How to Recover a Saved-Over Word Document

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There are many ways you can lose a Word document, but one of the most irritating has to be by saving a new document over an older one.
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There are many ways you can lose a Word document, but one of the most irritating has to be by saving a new document over an older one. When you accidentally save over a Word document, the situation may not be hopeless. Microsoft provides a couple of workarounds for this situation and other cases of lost documents.


Restore Saved Over Content With Undo

If you open an existing file in Word with the intention of modifying it to create a new file, but you forget to save it with a new name before editing, the Undo command may be able to restore the original file contents. This method only works if the file is still open. First, select the current contents of the file and copy them to a new file. Save this file with a new file name.

In the original file, use Ctrl+Z to undo up to 20 of your most recent changes. If this restores all of your original content, use Save As to save the file with the original file name. If you made more than 20 changes and are unable to restore all your content, you may still be able to find a backup copy of your file.


Recover Backup Copy of Word Document

Word is able to create backup copies of documents automatically as you edit them. This feature must be enabled because it's turned off by default. You turn it on by going to Options on the File tab and selecting Advanced. Scroll to the Save area and toggle on Always create backup. Once this feature is enabled, a special file is created in the same folder as the original file, with the name "Backup of…" followed by the name of the original file.

For example, a Word document named "Schedule" will have a backup file named "Backup of Schedule." When you open the backup file, you'll see the previous version of the current file.


Use AutoRecover to Restore Word Files

The AutoRecover feature makes sure your work isn't lost if you close Word without saving a file, or your computer shuts down unexpectedly while you're working. You may be able to restore a file that has been lost by locating the correct AutoRecover file. First, make sure AutoRecover is enabled by selecting Options on the File tab and then selecting Save in the Word Options dialog. The toggle next to Save AutoRecover information should be checked. In the dialog, you can see the location where AutoRecover files are saved. You can modify the location if you want the files to be saved somewhere else.


To restore a file saved by AutoRecover, go to Info on the File tab. Under Versions, you'll see a list of recently saved versions of the file. Double-clicking on one of the saved versions opens the file in a new window. You can review the version and click the Restore button if you decide to restore the file or close the window if you don't want to restore it.

Recover Previous Version of Excel File

The Excel application doesn't have an automatic Backup feature like the one in Word. However, Excel supports AutoRecover, so you may be able to recover an overwritten Excel file by searching for it under Versions on the Info panel. Use the same method described for Word to view and restore an earlier version of an Excel file.