version history when available.
What should you do if Excel crashes before you can save?
If Excel crashes before you save, first try to recover your data from AutoRecover files or the Temp folder. If that fails, use data recovery software to scan for unsaved file fragments. In the future, be sure to save frequently to avoid crashes resulting in data loss.
Recovering unsaved Excel files is often possible if you act quickly and use the right techniques. Check temporary folders, search your hard drive, recover from backups or AutoSave files, or use a dedicated recovery tool. Most importantly, learn to save your work often and utilize automatic backup options like OneDrive and Time Machine. With the right recovery plan in place, you can minimize frustration and avoid having to redo lost work should an Excel file ever become unsaved again.