How to recover unsaved Excel file or restore its previous version

Do you want to protect your workbooks from unexpected computer crashes or power failures? This article explains how to recover unsaved files and restore previous versions of your workbook in Excel 2010 - 365. You'll also learn different ways of file backup on your PC or in the cloud.

Just imagine that you have been working on a very important document in Excel for some hours, creating a very complicated graph, and then… oops! Excel crashed, the power went out or you accidentally closed a file without saving. That is frustrating, but don't be so cut up about it - you can easily recover your unsaved document.

What is the worst that could be? While working on a workbook you found out that you made a mistake about an hour ago, you already made a lot of changes since that time and undo is not an option. If you want to know how to retrieve an overwritten Excel file, go ahead and read this article.

Excel AutoSave and AutoRecover

Excel provides us with such good features as AutoSave and AutoRecover. If they are enabled, it won't be a problem for you to recover unsaved files and restore previous versions. But these two features are often misunderstood, so at first let's define what they mean.

Excel AutoSave is a tool that automatically saves a new document that you've just created, but haven't saved yet. It helps you not to lose important data in case of a computer crash or power failure.

Excel AutoRecover helps you retrieve unsaved files after an accidental closure or crash. It allows you to restore to the last saved version which displays in the Document Recovery pane when you start Excel next time.
Use the Document Recovery pane to restore to the last saved version of the document after an accidental closure

Note. The AutoRecover feature only works on Excel workbooks that have been saved at least once. If you never save a document before a computer crash, the Document Recovery pane won't show up in Excel.

Luckily, the options to auto save and auto recover files are turned on in Excel by default. If you are not sure, you can easily check them up.

How to configure the AutoSave (AutoRecover) settings in Excel:

  1. Go to the FILE tab and choose Options from the FILE menu
  2. Click Save on the left-hand pane of the Excel Options dialog.
  3. Make sure that both Save AutoRecover information every X minutes and Keep the last autosaved version if I close without saving are checked.
    Go to the Save tab in the Excel Options dialog to configure the AutoSave / AutoRecover settings
  4. Click OK.

    By default the AutoRecover feature is set to automatically save changes to your workbook every 10 minutes. You can shorten or lengthen this interval as you like. Here you can also change Excel AutoRecover file location and specify AutoRecover exceptions.

    Tip. If you want to be more secure in case of a crash or electricity failure, you should lower the time interval for saving information. The more frequently the document is saved, the more versions you have, the more chances to get all the changes back.

Now when Excel is configured to auto save and auto recover your documents, you will easily restore a file when something goes wrong. Further in this article you'll find out how to recover new files that you've just created and the ones that you've already saved.

How to recover unsaved Excel files

Suppose you are working on a new document in Excel and the program locks up unexpectedly. In a few seconds you realize that you didn't save the workbook. Don't panic and discover below how to recover an unsaved file.

  1. Go to FILE -> Open.
  2. Choose Recent Workbooks.
    Go to Open - > Recent Workbooks and scroll down the list to find the Recover Unsaved Workbooks button
  3. Scroll down and click on the Recover Unsaved Workbooks button at the bottom of the list.
    Click on the Recover Unsaved Workbooks button to open the folder with unsaved files

    Note. You can also go to FILE - > Info, open the Manage Workbooks drop-down and select Recover Unsaved Workbooks from the menu.
    Go to FILE - > Info and select Recover Unsaved Workbooks from the Manage Versions drop-down

  4. When the Open dialog box pops up, just select the necessary file and click Open.

    The document will open in Excel and the program will prompt you to save it. Click on the Save As button in the yellow bar above your worksheet and save the file to the desired location.
    Click on the Save As button in the yellow bar above the worksheet to save the recovered file

Recover overwritten Excel files

Excel 2010 and later makes it possible not only to restore the unsaved workbooks, but also to recover previous versions of your document. It is especially helpful when you make a mistake that you can't undo, or when you want to see how the document looked like a few minutes earlier. See below how to retrieve an overwritten Excel file:

Click on the FILE tab and choose Info on the left-hand pane. Next to the Manage Versions button you'll see all autosaved versions of your document.
Go to FILE -> Info to see a list of autosaved versions next to the Manage Versions button

Excel automatically saves versions of the workbook at specified intervals, but only if you've made changes to your spreadsheet between these intervals. The name of each version has a date, time and the "(autosave)" note. When you click any of them, it will open along with the most current version of your workbook so that you can compare them and see all the changes.

If the program closed incorrectly, the last autosaved file is labeled with the words (when I closed without saving).
The last autosaved version is labeled with the phrase 'when I closed without saving' if the program closed incorrectly

When you open this file in Excel, you'll get the message above your worksheet. Just click on the Restore button in the yellow bar to revert to the newer unsaved version of the workbook.
Click on the Restore button in the yellow bar to restore to a newer unsaved version

Note. Excel deletes all previously autosaved versions when you close the document. If you want to look at the previous version again, it is better to create a backup copy of your data.

How to save a backup copy of your workbook

Excel's Auto Backup is a very useful feature that can help you retrieve a previously saved version of your workbook. Saving a backup copy can protect your work if you accidentally save changes that you do not want to keep or delete the original file. As a result, you will have the current saved information in the original workbook and all previously saved information in the backup copy.

Though this feature is very helpful, it is hard enough to find in Excel. So let's do it together now:

  1. Go to FILE - > Save As.
  2. Select Computer and click on the Browse button.
    Click on the Browse button to open the Save As dialog window
  3. When the Save As dialog window pops up, click on the small arrow next to the Tools button at the bottom of the window.
  4. Select General Options… from the drop-down list.
    Open the Tools drop-down menu at the bottom of the Save As dialog to choose General Options
  5. Check the Always create backup box in the General Options dialog and click OK.
    Check the Always create backup box in the General Options dialog to save a backup copy of the document

Now you can rename your file and choose the desired location to save it. Excel will create a backup copy of the document in the same folder.

Note. A backed up copy is saved with different .xlk file extension. When you open it, Excel will ask you to verify that you really want to open this workbook. Just click Yes and you can restore a previous version of your spreadsheet.
Click Yes to confirm that you really want to open a backup copy

Create time-stamped backup versions in Excel

Now you know how to enable the Excel Auto Backup option. However, every time you save a workbook, a new backup copy will replace the existing one. How can you get back to the earlier version if you've already saved the document several times? Take it easy - you have at least two ways out from this situation.

The first one is to use ASAP Utilities. They offer the Save file and create backup tool that helps you create multiple backup versions of your document. Once you install these utilities in Excel, you can use a special keyboard shortcut to save your workbook and automatically create a backup copy. Each version has a timestamp in the file name, so you can easily find the necessary copy according to the date and time it was created.

If you are comfortable with VBA, you can use a special Excel AutoSave macro to backup your files. Just copy it from this article and paste into the code Module. You can create as many backup copies as you want just by pressing a simple shortcut. It will restore a previously saved version of your workbook and won't overwrite any old backup file. Each copy is marked with a date and time of backup.

If you saved copies of the file in earlier Excel versions, you may encounter the error " The file is corrupted and cannot be opened". See the solution to this problem in this article.

Back up Excel files to the cloud

For those who use cloud storage services for saving their docs, retrieving overwritten Excel files won't be a problem at all.

Let's have a closer look at OneDrive, Microsoft's storage option. Its biggest strength is that OneDrive is closely tied with Office. As an example, you can quickly open and save OneDrive documents right from your Excel. OneDrive and Excel work together to sync workbooks faster and let you work with other people on shared documents at the same time.

When you or your colleague makes changes to a document, OneDrive keeps track of the versions automatically, so you don't need to store multiple copies of the same document. With OneDrive's Version history you'll be able to see the earlier variants of the file, you'll know when the document was modified and who made the changes. You can also restore any of the previous versions if necessary.

Another very popular cloud storage service is Dropbox. It keeps snapshots of every change in your Dropbox folder over the last 30 days. So even if you saved a bad change, or if the file has been damaged or deleted, you can restore the document to an older version with only a few clicks. Dropbox doesn't work so closely with Microsoft Office as OneDrive, but it is so simple that everybody can master it.

Now you know different ways to recover unsaved files and create a backup copy of your workbook in Excel. And I hope you won't push the panic button next time when your computer crashes or power goes out.


  1. How can I recover my excel file if I accidentally didn't choose the auto recover but I have pressed the save icon button beforehand but for some reason, it didn't save what I had?

  2. I was using my excel and chose save and it stated Not Responding. So I closed it and reopened Excel to open my file and it said it could not locate file. Could have deleted or saved under different name. I did neither. I have tried to recover it to no avail. I have excel 2016. HELP as this is where I store my small business sales!

  3. hi sir,my excel version is windows 2007, today i forgot to saveas the file which is already saved because i did some manipulations to my yesterdays data i forgot click on save ,it asked for do you want to save the changes so i forgot and clicked on i lost my can i retrieve my data..please help me

  4. This was a life saver for me. I accidentally chose to not recovery the files after a crash and so couldnt get them back that way. However I found it in the recycling bin, recovered it and then found the document here :

  5. Thanks a lot for this post. Saved me from redoing 2-3 hours of work.

  6. I have a problem Ekaterina. I disable Autorecovery option in Excel 2016 (Office 365) for Mac and continue save two files all the same time. Even disable this option, save two files. What's happen in this case ?

  7. Hello, I've been experiencing some "non privileges" on saving workbook on my mac (10.13.4) and Excel version 16.12 (180410) Office 365 subscription. And I found your article looking for the place that excel sabe this temporary or recovery files, but in mac the screen aren't the same and don't show ~/Library/Group Container/.... the specific location on the file. Today morning I was trying to save, get this error and Excel said "Sorry we couldn't find /var/folders/asdasdasfsdfsdfsd/" It possible to be renamed, deleted or moved? But you can find our temporary file 81909210 to open and save as your workbook. But I couldn't find this file. Can you help me on that? Thanks for the article.

  8. You saved my life!
    Thanks you so much for the tips!

  9. Thank you Ekaterina Bespalaya, I love you.
    Please love me back

    • Can I love you?

  10. Thank You...I like your support

  11. Thank you a lot, guys - you saved my day :)))



  14. Very helpful article! It helped me to recover a file which i accidentally closed without saving. Saved a lot of my time.

  15. Thanks for your support. Great work :)

  16. Yesterday I was deleting files off my desk top and I deleted my time card by accident. Then I went into recycle bin and deleted. Is there a way to find the files I deleted yesterday?
    Thank you


  18. Just saved me a ton of time redoing work after I hastily clicked 'don't save' on the wrong workbook. Thanks.

  19. hi I just saved over a very important document which has over 4 years of data!! any possibility of recovering it I don't have any back ups.

  20. Hello Ekaterina you are a life saver! Thank you this afticle saved me :)

  21. I am not understand

  22. Thank you for this wonderful piece !! It was greatly appreciated. 25 tabs and several hours of work were almost lost due to not paying attention to what was being closed out, if it were not for this article I would have been up a creek.

  23. This saved my BUTT at work when I had an Excel file that closed unexpectedly when my computer crashed.


  24. Oh, awesome! Worked for me, thanks! Love that not only does Excel do this, but there are helpful people like you who took the time to post online. Trying to find help within programs like this can sometimes be tedious. Gotta love Google search!

  25. hi

    I was working on an excel file located in an external drive, I deleted a complete tab and saved it by mistake; tried to go back to "versions" but says there were not previous versions of this file; i assume is because the file was on an external disk instead of in my computer.
    is it possible to recover a previous version of this file?

    thank you and regards

  26. Thanks heaps .... a friend was working on a spreadsheet. Never saved it at all. Was able to recover all the data. 5 stars :)

  27. Thanks a lot for the article, i got my unsaved file.

  28. im working on excel then in excel i ve select ALL DATA & DELETE ALL DATA & After this i closed & save the file .. then i want to recover my lost data how will i roll back my data...any one knows plz help me

  29. this didn't work for me. I created the file, thought I was exited out another file, hit do not save and realized it was the wrong file. I tried to look for back ups and there are none. And it says that it auto saves every ten mins. I looked in the folder where it says it saves to and can not find the file where I had input all of these formulas.

  30. Thank you very much. It really helped a lot

  31. if i could kiss you i would. omg. you saved me!!!!

  32. Excel is a complete piece of crap. I just lost 4 hours of work. I had been "saving" as I went, but apparently, due to the many flaws in Excel, even that didn't save. Then Excel crashed. All work lost.

    • Nevermind. I found it.

  33. hi, I was working on an excel file from a flash disk and I saved it there. i lost the flash disk and the data as well. how can I recover the data using the laptop I was using to work on the file though I didn't save it there?

  34. My problem is I have 3 separate version of my excel file-

    driverfile (autosaved)
    driverfile (autosaved) (autosaved)

    How to merge them as they are all separate open files?

    Thanks for any guidance.

  35. I have tried the above procedure to recover an excel file which I closed and didn't saved it. However, I am unable to see any file in the window after clicking open unsaved files

    • Same here!

  36. my self is vivek and i got a problem few days ago with my laptop as my windows was corrupt and i have taken help of a untrained guy to fix it up and he reinstalled windows 7 but coz of that i have lost my very important data includes few excle file on my desktop as well as few memorable family pics if u can help me out atleast to recover my excle files i would be very greatfull to you.please let me know how to fix this problem.

  37. Please disregard my previous mail.

    This is the correct mail.

    I have files in an excel folder in the D hard disk. I have a copy of same in my pen drive. sometime back I worked in files in D drive, and yesterday, I tried to copy this folder and paste to the folder in the pen drive in order to update same. Unfortunately, now I find both folders having files with data only up to a date far behind.

    Please show me how I can recover the lost information.

  38. Then method for "How to recover unsaved Excel files" does not work for Excel 2010.

  39. on my gmail account I have an existing excel which I have an information that is lost due to my phone crash. how do i recover the lost information please help.

  40. i opened an already open document in excel and lost all the information i had written. please help

  41. i opened an already open document in excel and lost all the information i had written. please help

  42. Thank you so much

  43. thank you.

    no words you saved me hours of work

    be blessed

  44. Thanks. It worked for me.

  45. Hi,
    My excel crashed yesterday. I managed to recover the file (didn't loose any of my last changes, which is a first). Clicked on the RESTORE button and continued working on my file. This time pressing save regularly. I saved the file last night before closing it.
    This morning I wanted to continue on the file only to find out that the file is back to the state as yesterday morning. All my work of yesterday is not there (I guess I wasn't lucky after all).
    Is there a way I can find all my work back? I did a file search on my PC in case excel has stored my latest version somewhere else but nothing.


  46. There is no "option" button under the file menu on Excel.

  47. Can I find the recovery files?my file was crashed.but I cannot find the recovery file.autosave is on.

  48. Loved you.
    Thanks for share such great support!

  49. Thank u so much.......

    You saved my lot of time and effort __/\__

  50. Hello. Is there a way to edit profanity, such as what appears in the previous comment? Thanks

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