Have you ever lost an Excel file because you accidentally closed it without saving? Or because your computer crashed? It’s really frustrating — but you don’t have to start over!
There are a few ways you can recover unsaved Excel files. You might not get the latest version with all of your most recent changes, but it’s a lot better than starting from scratch. Let’s take a look at those recovery methods to see how it’s done!
Recovering Excel Files in Windows
There are three main methods of recovering unsaved and overwritten files from Excel. If you close an unsaved workbook, you might be able to get it back using Excel’s Recover Unsaved Workbooks function:
Recovering Unsaved Excel Workbooks
To see which unsaved workbooks are available, go to File > Open and select Recent:
At the bottom of the screen, you’ll see the Recover Unsaved Workbooks button:
Click that button, and you’ll see a list of unsaved files:
If you’re lucky, your file will be there, and you can just load it back up again. Make sure to save it right away!
Recovering Overwritten Excel Files From OneDrive
If you don’t currently save your Excel files to OneDrive, this might convince you to start. OneDrive keeps a version history that you can browse and restore from whenever you’d like. You can save them wherever you want, but the Documents folder seems like a logical place.
It’s easiest to complete this process through the OneDrive browser interface.
First, head to onedrive.live.com.
Click on the folder you saved your file in (in our case, that’s Documents).
Find the document you’re looking for, and right-click it:
Select Version history:
You’ll now see a list of versions that OneDrive has stored. You’ll even be able to preview each version:
Find the one you’re looking for, and select Restore to overwrite the current version of the document or Download to download a copy of that version.
Restore Previous Versions From File History
If you don’t use OneDrive, there’s still a chance that you’ll be able to recover your overwritten Excel documents. If you’ve enabled File History in Windows, you can use that to find old versions.
Don’t know about File History? Check out our guide to the backup system and enable it today! You’ll be glad you did.
If you’ve enabled File History, just navigate to your file in Windows Explorer. Right-click the file and select Restore previous versions:
A new window will appear, and you’ll see any previous versions that you can restore. If you haven’t turned on File History and haven’t created a restore point, you won’t have any options:
If you’ve been backing up your data, though, you might be able to get you Excel document.
Recovering Excel Files in macOS
Recovering your unsaved or overwritten Excel files is a bit different on a Mac. You can use the same process to restore previous versions from OneDrive if you’ve been saving there. That’s the easiest way to go. If you aren’t using OneDrive, though, and you don’t have backed-up versions of your documents, you have one main option.
To start, open Finder and go to Macintosh HD:
If you don’t see Macintosh HD (or another name for your hard drive), go to Finder > Preferences and select Hard disks under Show these items in the sidebar:
On my Mac, I’ll go to Users > [your username] > Library > Application Support > Microsoft > Office > Office 2011 AutoRecovery:
If you can’t see the Library folder in your user folder, you’ll need to show hidden files. First, enter the following command into the terminal:
defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles YES
Then, Option + Right-click the Finder icon and select Relaunch.
You can use the terminal to make this process easier by typing the following command to open the proper folder:
open /Users/[your username]/Library/Application\ Support/Microsoft/Office/Office\ 2011\ AutoRecovery
Depending on your version of Office, you may need to go to a different folder. Excel 2016, for example, saves files in ~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery/. If you’re having trouble finding your AutoRecovery files, run a search for your version of Office to see where others have found theirs.
Once you find your files, just double-click to open them and make sure to save them immediately.
Going this route doesn’t leave you with many options; Excel only keeps these AutoRecovered documents for a limited amount of time, so it’s best to back up your system and files on a regular basis.
The Lesson: Save Often and Back Everything Up
While these methods for recovering deleted and overwritten Excel files will work, they’re not the best. They can be quite involved, and they won’t necessarily get you the version of the spreadsheet you were hoping for. The best thing you can do is to save often (autosaving will help) and use a backup solution that supports file versioning.
That being said, these methods will help when you don’t have any other options.
How do you deal with unsaved and overwritten Excel files? Do you have any other advice that might help? Share your tips in the comments below!