How To Recover An Unsaved Excel File in Excel (For Free)

Written by co-founder Kasper Langmann, Microsoft Office Specialist.

Losing an unsaved Excel file is a real pain.

Whether you lose an entire spreadsheet or just the latest round of edits, it can take a lot of time to fix the problem.

But Microsoft has your back 🙂 !

There are a few ways you can recover unsaved Excel files.


BONUS: Download the Recover Excel File PDF Guide to go along with this post.

And while they won’t always work, they’re definitely worth a shot before you start again from scratch.

The best strategy, of course, is to not lose data in the first place. We’ll also share a piece of advice that will help with that.

*This tutorial is for Excel 2019/Microsoft 365 (for Windows). Got a different version? No problem, you can still follow the exact same steps.

Recovering from within Excel

Excel does its best to save your edits on a regular basis. And if the app quits unexpectedly (if your computer crashes, for example, or the power goes out), there’s a chance you’ll be able to recover your work.

Open Excel again, and you should see the Recovered heading. If you see it, select Show Recovered Files:


Excel will open a new spreadsheet with the Document Recovery panel open:


Click on any file listed in the panel to see Excel’s most recent save. It won’t always be completely up-to-date, but there’s a chance that it’ll save you some time in getting everything back.

If you forget to click Show Recovered Files and open a new workbook, you’ll see the Document Recovery panel anyway.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Check for temporary files

Office occasionally saves temporary files as backups. Sometimes you can find these files and recover them.

The easiest way is to go directly through Excel. Open the file that you’d like to recover unsaved changes for, then open the File tab. Click Info > Manage Workbook:


Click the resulting Recover Unsaved Workbooks button:


Excel will open a File Explorer window that may contain some unsaved files. If you see any files, double-click to open them. You might be able to get some of your changes back.

You can also press Windows key + R to open the Run window, then type the following address and press Enter:

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

If you go to File > Options > Save, you’ll see the folder location of your AutoRecover files:


You can also check out this folder to see if there are any useful files.

Note, however, that any files with a .XLB extension don’t contain any spreadsheet data. So even if you see those files in your AutoRecover folder, they won’t do you any good.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Use OneDrive backups

If you save your documents to OneDrive, you’ll have another layer of protection from losing backups.

Right-click on any file in OneDrive and select Version History to see a list of changes:


Whether this works largely depends on how often you save and why you lost your data. But if you save to OneDrive and your hard drive fails, you’ll still be able to access to your information.

Using AutoRecover to prevent data loss

Losing data is inevitable. But you can make the process less painful if you’re prepared. We recommend changing your AutoRecover settings so that Excel saves a copy every five minutes.

The default is ten, but you can easily change that.

Head to File > Options > Save, then change the AutoRecover interval to five minutes:


Now Excel will save a copy of your spreadsheet every five minutes. It might not seem like a big difference from ten minutes, but it can save you a lot of work.

And, of course, we recommend saving your changes often. Just hit Ctrl + S to overwrite the previous version of your document.

Save early and often

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to get unsaved Excel files back.

Looking for temporary and AutoRecover files, and using Excel’s automatic recovery features, helps. And if you save in OneDrive, there’s a chance that it’ll help you out.

But your best bet is to save as often as possible.