How to Recover Unsaved Excel File

Excel is considered the gold standard for spreadsheets. It is one of the most popular Microsoft tools used by businesses and individuals to store and process essential data. That's why it can be so stressful to lose those precious entries unexpectedly.

An Excel file may not be saved for several reasons. Often it's a simple mistake to accidentally close the file without saving the changes. Other times, it might be a sudden Excel crash, your laptop battery draining, or similar issues.

Luckily, none of these represent a doomsday scenario, and there are ways to recover unsaved Excel file in a few simple steps.

How to Recover Unsaved Excel File on Windows 10 PC

Excel is native to Windows 10 as they are both created by Microsoft. It is therefore generally the data analysis tool of choice for Windows users. It's known to be very reliable, so it's no surprise that some people forget to save the file while they're working on it.

Although not the best idea, some users work on Excel spreadsheets without ever saving the file until they are done for the day. But accidentally clicking "Don't Save" when closing the file or experiencing a sudden power outage can mean all that work is done. Or does he?

It's natural to go into panic mode, but Microsoft has features to mitigate the disaster. All Microsoft programs, including Excel, have a built-in recovery system that allows users to recover their unsaved files and continue working on them. Here's how it works:

  1. Create a new Excel workbook and select the "File" option from the toolbar.
  2. In the left pane, select "Open" followed by "Recent."
  3. Look for the "Recover Unsaved Workbooks" button at the bottom and click it.
  4. A dialog box will appear. Search through unsaved workbooks to find the one you need.
  5. Once you have retrieved the file, save it using the "Save As" function in Excel.

However, there is another way to achieve the same result on Windows. Microsoft programs like Excel save copies of unsaved files to a specific location by default:


You can browse to this folder directly and open an unsaved copy of the file in a browser. There will also be a "Save As" option in the browser's notification bar, which you can use.

Using File History to Recover Excel Files

For Windows 10 users, there is another way to restore unsaved Excel files. Windows 10 has a native system feature called File History, and it's pretty easy to use. This is how it works:

  1. In the Windows 10 search bar, type "restore files".
  2. Click "Restore your files with File History".
  3. Find the unsaved Excel file and click "Restore to" to save it to a specific location.

Important: For this method to work, you must have the correct Windows player installed. Be sure to do this before relying on File History to recover files in Windows 10.

How to Recover Unsaved Excel File on Mac

Mac users can also take advantage of Excel, as there is a version of Microsoft Office written specifically for macOS.

If you need to recover a previously unsaved Excel file, there are two ways to do it on your Mac. The first option is to use the recovery tool built into Excel:

  1. Start a new Excel workbook and navigate to the "File" option on the toolbar.
  2. Select "Open" in the left pane, then choose "Recent."
  3. At the bottom, find and click on “Recover Unsaved Workbooks” option.
  4. When a new dialog box appears, find the Excel file you lost.
  5. Click on the “Save As” option to save the Excel file permanently.

The good news is that Mac users have another option to restore unsaved Excel files or any other files.

This method requires you to use Terminal, the macOS command-line system. It is a relatively simple process and requires the following steps:

  1. On your Mac computer, go to “Applications”, then click on “Utilities”.
  2. Now click on the “Terminal” application.
  3. Enter the command "open $TMPDIR", which will open the folder containing the temporary files.
  4. Select the "TemporaryItems" folder, select the unsaved Excel file and select "Restore".

You may run into the problem of not knowing which file is the one you are looking for because the file is not named. Checking the creation date is the easiest and fastest way to find the Excel file. Also make sure to save the Excel file in a different folder.

How to Recover Unsaved Excel File in Office 365

Some Excel users are happy to work with on-premises versions of Excel, but others choose the cloud-based Office 365 version.

When it comes to recovering unsaved Excel files, this subscription-style spreadsheet works the same as Microsoft Office 2022. So if you ever have to deal with the loss of an unsaved Excel file, here's how the to recover :

  1. Open Excel, start a new workbook, then go to the "File" tab.
  2. Select "Open" followed by "Recent."
  3. Click "Recover Unsaved Workbooks" at the very bottom of the window.
  4. Find the unsaved file in the dialog box and make sure to save it to a new location.

Understand the AutoSave feature in Office 365

Since Office 365 is cloud-based, users can store their files in OneDrive, the cloud-based storage service that comes with the subscription. One of the best parts of this package is the autosave feature available for World, PowerPoint, and Excel.

By using AutoSave, you never have to worry about unsaved files, and everything you work on is automatically saved to OneDrive. However, you need to make sure you're signed in to your Office 365 account to make sure it's working. Here is what you do from this point:

  1. Open a new Excel workbook and move the "Autosave" button in the upper left corner from "Disabled" to "Enabled".
  2. You will be prompted to save the file to OneDrive. Name the file and click "Save".
  3. If you need to check previous versions of the specific Excel file, tap the file name at the top of the window and select "Version History".
  4. On the right side of the window, you'll see all versions of the file, as well as who modified it and when.

Thus, Office 365 not only helps you keep the data, but also provides a clear overview of each version of the file and its changes. However, the autosave feature will only work if you save the Excel file to OneDrive.

How to Recover Unsaved Excel File After Restart or Crash

Locating a copy of an unsaved Excel file is relatively easy, as the program creates a useful backup. But what if you saved the file but your computer crashes?

Many things can go wrong, like Excel freezing or your computer restarting unexpectedly. Somehow it always seems to happen at the worst time.

Fortunately, Microsoft Office has a recovery protocol for such occasions. When your computer is back on, do the following:

  1. Open Excel and/or any Excel workbook on your computer.
  2. When it opens, you will see the "Document Recovery" pane on the left side.
  3. Find the latest version of the document by checking the timestamp.
  4. Save the Excel file under a new name.

The extent of data loss – the amount of files backed up – will depend on how automatic recovery is configured. You can choose the auto-recover time interval by doing the following:

  1. Open an Excel workbook and go to "File".
  2. Select "Options," then choose "Save" from the dialog box.
  3. Check the "Save AutoRecover information every X minutes" box. Enter the number of minutes you want between autosaves in place of the "X".
  4. Check the box "Keep the last version automatically retrieved if I close without saving".

By taking these precautionary measures, you will ensure that you lose as little data as possible, even in the event of a crash or a restart.

Recover your Excel workbooks

Working with data in Excel usually requires a lot of focus and attention to detail. But no matter how many useful features of the program prevent it from happening, sometimes data loss happens. However, not all of them need be lost as Microsoft has made sure that you can find the unsaved Excel files in a few quick steps.

The "Recover Unsaved Workbooks" button is a lifesaver and can save you so much repetitive work. However, if you're an Office 365 subscriber, the AutoSave button ensures that every word and number you type is saved even if the computer crashes.

Also, make sure to configure the correct customizations when it comes to AutoRecover feature as it can minimize data loss. Finally, Mac and Windows 10 users have alternative options for file recovery that they can also try.

Have you ever lost a previously unsaved Excel file? Were you able to recover it? Let us know in the comments section below.

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