How to Recover Unsaved Excel File

recover unsaved excel

The time it takes to build and organize a workbook with Excel is well worth the effort as this program allows you to improve your workflow and keep important information in order. The ease in which spreadsheets are used is often taken for granted in today’s modern world. The simple task of data entry and management has been revolutionized with the access of programs like Excel with their easy to use interfaces.

If you have ever spent time plugging data into an Excel workbook, you know that it can be time-consuming and burdensome. The end result is always worth it but it can definitely seem like a chore and it isn’t always a task everyone wants to perform. If you forget to save the workbook and all of that hard work instantly disappears, it could cause you to panic at best and possibly throw your computer across the room.

Luckily, there are ways to recover an unsaved Excel file that you may have intentionally or accidentally deleted. Rather than picking up the pieces of the tossed computer mentioned above, you can take a deep breath and rest assured that your missing files can be brought back to life. Here is a look at how to recover an unsaved Excel file if this happens to you.

Reasons an Unsaved Excel File Gets Deleted

An Excel file can go missing or be deleted for a number of reasons and it can happen to anyone. This doesn’t mean that it will happen but since it often does by accident or because of some sort of malfunction, let’s look at the various reasons before getting into how to recover these lost files.

One of the most common reasons an Excel file gets deleted is simply because the user did not save it. When working on your worksheet, you simply didn’t hit the save command. This can happen to anyone. Typically you will get a warning message before closing out of the program but if for whatever reason, you missed it, your file will be deleted when you close Excel.

Another reason for this can be because of a software or hardware issue. Perhaps the power went out or your battery died causing your computer to shut off when you were using Excel. Sometimes your computer can crash or freeze leaving you stranded during your workflow and any unsaved files can be lost. Other times Excel itself can crash or freeze and you will end up with the same result.

How to Recover Unsaved Excel Files

If you forgot to save your Excel workbook there are a few easy steps to recovering that unsaved file. It’s always best to try and save any file you are working on and updating as much as possible but if for whatever reason you end up losing the file, follow these steps.

  1. Open Excel and click on the File tab
  2. From the File window select Open
  3. Click on Recent Workbooks
  4. Scroll to the bottom of this window and click on Recover Unsaved Workbooks
  5. A list will come up of any and all unsaved workbooks. Scroll through this list until you find the workbook you are looking for
  6. Double click the lost workbook file to open it
  7. Rember to save the file once you have it open

There is also a nice feature built directly in the Excel program that can allow you to auto-recover any unsaved files. This AutoRecovery feature only allows you to recover files that have been saved at least once, however. It’s a nice feature if the project you were working on unexpectedly crashes or you lose power but will not work if you have never saved the workbook. To use this feature you need to configure the settings to allow it to work.

To turn on AutoRecover within Excel:

  1. Open Excel and click on the File tab
  2. Select Options
  3. Select Save
  4. Once the Save window is open you need to check the boxes beside Keep the last autosaved if I close without saving and Save AutoRecover information every __ minutes.
  5. Set the minute duration you want AutoRecover to save your file. (1-5 minutes recommended)
    Select OK

Other Considerations

In addition to the steps above that will help you locate and recover an unsaved Excel file, there are a few other things to consider when you are working within the program. It is always a good idea to make a backup of any important files you have. You might already be making complete backups of all files on your computer but you can also set up Excel in a way that makes a backup copy every time you save a file.

This obviously comes in quite useful if you accidentally lose or delete a file because you can refer back to the backup version and get your work and information back quickly and easily. It is also nice because you might want to go back and look at an older version of the workbook to compare it to the current version you are working on or if you saved information unintentionally.

To create a backup file in Excel follow these steps:

  1. Open Excel and click on the File tab
  2. Select Save As
  3. Select Browse
  4. From the Save menu that pops up here click on Tools
  5. Select the General Options from the Tools menu
  6. In the General Options window check the box next to Always create backup

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to recover unsaved Excel files, you can lessen the worry the next time you encounter an issue within the program. Losing any unsaved information is always upsetting and it’s happened to all of us at one point or another. If you can, always remember to save your progress as much as possible. Every time you take a short break or add important information, hit that save button to limit the possibility of losing it!

Have you ever lost an important Excel file? What caused the issue and were you able to resolve it? Let us know in the comments below.

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