How to Recover a Lost Microsoft Word Document

If you use Microsoft Word, chances are you are well-versed in hitting the Save icon every few minutes. However, no matter how disciplined you are, there’s always the chance of losing work. Whether the culprit is a power outage, software crash, or just plain absent-mindedness, keep calm. There are a number of different ways to recover a lost Microsoft Word document.

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The 2013 and 2016 versions of Microsoft Word have a built-in feature designed to recover unsaved documents. Fire up Word, click on the “File” tab and select “Manage Document.” This will bring you to the Info panel. Here, you’ll want to click on the button labeled “Manage Document” to produce a dropdown list with a couple of options. Select “Recover Unsaved Documents” to open a new window showing you a list of unsaved Word documents. If the one you’re looking for is listed, go ahead and open it. Once the document is open, don’t forget to save it.

If you’re using an older version of Microsoft Word, you can use the program to search for backups of your lost document.

1. To begin, open Word and click on the File tab (if using Word 2010), or the Office Start Button (if using Word 2007).

2. From here, select “Open.” This will open a Windows Explorer window. Select the location where you last saved the document in question. For most people that place is going to be “My Documents.”

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3. Next to the “File Name” text box you’ll see a dropdown list of file types. By default, “All Word Documents” is selected. Instead, choose “All file types.” Backup files have the name “Backup of (name of document).”

4. Locate the one that fits the bill, open it and save it properly.

If the methods outlined above don’t work, you’re going to have to resort to more extreme methods to recover your document. In this case you’ll have to resort to combing though temporary files to recover your lost data. Temporary files are files that are made to temporarily contain information while a new file is being created. If you have lost your entire Word document or even just a portion of it, there is a chance that the lost information might be salvageable from a temporary file. Temporary files end with the file extension “.tmp”.

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To find these files, begin by clicking on the Start button. Note that Windows 10 users can simply start typing in the search box embedded in the task bar. In the search box, type “.tmp” and press Enter. However, if you are using Windows 10, you’ll need to type “%temp%.”

This will open a window that lists all of the results. Scroll through and look for files that share the same dates and times that you edited your document. Alternatively, some temporary files start with the tilde (˜) character. To find these files, follow the steps outlined above, substituting “.tmp” for “˜”.

If you find a temporary file that you suspect might have what you’re looking for but can’t seem to open it, you may be dealing with a damaged file. Fortunately, this isn’t the end of the world. Microsoft has detailed documentation on how to deal with damaged files and how to recover information from them.

To save yourself the hassle of sifting through temporary files, you can configure Word to make sure you don’t lose any unsaved work. To do so, open Microsoft Word, click on the “File” tab and select “Options.” If you have Word 2007, click on the Office Start button, and click on the button labeled “Word Options.”

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In the new window that opens, click on “Save” in the column on the left. You will see an option labelled “Save AutoRecover information every ** minutes.” First and foremost, make sure that this option is enabled by checking the box next to it.

Next, you want to set the frequency that Word saves a backup “AutoRecover” copy of your document. The default is every ten minutes; however, you can set it to whatever you feel comfortable with. Furthermore, you can also change where your AutoRecover backup files are stored so they’re more easily accessible.

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If you have an Office365 subscription, you’ll want to configure the AutoSave feature. Luckily, enabling it is super easy. Just look for the AutoSave toggle in the upper-left corner of the Microsoft Word window and make sure it’s on. AutoSave will then save any modifications to your document in real time.

However, be aware that the AutoSave feature will only work if your file is saved to OneDrive or the collaborative platform SharePoint. Finally, if you use Word Online you don’t need to do anything. All of the changes you make are automatically saved.

Have you ever lost a Microsoft Word document? Were you able to recover it? If so, how did you do it? Let us know in the comments!

2 comments

  1. “Note that Windows 10 users can simply start typing in the search box embedded in the task bar. In the search box, type “.tmp” and press Enter. However, if you are using Windows 10, you’ll need to type “%temp%.””

    One of these things is clearly wrong. How about correcting this to include Win8/7?

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