Recover an Unsaved Word Document

Did you forget to save that document? Try these tips to retrieve it

Woman biting pencil looking at computer stressed

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While there's no guaranteed way to recover an unsaved Word document, there are several steps you can take to possibly salvage at least part of the file you so desperately need

Instructions in this article apply to Word 2019, Word 2016, Word 2013, Word Online, Word for Mac, and Word for Office 365.

Recovering a Document in Word 2016 and Word 2013 

For both Word 2016 and Word 2013, you have a few methods that may result in the recovery of your Word document. Each method can be executed quickly, enabling you to search for multiple files easily.

Using Word's Recover Unsaved Documents Feature

  1. Start Word.

  2. Go to the File tab and select Manage Document.

  3. Select the Manage Document button.

    Manage Document in Word
    Tricia Goss
  4. Choose Recover Unsaved Documents from the drop-down list. The Open dialog box appears, showing you a list of unsaved Word documents that you can recover.

  5. Select the Word document you want to recover, then select Open. Save the recovered document right away.

If that doesn't recover your missing Word file, continue attempting to find and save it.

Using Word to Find a Backup

  1. Go to the File menu and select Open.

  2. Select Browse.

  3. Open the location where you saved any version of the document.

  4. Look for a file with the name "Backup of" followed by the name of the missing file or search for files with the extension ".wbk." 

  5. Open any potential backup files you find.

Using Windows Explorer

Press Win+E to open Windows Explorer if you are unable to locate the file.

Open the following locations in Windows Explorer: 

  • C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Word
  • C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Temp
  • C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Word

Look for any recovered or temp files that might be your lost Word document.

You can also perform a search on your computer for .wbk files, which are backup versions of Microsoft Word documents:

Go to the Start menu, then use the search box to search for ".wbk" files. Open any .wbk files that appear to determine which is the missing Word doc you need.

Prevent Future Disasters With AutoSave and AutoRecover

To save yourself the stress, worry, and time of trying to recover an unsaved Word document in the future, take steps now to keep it from happening again.

AutoSave in Word
Tricia Goss

If you have an Office 365 subscription, use AutoSave to save changes to documents in real time. AutoSave is enabled whenever a file is saved to OneDrive or SharePoint. Every few seconds, Word automatically saves any changes to the cloud.

To make sure AutoSave is enabled, look for the AutoSave toggle button in the upper-left corner of your Microsoft Word window.

If you are not an Office 365 subscriber, you can enable AutoRecover to automatically save changes to a file in increments of time that you determine:

  1. Go to the File tab and select Options

  2. Select Save in the left pane of the Word Options box. 

  3. Select the Save AutoRecover Information Every X Minutes checkbox and enter a number in the Minutes box, such as 5 or 10.

  4. Select the Keep the Last AutoRecovered Version if I Close Without Saving checkbox as well. This will allow you to recover the most recently AutoRecovered version, which might not be the complete Word document but will likely be better than no document at all.

  5. You can also change the location of where your AutoRecover files are saved if you'd like them kept in another folder. Select the Browse button next to AutoRecover File Location and navigate to the place on your computer where you would like to save them.

  6. Select OK to save any changes you make in Word Options.

Recover a Document in Word Online

If you create documents using Word Online, you're in luck. There's no Save button because any changes you make to a document are automatically saved.

Recover a Document in Word for Mac

By default, AutoRecover is enabled in Word for Mac. If your computer shuts down unexpectedly before you saved a Word document, you'll be prompted to open the recovered file. Otherwise, you can look for the file in the AutoRecover folder.

In Word for Mac 2016, you will first need to show hidden files. After that feature is activated, you can search for the lost document.

Open Finder, click the Home icon in the left column, then open Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Word/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery. Any documents saved by the AutoRecover feature will be listed here.