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5 Tips for Recovering an Unsaved Word Document

Jun 16 2023

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3.5 min

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General Technology

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MS Word


Read time

3.5 min


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Ever had your computer crash while you were working on a Word document? Or you accidentally closed your document? We get it, we’ve all been there! 

Despite the panic you may feel at losing hours' worth of work, there are ways you can recover your document.

Our handy guide offers five tips for recovering unsaved Word documents on your desktop. 

How to recover a Word document

MS Office makes it easy to recover unsaved word documents after you’ve shut down or restarted your computer.

1. Click on the File menu. You’ll see a list of recent documents as well as documents options, such as Save as, Export, Print etc. If you don’t see that list, click on the Recent button.

Recover Unsaved Documents option in MS Word

2. Click on Recover Unsaved Documents. You’ll see a list of recent unsaved documents.

3. Click on the document you need.

4. Save the document to your computer.

Customize AutoRecover options

AutoRecover files aren’t your documents – they're files with information about your documents. These will appear only when Microsoft Word closes unexpectedly on a document that was already saved.

Customizing AutoRecover settings will help recover as much of your document as possible. The only content you may lose pertains to changes made after the last AutoRecover operation. Depending on how important the document is, set the frequency of saving accordingly. We’ll cover this below.

To set up AutoRecover, go to File tab > Options > Save. In the Save section, customize how you want AutoRecover to behave.

AutoRecover settings in MS Word

Customize your Autosave settings

By default, MS Word files are saved automatically every 10 minutes. You can change the frequency – for example, to every 5 minutes. Enable the option Save AutoRecover information every to recover unsaved documents.

This setting is available in the same window above the AutoRecover file location. Just remember that when you’re working with a document that hasn’t been saved first, you’ll get an AutoRecover file instead.

Search for Temporary files in MS Word

Did you know that Microsoft Word generates temporary files, too? Temporary files have a .tmp extension and are created to free up memory or avoid losing data. They exist only during the current session and are deleted when Word is shut down in a normal fashion.

If your document was closed without being saved, it was saved automatically as a temporary file, which means you can recover word document files and then save them as regular files.

You can use the search box and type the extension name to list all temporary files. 

Enable the Backup option in Word

Another failsafe you can use for MS Word are backup files. These files are a backup of your Word document and are a copy of your file with a .wbk extension.

MS Word saves backup files only if the option is enabled. The option should be enabled by default, but verify or enable it as required: 

1. Go to File > Options > Advanced.

2. Click on the Always create backup copy option to enable it.

3. Click on OK to save the setting.

Accessing the backup copy saving option in MS Word

There are two ways to search for backup files:

  • Using the Windows search box. In the search box, type the extension and Windows will find all the files on your computer with that extension.
  • Use Microsoft Word to search for all files. In MS Word, search the file list for the .wbk extension. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the list, click on More documents at the bottom to search further.

Let Xodo help safeguard your files

The above tips can help you recover unsaved word document content and reduce the number of lost revisions caused by unexpected crashes.

If you regularly need to update and edit Word documents, you can easily do it without MS Word using our free online DOCX Editor.

Xodo is a convenient way to bridge the gap between your PDF and document editing tasks and has more than 30 online tools and features to keep your workflow going. Expand your document workflow instantly!

Explore All Xodo Tools
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Reena Cruz

PDF Productivity Expert

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