How to Recover a Word Document That Was Not Saved

We’ve all been there – you’re working diligently on a crucial Word document, and then, out of the blue, the program crashes, your computer shuts down, or you accidentally close the document without saving. Panic sets in as you realize you’ve potentially lost hours of work. However, there’s hope.

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Microsoft Word, the ubiquitous word processing software, offers a range of features to help you recover unsaved or corrupted documents. In this article, we will explore various methods and tools for recovering Word documents that were not saved. We will also delve into third-party solutions and best practices to ensure you never lose your precious work again.

1. Using Microsoft Word’s Built-in Recovery Features

Microsoft Word offers a series of built-in features and tools designed to help users recover unsaved or corrupted documents. Let’s explore these methods step by step.

1.1. AutoRecover Feature

Word’s AutoRecover feature automatically saves a backup copy of your document at regular intervals, typically every ten minutes. This feature is enabled by default, but if your document was not saved and you encounter a crash or unexpected shutdown, you can rely on AutoRecover to recover your work.

  • Here’s how to use the AutoRecover feature:
  • Open Microsoft Word.
  • Go to the “File” tab and click “Open.”
  • In the bottom-right corner, click “Recover Unsaved Documents.”
  • A window will open displaying a list of unsaved documents. Select the one you want to recover and click “Open.”
  • Save the document immediately to prevent further data loss.

1.2. Document Recovery Pane

In cases where Word unexpectedly crashes, a Document Recovery Pane will usually appear when you reopen the application. This pane lists documents that were open at the time of the crash. To recover an unsaved document using the Document Recovery Pane, follow these steps:

  • Open Microsoft Word.
  • Look for the Document Recovery Pane on the left side of the window. If it’s not visible, click on the “File” tab, select “Info,” and then click on the “Manage Document” dropdown. Choose “Recover Unsaved Documents.”
  • In the Document Recovery Pane, you’ll see a list of unsaved documents. Select the one you want to recover, and Word will attempt to restore it.
  • Once the document is open, save it immediately.

1.3. Versions in Windows

If you’re using a Windows operating system, you can also utilize the “Previous Versions” feature to recover an earlier version of your document. Here’s how to do it:

  • Locate the folder where your unsaved or corrupted document was last saved.
  • Right-click on the folder and select “Restore previous versions.”
  • In the “Previous Versions” tab, you will see a list of previous versions of your folder, including your document. Select the version you want to recover and click “Restore.”
  • The previous version of your document will be restored. Ensure you save it with a new name to avoid overwriting the older version.

2. Using the AutoRecover File Location

Microsoft Word allows you to specify the location where AutoRecover files are saved. By default, these files are stored in a system-defined folder, but you can change this location if you prefer. Here’s how:

  • Open Microsoft Word.
  • Go to the “File” tab and click “Options.”
  • In the Word Options dialog box, select “Save” from the left-hand navigation pane.
  • You will see an option to set the AutoRecover file location. Click “Browse” and choose a folder where you want AutoRecover files to be saved.
  • Click “OK” to save your changes.

This feature is especially helpful if you need to recover an unsaved document or find AutoRecover files from a specific location on your computer.

3. Using Microsoft Office Online

Another method to recover an unsaved Word document is by using Microsoft Office Online, which includes the free web versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. If you were working on a document using the online version of Word and forgot to save it, follow these steps to recover your work:

  • Go to the Microsoft Office Online website (
  • Sign in with your Microsoft account, which should be the same account you used to access the online version of Word.
  • On the main page, click on “Recent Documents” to view the list of documents you’ve recently worked on.
  • Locate the unsaved document and click on it to open it.
  • Save the document immediately to ensure it’s not lost in the future.

4. Third-Party Solutions for Document Recovery

While Microsoft Word offers a variety of built-in tools for document recovery, there are third-party software options available that can be even more powerful and versatile. These tools are especially handy when dealing with severely corrupted documents or when you need advanced recovery options.

4.1. Data Recovery Software

Data recovery software such as Recuva, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard, or Stellar Data Recovery can be used to retrieve deleted, unsaved, or corrupted Word documents. These applications can scan your storage device for traces of deleted files and recover them.

Here’s a general outline of how to use data recovery software:

  • Download and install a reputable data recovery tool.
  • Launch the software and select the drive or location where the unsaved or corrupted Word document was stored.
  • Initiate a scan to find deleted or lost files.
  • Once the scan is complete, review the results to identify your Word document.
  • Select the document and choose a safe location to restore it.
  • Open the recovered document in Microsoft Word and save it immediately.

4.2. Document Repair Tools

In some cases, Word documents can become corrupted, making it impossible to open them using standard methods. When this happens, specialized document repair tools can be invaluable.

One such tool is the Microsoft Office built-in feature called “Open and Repair.” To use it, follow these steps:

  • Open Microsoft Word.
  • Go to the “File” tab and click “Open.”
  • In the Open dialog box, navigate to the location of the corrupted document.
  • Click on the document, and in the dropdown menu next to the “Open” button, select “Open and Repair.”
  • Word will attempt to repair the document. If successful, save it immediately.

Additionally, you can explore third-party tools like Kernel for Word, DataNumen Word Repair, and Repair My Word. These tools specialize in repairing corrupted Word documents and can be quite effective in recovering your content.

5. Best Practices for Preventing Data Loss

While it’s essential to know how to recover unsaved Word documents, it’s equally important to adopt practices that prevent data loss in the first place. Here are some key best practices to consider:

5.1. Frequent Saving

The most straightforward way to avoid losing your work is to save your document regularly. Make it a habit to save your document every few minutes or after accomplishing a significant amount of work. The keyboard shortcut “Ctrl + S” (or “Cmd + S” on Mac) is your best friend for quick saves.

5.2. Enable AutoSave

AutoSave is a feature in Microsoft Word that automatically saves your document to OneDrive or SharePoint Online. It ensures that even if you forget to save manually, your work is continuously backed up. To enable AutoSave, follow these steps:

  • Open Microsoft Word.
  • Click on your Microsoft account in the top-right corner of the window.
  • Choose “Account.”
  • Under “User Information,” select “File Locations.”
  • Set the “AutoSave OneDrive and SharePoint Online files by default” option to “On.”

5.3. Backup Your Work

Regularly backing up your work is a sound strategy to prevent data loss. You can use cloud storage solutions like OneDrive, Google Drive, or Dropbox to automatically sync and store your documents. Alternatively, you can manually create backup copies of your files by copying them to an external drive or a different folder on your computer.

5.4. Document Recovery Software

Consider installing data recovery software, even before you encounter a problem. These applications can be useful for recovering not just Word documents but various types of files, should you ever need them.

5.5. Version Control

Utilize version control systems like Git for your Word documents. Git tracks changes in your documents, allowing you to revert to previous versions easily.


Losing a Word document that was not saved can be a heart-stopping experience, especially when the document contains critical information or hours of hard work. However, with the built-in recovery features in Microsoft Word and the aid of third-party solutions, you can often retrieve your unsaved or corrupted documents.

Nevertheless, prevention is always better than cure. By following best practices such as frequent saving, enabling AutoSave, backing up your work, and using version control, you can significantly reduce the risk of losing your valuable data. In the digital age, it’s crucial to be prepared for the unexpected and to know how to recover and protect your work effectively.

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