Recover unsaved Word documents on Mac

Microsoft Word for Mac does provide some features to recover your unsaved Word document. So if you accidentally closed a Word document without saving it, or the Mac computer crashed unexpectedly in the middle of a sentence, you can possibly retrieve the lost data.

There are three places that you may find your unsaved Word documents:

  • The Recovered files folder: this folder is located in the Trash. Mac saves temporarily documents that the user has not saved themselves here. If you cannot find this folder in the Trash, it means there is no recovered file.
  • The TemporaryItems folder: Word for Mac may have saved a copy of your unsaved document in this hidden folder.
  • The AutoRecovery folder: Word for Mac automatically saves a copy of your Word document while working every 10 minutes. Since it only saves data after an interval of time, you may lose your work that has not been saved in the last session.

1. Look for the unsaved document in the Recovered files folder

Trash is the folder that users move their unused files to before deleting them permanently. The Trash folder also includes a folder named “Recovered files” that automatically saves documents that the user has not yet saved themselves to prevent the risk of losing data.

Not only Word documents but you can find other file types of unsaved documents such as Excel, plain text,… Here’s how to access the Recovered Items folder in Trash.

Step 1: Open Trash by clicking its icon on the dock.

Step 2: Look for the Recovered files folder. You can type its name into the search box. If you do find the folder, open it and see if there’s a copy of your unsaved Word documents resides there. If you see the target copy, just move it to another folder outside of the Trash. You can then open it in Word for Mac and continue working.

If you don’t find the Recovered files folder or the unsaved Word document inside this folder, then try the next solutions.

2. Recover temporary copies in the TemporaryItems folder

Step 1: Launch Terminal on your Mac. You can run this app from Spotlight Search or find it in the Applications/Utilities folder.

Step 2: In Terminal, type this command open $TMPDIR, and hit Return. The TMP folder will be opened. This is where the Apple macOS system creates and store temporary files. Your document may have ended up being saved here.

Step 3: In the TMP folder, look for the folder named “TemporaryItems” and open it.

Step 4: If you find your unsaved document here, it should be titled Word Work File…, open this file with Word for Mac, then select FileSave as and save it to another place.

3. Use the Word’s AutoRecovery feature

Unlike the two methods above, which work based on Mac’s system, this method utilizes a feature called AutoRecovery in Word for Mac.

This feature simply saves a user’s progress at a regular interval, by default, it’s every 10 minutes.

Step 1: Open Finder on your Mac, then select GoGo to Folder. A text field will show up.

Step 2: Copy the path below, then paste into the text field and click Go.


Step 3: The AutoRecovery folder will open. Look for the AutoRecovery save of the Word document you are trying to recover. Once find it, rename it and add the .doc filename extension so it can be recognized and read by Word for Mac.

Step 4: Double click the file to open it in Word for Mac. Now, you can select Save as from the File menu to save the document to a new location.

This feature is built to help users recover the last version of the document. It’s useful in case the computer crashes or a shutdown unexpectedly happens.

However, 10 minutes of hard working may result in something really important. To minimize the loss of data, you can change the interval of AutoSave feature to a shorter period of time like 5 minutes, or 2 minutes. It’s all up to you.

To do that, open Microsoft Word on your Mac. On the top bar menu, click Word Preferences, then select Save in the Output and Sharing section.

Check the box alongside Save Autorecovery info and change the interval of AutoSave right below. That’s it, you will substantially decrease the risk of losing your Word documents.


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