Microsoft Word is likely the world’s most popular word processor: most of us have it installed on our Macs and have used it to create texts. So, we can all relate to the panic one feels when a Word document they’ve been working on disappears without being saved.
This can happen if you accidentally close the app, the app crashes, or your Mac experiences an unexpected system error. But if you know how to recover an unsaved Word document that Mac has lost, you’ll easily be able to get your files back and never lose your data again.
Fortunately, there are various steps you can take to try to recover a Word document that Mac hasn’t saved—using Word’s own recovery features, macOS tools, and specialized data recovery apps.
One-click solution to recover an unsaved Word document
The easiest way to recover an unsaved Word document that Mac can no longer find is by using Disk Drill data recovery.
Disk Drill can bring back your lost files in seconds and also comes with tools to help you avoid data loss in the future—by assisting you in creating disk backups, monitoring possible disk issues, and sending risk alerts if your data is threatened.
You can use Disk Drill on various types of devices (Macs, iPhones, iPads, Android, USB devices, and SD cards) and recover data regardless of the cause of the loss—whether it’s due to your own carelessness, an unexpected Mac shutdown, or an error in disk tools.
How to recover a Word document on Mac with Disk Drill:
- Install and open Disk Drill (Download diskdrill full version including many other apps via Setapp)
- Select the drive you want to scan from the left panel ➙ Search for lost data
- Select “Documents” in the recovered files ➙ Review the found items
- Filter by file type and date of last modification ➙ Recover
Recovering lost Word documents with AutoRecovery.
To protect yourself from data loss, Word has a built-in AutoRecovery feature designed for unforeseen interruptions that may prevent you from saving your file. This feature automatically saves your open Word documents in a hidden dedicated folder, so there’s a good chance you can recover your file from there.
To check files saved by AutoRecovery and recover a lost Word document that Mac can no longer find:
- Open Finder.
- Select “Go” from the top Finder menu ➙ Select “Go to folder”.
- Enter ~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Word/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery ➙ Press Enter.
- Review the files in the AutoRecovery folder and find the one you need.
How to recover Word documents from the Trash on Mac.
If you’ve accidentally deleted a Word document, there’s also a chance to recover it from the Trash on your Mac.
- Open the Trash by double-clicking on the icon on the desktop.
- Find the Word document you want to recover in the Trash.
- Right-click on the file and select “Restore” in the displayed menu.
- The document will be restored to its original location where it was deleted from.
Note: If the Trash has already been emptied, you can’t recover files directly from it. In that case, a specialized file recovery tool is needed to attempt to recover the deleted Word documents or contact us at MacGeni, and we may be able to help.
How to recover documents from the “Temporary” folder.
The “Temporary” folder is another good place to look for a copy of your unsaved Word document.
You need to use a Terminal command to help you recover a lost Word document that Mac may be saving for you in its temporary items folder:
- Open Terminal from “Utilities” in Finder.
- Type “open $TMPDIR” in the Terminal window ➙ Press Enter.
- Find the “TemporaryItems” folder in the opened folder.
- Search for your unsaved Word document in “TemporaryItems”.
How to recover Word documents using Time Machine.</h step in and help. Time Machine is an excellent tool for automatically backing up your Mac, including your important documents.
To recover a Word document using Time Machine:
- Connect your Time Machine backup disk to your Mac.
- Open the folder where your Word document was last located.
- Enter Time Machine ➙ Find your document in the backup.
- Select the document and click “Restore” to recover it.
How to recover Word documents using a third-party data recovery tool.
If none of the above methods work, you can turn to third-party data recovery tools to try and retrieve your lost Word document on your Mac.
Disk Drill, mentioned earlier, is one such tool, but there special data recovery apps available that focus specifically on finding and recovering Word documents.
How to restore documents using a backup.
By establishing an effective backup routine, you can avoid the worry of how to restore an unsaved Word document on Mac. Because sometimes backups are your best chance to ensure all your important data can be recovered quickly, find lost items and restore older versions of your document.
You don’t even always have to choose backups that copy all the content on your Mac. There’s also a way to back up only certain folders or even specific files that you work with. You can easily create this extra customized protection for your files using Get Backup Pro.
Get Backup Pro is an intelligent backup tool for Mac that can help set custom backup schedules for the files or folders you choose.
You can also use this app to sync folders on your Mac in both directions with another Mac, create clones of your Mac’s disk to migrate your data to a new location when needed, or compress your backups to up to 60% of their original size to save disk space.
Is it possible to recover a replaced Word document on Mac?
Yes, if you have replaced your file and now want to restore a Word document that Mac has overwritten, you can go back to an older version of your document. Consider restoring from a backup or viewing previous versions of your document in Word:
- Open your document.
- Go to “File” in the top Word menu ➙ “Browse Version History”.
- Select the version you would like to restore to from the list ➙ “Open version”.
- Click “Restore” to go back to the previous edit of your file.
Tips to avoid data loss on Mac.
Losing the work you’ve already done in your document is frustrating, there’s no doubt about it. It’s good that we can take measures to recover the lost data, but it’s also important to prevent the loss. So you don’t have to think too often about how to recover a Word document on Mac.
Here are some things to consider:
- Save your Word documents early and often.
- Organize regular backups of your files (preferably to an external location or disk).
- Make sure you work somewhere with a stable power supply.
- Update to the latest available versions of your system and apps.
- Use an antivirus program.
Get a reliable alternative to Microsoft Word.
Trying alternatives to creating text documents exclusively in Word may surprise you with their great functionality, convenience and appearance of your texts. Who knows, you may never again have to worry about how to recover a Word document that Mac has lost!
One of the apps that could become your new favorite writing app is Ulysses.
Ulysses automatically saves and backs up everything you write, so an unsaved file is simply not something that can happen to you with this app. Besides that, Ulysses is great for organizing your files: the group structure allows you to save similar projects, research and drafts related to the same project and create filters to find files that match certain criteria.
You’ll also be able to work on your texts from anywhere thanks to Ulysses’ iCloud sync across all your Apple devices and publish perfectly formatted eBooks, PDFs and HTML files directly from the app with a built-in markup editor.
Another great alternative to writing in Word is Craft.
Craft uses a block-based document layout system that allows you to use text, maps, Markdown and images to create structured and visually appealing documents. You can also take advantage of a multi-level folder system or insert a link to something you’ve previously worked on into your Craft document, using pages as portals to underlying pages and linking your notes together to keep things organized.
How to recover a Word document on Mac with ease
Learning how to recover a Word document on Mac is easy once you know how to use Word’s own features for auto-recovery, recovering text from a corrupted file and browsing previous versions of files. Moreover, macOS also allows you to check temporary and trash folders to recover a lost Word document that Mac has deleted. Or you can skip the search for your lost file and recover it in a few clicks using Disk Drill.
Whichever method you find most effective, remember to use Get Backup Pro to ensure you have your most important data safely backed up and ready to be restored if you ever need it. And challenge yourself to break the mold and try Ulysses and Craft for new ways to create text files.
Free with the seven-day trial of Setapp, a platform of high-performance, best-in-class iOS and macOS apps. Learn how to recover a lost Word document that Mac has thrown away and explore more than 240 new options to boost your productivity.
Here’s another link to recover documents lost on your Mac/PC:
My experience: Several of my customers and recently even my own sister experienced that all her documents in excel were gone from one hour to the next. Knowing that she doesn’t have the habit of having an overview of IT, which is what happens when your brother is an IT genius, I remembered that she had probably opened the first Excel file from an email attachment several weeks ago. Every day she had saved a new version of documents, as I have taught her. This is a safe way to work with office documents because you will always have an extra copy of the previous version. The worst thing you can do is to constantly save the latest changes on top of the existing document. A problem typically arises where you lose everything if just one file becomes corrupt. Therefore, after much searching and wondering where she might have saved her files for months, I realized that she had probably opened a file from Apple Mail and then clicked “save as” and then saved it in a temporary folder that is typically on her user e.g. /camilla/Library/Content: /camilla/Library/Containers/Mail – so I went into that folder and searched for all files named “.” period, so that it will show me all files. Here I copied all of them into a folder “Restored” which I put in transfers. This way we could look through all the files that were in temporary files and even sort them by excel files by searching for “Excel”. It worked and we found all the files that were “lost”.
Dropbox and OneDrive
When your Dropbox or OneDrive is not online, it is often the case that you can’t see all your files when you go into Finder. Therefore, you can restart your computer, but before you do, make sure you have tried everything:
– Open the office program and look in Files – Recent Files
– Review all potential temporary files in your hidden “Library” folder and look up on Google where Office stores temporary files
– Use the above links to e.g. “Diskdrill” which can restore files.
– search for a backup disk or online backup (write to us and ask which backup you should start before it’s too late again)
– get an expert aka genius with us to look through everything.
– Go online to dropbox.com or onedrive to see if you can find your files there. You can also check iCloud.com
After restarting, your Dropbox and OneDrive may be running normally again.o the panic one feels when a Word document they’ve been working on disappears without being saved.