How to Turn on AutoSave in Excel

Plus, how to recover an unsaved Excel file

A frustrated man at his Mac laptop

Westend61 / Getty Images 

Losing power, or forgetting to save before you click away from your Excel spreadsheet, can be painful, especially when you've done some great formula work. Fortunately, the Excel AutoSave function that maintains your work, so that if the power is lost, your work isn't.

Instructions in this article apply to Excel 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel 365.

AutoSave vs. AutoRecover

There are two different features in Excel, and Office more generally, that do slightly different things. AutoSave is self-explanatory; it automatically saves your files to your OneDrive and SharePoint account. You'll need to configure OneDrive or SharePoint so they're properly connected, and this is a feature available only in Office 365. This also allows you to “co-edit” documents with others.

AutoRecover, however, temporarily keeps your changes in a directory on your computer. It's been available on Microsoft Office since 2007, and, importantly, does not automatically save your files. Instead, if your computer shuts off or closes Excel without saving, it gives you the option to recover your work. It saves this information on a set interval, usually ten minutes, but it's only temporary. If you choose not to recover your data, it will delete the information and you'll be back to square one.

Neither of these is a replacement for the Save command, though, so get in the habit of saving your work consistently, especially when you're about to close the app. It's important to configure both AutoSave and AutoRecover, if you have both options, and you'll find them under the same menu.

How to Turn on AutoSave in Excel

Since 2010, Excel has made only minor changes to the AutoSave function. If you're using Excel 2010 or later, or even the current 365, you'll find this menu in the same place.

While the screenshots below show Excel 365, the process should be similar across versions.

  1. Open Excel and select File > Options.

    An Excel File menu screen

    If you have Excel 2007, select the Office button, then select Options. The steps will be the same from here.

  2. In the menu that opens, select Save on the left. This will take you to a tab with several options.

    The Excel Options pop-up
  3. If you have a OneDrive or SharePoint account, select AutoSave OneDrive and SharePoint Online files by default on Excel. This will save your work on OneDrive and SharePoint accounts in real time, preserving a backup if you lose your laptop.

    Microsoft Excel Options, Save submenu

    Only enable this for files you password protect, and never share sensitive information such as Social Security numbers or financial data via a OneDrive or SharePoint file.

  4. Select Save AutoRecover information and choose the interval you'd like it to be saved at. The default is 10 minutes, but you can set it lower or higher depending on your preferences.

  5. Select Keep the last AutoRecovered version if I close without saving to preserve your work if you lose power or accidentally close Excel.

  6. Make a note of where Excel will save these files. If you prefer a more accessible location, you can write it out here.

You may be unable to see your AutoRecover location in File Explorer, depending on whether or not you're logged in as an administrator and what your settings are for data recovery. You also may be unable to change the file path if you're not an administrator.

How to Recover an Excel File Using AutoRecover

To access the AutoRecover version of your Excel workbook, select File > Open, then scroll down to the Recover Unsaved Workbooks section and select your file.

What If My Version of Excel Doesn't Have AutoSave?

If you don't have an AutoSave option in your version of Excel, or you simply don't want to use OneDrive or SharePoint to back up your files, you can also use third-party software like to Google Drive or Dropbox to regularly back up your files.

However, before using these services, you should think carefully about potential security and space. If you're backing up confidential information, there's a potential risk of a breach. If you're looking simply to save documents for work, you should consult your workplace's IT department, if available, for solutions they've vetted.

Additionally, any backup service will have a limited amount of space, and you'll probably want to use it to backup other files as well. More room is available, but you'll have to subscribe to it. Look at your needs carefully before signing on to any backup service.