How to Turn on AutoSave in Excel

Plus, how to recover an unsaved Excel file

A frustrated man at his Mac laptop

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Losing power, or forgetting to save before you click away from your Excel spreadsheet, can be painful, especially when you've done some excellent 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 for Office 365, Excel 2019, 2016, 2013, and 2010.

AutoSave vs. AutoRecover

AutoSave automatically saves your files to your OneDrive and SharePoint account. You'll need to configure OneDrive or SharePoint, so they're correctly connected, and this is a feature available only in Office 365. This also allows you to "co-edit" documents with others.

AutoRecover temporarily keeps changes in a directory on your computer. Available since Office 2007, it does not automatically save your files. Instead, if your computer shuts off or Excel closes without saving, you have the option to recover your work. It saves this information on a set interval, usually 10 minutes, but it's only temporary. If you choose not to recover your data, it will delete the data, and you'll be back to square one.

Neither of these is a replacement for the Save command. Get in the habit of saving your work consistently, especially when you're about to close. It's essential to configure both AutoSave and AutoRecover if you have both options.

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, you'll find this menu in the same place.

  1. Open Excel and select File > Options.

    If you have Excel 2007, select the Office button, then select Options.

    An Excel File menu screen
  2. In the menu that opens, select Save on the left.

  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.

    Only enable this for password-protected files. Never share sensitive information such as Social Security numbers or financial data via a OneDrive or SharePoint file.

    Microsoft Excel Options, Save submenu
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  4. Select Save AutoRecover information and choose the interval at which you'd like to save it. 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 choose 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 don't want to use OneDrive or SharePoint to back up your files, you can also use third-party software such as Google Drive or Dropbox to regularly back up your data.

Before using these services, think carefully about potential security and space. If you're backing up confidential information, there's an inherent risk of a breach. If you're looking to save documents for work, 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.