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The Best Way to Recover Excel File Not Saved (Step-By-Step)

Are you looking for a way to recover unsaved Excel files?

It happens to people all the time.

Maybe a system crash or you forgot and close the window without saving. Or maybe the power went out and your hours of unsaved work are lost.

This is when regrets start kicking, making you realize that it is always a good practice to save your data early and often. Sometimes things fall apart so quickly and before you even had the chance to back up.

The good news is that Excel has an invaluable safety net called the AutoRecover /Recover Unsaved WorkBooks

Excel uses these features to periodically save backup copies of your spreadsheet as you work.

For any reason, if you encounter a problem with an unsaved Excel file on the line, you can retrieve the last backup even if you never save the file yourself.

The trick is that Excel automatically saves your data every 10 minutes as you work. As a result, the AutoRecover backup won’t contain every information you entered before the problem occurred. You’ll lose 10 minutes or less worth of work.

If any of the above problems do occur, and there were unsaved Excel files, you can easily retrieve any unsaved workbook or the last AutoRecover backup of these files.

Below shows you how to recover unsaved Excel files.

Option 1: Use AutoRecover

If the file you want to recover has been saved before, you can use the AutoSave version to get the file back.

If you mistakenly close an already saved workbook without saving recent changes, or even a new workbook that has never been saved, an AutoSave version of that file is kept until your next editing session.

The next time you open Excel after it has been shut unintentionally, it automatically checks the backup folder and if it finds a backup, it adds a link named Show Recovered Files to the Excel’s welcome page.

When you click the link, you will see a panel named Document Recovery to the left side of the Excel window.

See screenshot:

This Document Recovery pane allows you to either save or open an AutoRecover backup just as in an ordinary Excel file.

Thus, to recover a file in the list, simply click on it or click on the arrow attached to it to either save or open the file.

See screenshot:

Option 2 – Recover Unsaved WorkBooks

This option is used to recover Excel files that have never been saved at all (i.e. it is still called Book1 or something like that).

Follow the steps below to recover unsaved Excel workbooks.

  • Launch Excel. The Excel’s welcome page appears.
  • Choose Open Other Workbooks at the bottom in the left panel.
  • In the center panel, at the bottom of the recent file list, click Recover Unsaved Workbooks.

At this point, Excel shows you all the unsaved workbooks in a folder called UnsavedFiles.

  • Select a file and choose Open. If it is the wrong file you’ve opened, go back to the folder and scroll down to the list.
  • After you find the right file, click the Save As button to save the workbook.

Pro-Tip: Unsaved workbooks are saved for up to four days before they’re automatically deleted. Thus, if you fail to save a workbook for the past 5 or more days, just consider it gone forever.

Marie Miaskowski

Friday 29th of July 2022

I am confused as to what I did. i started an Excel spread sheet without a name to it. I then sent it to my desktop with the name desktop. How do I find this? I have searched everything and cannot find anything that says "Desktop" or the date I sent it, in my Desktop, or Documents. I am 82 yrs old and not that good at using a computer. Can you help me?

Abarika Abdulai

Saturday 30th of July 2022

Hello there; since you said you had saved it, simply open up your Excel and navigate to the recently opened workbooks; you should see it there. I hope it helps.