How to Recover an Unsaved Excel File

By Carol Finch

Closing a program without saving happens to everybody at some point. Programs and computers crash, you sometimes simply forget to save your work, or you accidentally overwrite a file. Although this may seem like the end of the world, it's not necessarily the end of your workbook. If Excel 2013 crashed, you may see a document recovery option when you restart the program, allowing you to save the file. If this doesn't work, Excel has a couple of other solutions. AutoRecover helps restore files you've saved in the past; AutoSave works with files you've never saved.

Recover a Previously Saved Excel File

Step 1

Check your recovery options in Excel's Start screen. If Excel crashed, you may see a Recovered area. If you do, select **Show Recovered Files** to open the Document Recovery pane in a new workbook. Find your file in the pane and open it. If you don't see this option, select the file from the **Recent** area.

Step 2

Check your workbook to see if it contains your most recent work. If so, select **Restore** and **OK**.

Step 3

If your workbook isn't up-to-date, open the **File** tab and go to **Info**. Look in the Versions area for a file description ending with the words *when I closed without saving*. Select the file to open the workbook. Check the file to make sure it contains your recent changes. Select **Restore** on the Recovery message and **OK** on the overwrite confirmation message.

Recover an Unsaved Excel File

Step 1

Select **Open Other Workbooks** on the Excel Start screen. Scroll down the next screen and select the **Recover Unsaved Workbooks** button to open the temporary file location where Excel stores unsaved files.

Step 2

Select your workbook from the list. Use the date-modified data to identify the file, as Excel doesn't give it an easily identifiable name. Select **Open**.

Step 3

Check you've opened the correct workbook containing recent data. Select **Save As** and save the file to your computer.

Tips & Warnings

  • Change the AutoSave schedule if you want Excel to automatically save files more frequently than the default time of every 10 minutes. Open the "File" tab and then "Options." Go to "Save," change the time in the "Save AutoRecover Information" box and select "OK." Keep in mind that Office programs may slow down if you reduce the default time.
  • The AutoRecover tool gives you access to previous versions of a workbook in "Manage Versions" on the Info tab. This may be useful if you make mistakes or save over data and want to roll back to an earlier version of the file.
  • Get in the habit of saving workbooks manually after you've made important changes, rather than just relying on AutoSave. You can use the "Ctrl-S" keyboard command to save as well as the "Save" button.
  • If you've accidentally deleted an Excel workbook, try restoring it from the Recycle Bin.
  • There's no guarantee that recovered files contain all your recent work. Excel can restore only from an autosave point. Data added after an autosave and before the next is lost.
  • If you disable AutoRecover and AutoSave, you can't recover files.