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5+ Easy Ways To Recover Unsaved Or Deleted Word Documents

September 14, 2022
Inkit Team

There’s nothing worse than losing a document you were writing and knowing you can’t recover it. 

If you frequently work with Word documents, you probably know how painful it can be to lose your work halfway through. Even if auto-save is turned on in the program, sometimes things go wrong and you’re stuck with an empty Word file. Or, sometimes the power might go out, leading to a system crash in Word…

Fortunately, it IS possible to recover an unsaved Word Document. 

No matter if you’re using Word 2019, Word 2016, Word 2013, if you’re on Mac, or some other option. In addition, if you accidentally delete a Word document, you can restore the document from the Recycle Bin or with the help of data recovery programs.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Can I Restore Unsaved Or Deleted Word Documents?
  • How To Turn On AutoRecovery In MS Word To Recover Unsaved Files Every 5 Minutes
  • 3 Ways To Recover Unsaved Word Documents On A Mac
  • 3 Easy Ways To Recover Unsaved Or Deleted Word Documents On Windows 
  • How To Recover Text From A Damaged File In MS Word
  • 5 Tips To Avoid Losing Important Word Files And Documents

Can I Restore Unsaved Or Deleted Word Documents?

Various reasons why you might need to recover a Word document include: 

  • Unintentionally deleting documents from your hard disk.
  • The application crashes while you are dealing with a document.
  • An injury to your hard drive or storage device that causes files to be corrupted or lost.
  • Data loss caused by a virus or malware.

The short answer is that regardless if you use Windows or Mac, there are steps you can take to recover your unsaved Word files.

Below, we’ll cover all methods.

But first things first, you should make sure your Auto Recovery is turned on in MS Word. 

Here’s how.

How To Turn On AutoRecovery In MS Word To Recover Unsaved Files Every 5 Minutes

Microsoft Word for Mac includes an AutoRecovery feature that can assist you in recovering unsaved Word files. 

When you install the application, this option is enabled by default, and it saves a copy of open documents every 10 minutes.

Though, if you want to double-check that Auto Recovery is turned on for your Word document, you can do so here:

  1. Go to File.
  2. Click Options.
  3. Click the Save tab icon.
  4. If unchecked, click AutoRecover info and add a value next to "minutes". For example, if you want to save your work every 5 minutes.
  5. Click OK to save the changes.
save autorecover information every x amount of minutes option

Note: The same exact steps above work on a Windows machine as well.

If you want, you can change this setting to have the app save at a shorter or longer time interval. If the application or your computer crashes while you're working on a Word document, you can restore it to the state it was in before the last automatic save.

Now, let’s take a look at some other ways to recover unsaved Word files. Starting with Mac.

3 Ways To Recover Unsaved Word Documents On A Mac

Using Mac?

Even if you have the Auto Recovery option turned on, here’s how you can find the file manually.

Step 1: Launch the Finder application on your Mac.

Step 2: Assign the location to the entire computer.

That will be searched, and in the Search field, type 'AutoRecovery.' A list of files will be displayed to you. It starts with 'AutoRecovery save of' and then the name of the Word document you're attempting to recover.

search autorecovered versions page on ios

Step 3: Double-click the file that needs to be recovered. The file will be opened in Microsoft Word as a result of this.

Step 4: Go to the File menu and select Save As. Choose a new name for the document and a location for it to be saved, then click the Save button.

files tab on word's ios version, click save as

The other option is to recover your deleted MS Word files from the trash bin.

There is no way to automatically recover a lost or deleted file once you have exited Microsoft Word and saved your document. 

If you accidentally delete some files or experience data loss as a result of a faulty disc, there are 3 different methods that may allow you to recover your files.

Method #1. Recover deleted Word documents from the Trash Bin

Deleted files from the folder will no longer be visible in that location. They will not be completely removed from your Mac until you empty the Trash.

  1. Click the Trash folder icon in the lower-left corner of your Mac's screen to open it.
trash bin's location on the finder dock bar
  1. Right-click on the file name and select “Put Back”. This will return the file to its original location.

Method #2. Recover deleted Word documents with Time Machine

It is recommended to regularly back up the data of your Mac. 

You can use your backup to recover lost Word documents as long as it was created before the file was deleted. 

You will need to use the backup media and the program, possibly Time Machine, that you use to back up your computer.

Use the following steps to recover a lost Word file from a Time Machine backup.

  1. Connect the storage device that contains the backup files created by Time Machine to your computer.
  2. Open a Finder window in the folder that previously stored the lost Word file.
  3. Launch Time Machine by clicking the Time Machine icon on the menu bar.
Mac's time machine icon
  1. Search through the snapshots and backups with the timeline and arrows to find the Word doc you want to restore.
  2. Highlight the file you want to recover and click the Restore button. The doc will be restored to its original location.
restore documents from the timeline of the time machine app

Method #3. Recover lost Word docs from the Mac temporary folder

If your Mac system crashed or your MS Word program closed unexpectedly, probably the first place you should check is your Mac temporary folder.

Here’s how:

  1. Open Terminal.
  2. Typecd $TMPDIR
  3. Type “ls” to display the files. Look in the Temporary Items subfolder for your document.
  4. Search for the lost file. If you find the Word doc you are looking for, recover it by saving a copy to a new storage location
temporary items folder in ios

Method #3. Restore a previous version of a Word file from within the Word app

One way to restore a previous version of your Word file on a Mac from within the app is through OneDrive.

Use these steps to perform the recovery :

  1. Open the most recent version of the Word file you want to recover.
  2. In Word go to File > Browse Version History.
browse version history button in the file tab for the word app in ios
  1. You will see a panel displayed that shows all previously saved versions of the file.
  2. Select the previous version you wish to recover and choose Restore to complete the process.
restore button on the windows app

Another option to restore your Word doc is through the Auto Recovery method.

If Word crashes you have not saved the file and AutoRecovery is turned on, simply use these steps to recover the file:

  1. Restart the Word application.
  2. The app will automatically retrieve and display the saved document.
recovered document

Now, let’s take a look at how to recover your Word documents if you’re using Windows.

3 Easy Ways To Recover Unsaved Or Deleted Word Documents On Windows 

If you’re using Windows, there are also a few different types of recovery troubleshooting you can do to save your documents.

Let’s take a look at a few different methods, using MS Word features, recovering it from the recycle bin, and through OneDrive.

Here’s what you need to know.

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How to restore unsaved Word documents on Windows

Note: This will work regardless if you’re using Windows 7, 10, 11, or some other version.

Recovery of a Word document that was not saved can be done using built-in Windows tools. 

 So, to recover your Word document, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Within Microsoft Word, go to File / Manage Document and click on the File tab.
  2. Now select “Document Management”, then “Recover Unsaved Documents”. 
  3. In the new window, you will see a list of all unsaved Word documents. Select the documents you are interested in and click Open.
word's info tab, manage versions
  1. Word will now open the Unsaved Files folder located within the root Office program folder. If your unsaved document is listed, double-click it.
unsaved files folder on windows
  1. Your document is now available; save it in order to avoid a similar situation in the future. To do this, click on the "Save As" tab and select a place to save.

Let’s take a look at another way to recover your Word files.

How to recover deleted Word documents from the Recycle Bin on Windows

Another effective method that can help restore the Word doc files you’ve deleted accidentally or purposefully is from the Recycle Bin

This folder stores your files temporarily, and you can recover your recently lost files using this method without a lot of effort.

Let’s look at the Word file recovery process from the Recycle Bin:

  1. Click on the Recycle Bin icon on the desktop.
  2. Once you’ve opened the folder, find the file you want to recover. If you can’t find it by name, search for DOC, DOCX, and DOT extension files.
  3. Now, select your file and right-click on it. Use the Restore option to send the file back to its original location.


How to recover deleted Word documents from OneDrive on Windows

If you’re using OneDrive, you probably know that Word allows you to save your documents on the cloud for some time now.

Naturally, you must be a OneDrive user to use this option. OneDrive is Microsoft's file hosting and synchronization service.

You will then be given the option to save files to your OneDrive account rather than locally on your computer. When you save a file to OneDrive, you can enable the AutoSave feature by clicking a button in the top-left corner of the main Word window to save your documents automatically every few seconds as you work.

Note: Because OneDrive has its own Recycle Bin, it can assist you in recovering documents that were deleted inadvertently using the Shift + Delete shortcut.

  1. Go to OneDrive and sign in.
sign in page on microsoft
  1. Select Recycle bin in the navigation panel.
  2. Select the Word document you want to recover and click the Restore button.
steps to restore document one drive

How To Recover Text From A Damaged File In MS Word

Finally, one last option to recover your lost files is to attempt to fix them with MS Word.

You can attempt to force Word to try to repair a damaged file. Use the following steps to try this recovery method.

  1. In Word, click File > Open.
  2. Select the damaged file from the dialog box.
  3. Click the arrow on the Open button to display the submenu.
  4. Click Repair or Recover Text option.
steps to repairing a damage document on ios

Note: This is not always guaranteed to work. But it might be worth a shot if you’ve exhausted all other options.

5 Tips To Avoid Losing Important Word Files And Documents

Last but not least, before we wrap up, we’ll impart you with some final advice.

Prevention is better than cure.

So, below, here are some pointers to help you avoid losing important Word documents and files.

If the files contain important data and are valuable to you, we recommend that you take the necessary precautions to protect them from accidental loss.

  1. Before manually emptying the Trash, take a moment to review the files you are about to delete. It's very likely that you can easily recover a mistakenly deleted file from the Trash at this point, rather than using data recovery software after the Trash has been emptied.
  2. Install anti-virus software – Infections with malware and viruses can result in data loss. Use a reputable antivirus program and keep it up to date at all times, following the best data security standards.
  3. Consider getting a surge protector – Power spikes and surges can cause unexpected system crashes and data loss. Using a dependable surge protector can assist in removing the source of lost Word documents.
  4. Activate AutoRecovery – This Microsoft document contains all of the information you need to know about this feature. You should enable it and use it to automatically safeguard your Word documents.
  5. Keep diversified backups – To avoid total data loss, it is critical to keep multiple backups of your Word files. We recommend that you save your document at regular intervals and create backups on multiple devices. You can save your files on external drives, cloud storage solutions, and so on to avoid significant data loss.


Sometimes, unexpected crashes or system errors happen and there’s nothing you can do to recover your Word files.

While you must take precautions to protect your files, data loss is frequently unforeseeable and unpredictable. In such cases, if you end up losing your files, you can choose from a variety of data recovery methods we covered above.

Though, one other simple solution is to move your documents to the cloud. Where, even if your system shuts down suddenly, you’ll still be able to recover or continue using your files.

The solutions mentioned in this article are quite dependable, safe, and easy to use. To recover your lost or deleted word file for free, simply follow a few simple steps.

Finally, if you’re working with a lot of sensitive documents, you should consider investing in a document management system.

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