How to Recover an Unsaved Excel File

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.

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AutoRecover restores files to their original location.
credit: Image courtesy Microsoft

Recover a Previously Saved Excel File

Step

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.

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Excel shows the Recovered area after a program crash.
credit: Image courtesy Microsoft
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Remember to save files regularly after restoring them.
credit: Image courtesy Microsoft

Step

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

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Use day and time stamps to identify your file.
credit: Image courtesy Microsoft

Step

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

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.

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Excel stores versions of unsaved files on your C drive.
credit: Image courtesy Microsoft
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Open the most recent version of your file.
credit: Image courtesy Microsoft

Step

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.

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Don't save the file to its current location; this is a temporary file.
credit: Image courtesy Microsoft

Step

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