How to Recover an Unsaved File


We’ve all been there before. You’re in the middle of editing a file on your computer, and you accidentally close the program without saving it. Or maybe the program or your computer crashed in the middle of your work. Either way, the file is gone, and you have no idea how to get it back. Don’t worry – we’re here to help! In this article, we will discuss several methods that you can use to try and recover your lost file.

Method One: Check for Auto-Saved Files

In some programs, files are automatically saved periodically as you work on them. This means that even if you forget to save the file yourself, there’s a chance that the program has already done it for you. The Microsoft Office suite does this, as do some software made by Adobe and potentially other programs.

You are probably in luck if you were working on an MS Word or Excel file when you accidentally quit without saving. Here’s how to recover an unsaved Word document. The process is essentially the same in Excel. In general, you can recover an earlier version of any MS Office document by following this guide (note that Autorecover must have been turned on prior).

For any other software, check the publisher’s website or the “File” menu of the program to see if anything like “Recover” or “Restore From Previous Version” is supported.

While it won’t help you now, there’s a free utility for Windows called AutoSaver that you can use to automatically save anything you are working on at intervals you specify. It does this by executing a periodic Ctrl + s in the background, which writes/updates your file to your hard disk.

Method Two: Check Your System’s Temporary File Directory

When you create or edit a file, your system may create a temporary copy of that file. This is done so that you won’t lose everything you’ve been working on if there’s a power outage or some other problem. These temporary files are usually deleted when the program is closed properly. However, if the program crashes or is closed without saving, the temporary file may still be present on your system.

The location of these files varies by the operating system. This article explains how to open the location of your temporary files in Windows. When browsing the temporary files directory with Explorer, ensure that “Hidden items” is checked on the “View” tab. macOS stores its temporary system files in /var/TMP and user files in Users/username/TMP. This guide explains more about these locations and how to access them.

If you find a temporary file that roughly matches the date and time you accidentally quit your program, it may be your file. It may not have the same extension as a properly saved copy of the file, but you can try renaming it, opening it with the program you were using, or dragging and dropping it on the program to see if it will open.

Method Three: Check the Recycle Bin

If there is no auto-saved version of the file that you can recover, check the Recycle Bin (or “Trash” on macOS). It’s unlikely that you’ll find the unsaved file there, but it’s worth looking. The file may have been moved there when you closed the program if you’re lucky. macOS will sometimes store recovered files in the Recycle Bin if a program or the computer shuts down unexpectedly. Simply open it up and look for your file. If it’s there, great! You can restore it and continue working.

Method Four: Try a File Recovery Program

If the file isn’t in the Recycle Bin, your last option is to try a file recovery program. While this is a long shot, some kind of deleted temporary file may exist somewhere on your hard drive. There are many different programs available, and they can often recover files that have been deleted from your computer. Check out our article on accidental file deletion to get more info about file recovery utilities and how to use them.


We hope this article has helped teach you what to do if you accidentally close a program without saving your file. Remember to save your work frequently so that you don’t have to go through all of this again! Thanks for reading!

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