How to Recover and Restore an Unsaved Microsoft Excel File

Losing work on an important Excel file can be incredibly frustrating. Fortunately, Excel offers several useful features to help recover unsaved workbooks in many situations. This guide will walk you through the steps to rescue your work and avoid data loss.

Why Files Don’t Save

There are a few common reasons an Excel file may unexpectedly close without saving:

  • A power outage or computer crash
  • Accidentally closing the file
  • A glitch causing the program to freeze or shut down

If AutoSave is not enabled, all unsaved changes will be lost when this occurs.

Enable AutoSave and AutoRecover

Excel can automatically save backups of open workbooks to prevent data loss from crashes or errors. Here’s how to configure these options:


  1. Go to File > Options > Save
  2. Check the box for Save AutoRecover information every:
  3. Set to save every 5-10 minutes for best recovery


  1. Go to File > Options > Save
  2. Check the box for Keep the last autosaved version if I close without saving

With these enabled, Excel will auto-save open files periodically and retain those copies if closed improperly.

Recover Unsaved Files

If an Excel file closes without saving, there are still ways to retrieve your work:

Reopen the File

If AutoRecover is enabled, Excel will often automatically display recovery options when reopening the file:

  • Document Recovery Task Pane: Lists any recovered versions from crashes
  • Backup File: A copy of the last AutoSaved version, if you closed without saving

Manually Restore Versions

If automatic recovery options don’t appear, you can still access unsaved versions manually:

  1. Reopen Excel and the original file
  2. Go to File > Info > Manage Versions
  3. Choose Recover Unsaved Workbooks or a previous AutoSaved version

Search Temp Files

Excel stores temporary versions of open workbooks as temp files, even if never saved.

To manually search for temp files:

  1. Open File Explorer
  2. Navigate to: C:\Users$$Username]\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\UnsavedFiles
  3. Search for files modified around time of loss
  4. Open in Excel, then Save As a new file

Save Early, Save Often

While Excel offers ways to recover data after a crash, there are also easy ways to avoid losing work in the first place:

  • Save new workbooks immediately: Don’t risk losing files before the first save
  • Save frequently: Manual saves take seconds and should be done every 5-15 minutes
  • Enable AutoSave/AutoRecover: This provides an extra safety net against lost files

Following these simple practices will help ensure you don’t lose important Excel work. Auto-saving is a helpful last resort, but regular manual saving is still the best way to protect against data loss.