How to Restore Past Versions of Pages, Word, and Other Mac Documents

When you discover that you overwrote an important document, your first reaction is likely panic. But if you’re on a Mac, there are a few options you have for getting your earlier edits back.

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We’ll look at a few of them here, and then share a few suggestions for avoiding the problem in the first place. Let’s start with the easiest one.

iWork: Revert to an Older Version

If you’re still using Microsoft Office on your Mac, it might be time to switch to iWork. It has a number of advantages, but the most notable one for the current discussion is built-in versioning. Every time you save changes to a document, iWork makes an archival copy that you can access.

To see the available previous versions, just open the document in Pages, Numbers, or Keynote and go to File > Revert To > Browse All Versions…

iwork revert to version

You’ll then see a screen that lets you browse through previous versions. Just use the arrows next to the document on the right.

iwork version browser

When you find the version you want, click Restore and you’re done! This works in all of the iWork apps: Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.

iWork for iCloud: Restore Previous Versions

If you store your iWork documents in iCloud Drive What Is iCloud Drive and How Does It Work? Confused about what makes iCloud Drive different to Apple's other cloud services? Let us show you what it can do, and how you can make the most of it. Read More , you can also restore previous versions from there. Be sure to save your documents in the corresponding folder of the drive. You’ll see that there are Pages, Numbers, and Keynote folders, but that you can also save your documents in the top-level storage folder.

icloud pages folder

Though you can access previous versions from the top-level folder, Apple warns that the feature might be disabled. So it’s best to keep your documents in the corresponding app folders.

To look at previous versions, open iCloud in your browser at, go to the folder that contains your document, and select it. Then click the cog icon at the top of the screen.

icloud versions

Click on Browse All Versions… to see the previous versions that are available.

icloud version browser

Then just choose the version you want, click Restore, and you can start working on it right in your browser or download it to use an iWork app.

You can even restore deleted files from iCloud How to Restore Deleted iCloud Drive Files If you delete a file on your iCloud drive, how do you restore it? The answer depends on what device you're currently using! Read More ! If you aren’t saving your documents there yet, it’s a good habit to get into.

Microsoft Office: Recover Unsaved Documents

If Word, Excel, or PowerPoint crashes, or if your computer unexpectedly turns off, you might lose some changes that you’ve made to your documents. Office can sometimes help you recover How to Recover an Unsaved Microsoft Word Document in Seconds Did you lose a Microsoft Office document you were working on? Here's how to recover the unsaved draft and restore your work. Read More some of those changes.

The first step is to simply reopen the app you were using. In many cases, you’ll see the Document Recovery pane appear, and you can grab the last saved changes that Office was able to get:

document recovery

If this doesn’t happen, though, you’ll have to dig into the AutoRecover folders. Open Terminal, and type or paste the following command:

For Microsoft Office 2016:

  • Word:
    open Library/Containers/
  • Excel:
    open Library/Containers/
  • PowerPoint:
    open Library/Containers/

For Microsoft Office 2011:

  • open Library/Application\ Support/Microsoft/Office/Office\ 2011\ Autorecovery

For Microsoft Office 2008:

  • open
    /Documents/Microsoft\ User\ Data/Office\ 2008\ AutoRecovery/

That will bring you to the AutoRecovery folder, where you may be able to find some autosaved versions of your documents:

office autorecover file

Note that some files might be hidden. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to make hidden files visible Hide & Find Any File On Mac OS X There's no straightforward way to quickly hide or reveal hidden files on Mac OS X as there is on Windows – but it is possible. Read More . Just open up Finder and press Command + Shift + Period, and your hidden files will appear.

Microsoft Office: Recover Temporary Files

If the above doesn’t work, you can try to recover your document from temporary file storage. To start this process, fire up Terminal and enter the following command:

open $TMPDIR/TemporaryItems

There, you’ll see a number of files with nonsense names:

temporary file storage

Start opening those files until you find the one you’re looking for (or you run out of options). Because they’re TMP files, you won’t be able to open them with Office apps, so open them with a text editor The Best Mac Text Editors to Use in 2018 Need a new text editor for your Mac? Here are the best free and paid macOS text editors for plain text, coding, and everything in between. Read More . I’ve had the best luck with TextEdit.

Some Tips on Not Losing Files

With iWork, you have a really good chance of recovering files that you’ve saved over or lost due to a crash. Microsoft Office, however, makes it quite a bit more difficult. The first thing I’d recommend is to start using iWork and save your documents in iCloud.

If you insist on continuing with Microsoft Office, the first step to take is to make sure that your AutoRecovery options are set how you want them. This is a great feature of Office 10 Little-Known Microsoft Office Features You Should Know Sometimes the littlest of things make the biggest of differences. We uncover overlooked Microsoft Office features and show you how they could improve your workflow. Read More that many people aren’t aware of.

Go to File > Options > Save in Office 2016 (or Preferences > Save in Office 2011) and make sure that Office is saving an AutoRecover file every 5-10 minutes.

autorecover saved

It’s also a good idea to have Office create a backup copy of your documents. Go to File > Options > Advanced in Office 2016 (or Preferences > Save in Office 2011) and make sure that Always create backup copy is checked.

Now, you’ll see a backup copy of your document in the folder where you saved the original.

office backup copy

And, of course, we always recommend using good backup software that supports versioning. You should be backing up your computer anyway, and being able to roll back documents to a previous version is just a bonus.

In a worst-case scenario, you can turn to data recovery software to recover lost files Recover Lost Files on Windows and Mac With iBoysoft Data Recovery If you've accidentally deleted data or have a corrupted drive, iBoysoft can help you recover your files. Here's how it works. Read More .

Explore more about: Data Recovery, iWork, Microsoft Office Tips, Microsoft Word, Pages.

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  1. candicefrida
    May 23, 2018 at 9:30 am

    Here is another way to recover overwrite files on Mac

    YouTube ID: -0u1x0PlFQ0

  2. Stepa
    January 5, 2018 at 1:10 am

    Also, for how long are the versions kept?

  3. Stepa
    January 4, 2018 at 7:16 pm

    How often do iWork apps backup a document?

    • Stepa
      January 4, 2018 at 7:22 pm

      Or is it just every version I save and overwrite manually?