How to Recover Deleted Word Files

By Alexis Lawrence

If Microsoft Word closes suddenly while you have an unsaved document open, you can generally recover a good portion of the document through Microsoft’s AutoRecover feature. AutoRecover is built-in and automatic, and continuously saves document changes in case of program failure. If you accidentally close your document without saving, or if you delete a saved Word file from your computer by accident, you still may be able to recover the file--though recovery is less certain.

AutoRecover in Word

Step 1

Open Word again as soon as you can. If your computer restarted for some reason, you must wait until the computer finishes loading Windows before you can open Word. Once Windows is loaded, open Word by going to “Start>All Programs,” selecting the “Microsoft Office” folder, then selecting “Microsoft Office Word.”

Step 2

Scroll through the Word documents that were recovered by the Microsoft AutoRecover feature. The recovered documents appear in a pane on the left side of the Word window. Click any file in the pane to open it.

Step 3

Save the recovered Word file to prevent further losses. To save, go to “File” and click “Save.” Choose the folder where you want to save the file, type a name for the file, and click the “Save” button.

Search for the Document

Step 1

Click “Start” to display the start menu. Type in the name of the file you mistakenly deleted or--if you didn't have a chance to name it--type “Document” into the search box, because an unsaved Word file is always named “Document” followed by a number. Press “Enter” on your keyboard to search your computer’s hard drive. If the file appears in the list, click the file name to open it.

Step 2

If you don't find your file following Step 1, look at the temporary files saved to your hard drive. To view them, click “Start” to open the start menu and enter “*.tmp” into the search box. Press “Enter” to show all temporary files stored on your computer, and if the file appears in the list, click the file name to open it in Word.

Step 3

Check the “AutoRecover” folder to make sure the file didn’t recover automatically and just fail to appear in the list of recovered files in Word. Click the orb with the Microsoft Office symbol in the top left-hand corner in Microsoft Word, choose “Word Options” and click on “Save” to view the “AutoRecover File Location.” Go to “Start>My Computer,” and locate the folder on the hard drive listed as the “AutoRecover File Location.” Search for the file in the AutoRecover folder.

Tips & Warnings

  • The search instructions provided are for Windows Vista and Windows 7.