Options and Precautions to Recover Unsaved Excel Files

If you want to recover unsaved Excel files, here are all the possible options that can help you get your file back. 

Excel has crashed!

Pretend that you are working on a highly essential dashboard or an urgent report where you did a great job.

You feel proud of all the work that you did for it.

However, you forgot a critical step.

You were not able to save your Excel file.

Let’s cut down the drama and go directly to the point.

Excel does tend to crash, especially when you don’t want it to happen.

It usually occurs in the worst possible times as there may be no good time to appear.

Whenever this scenario occurs, the only thing you can do is attempt to recover your unsaved Excel files.

There may be cases when the Excel Gods will smile at you and give you the file, but this may not happen most of the time.

Today, we are going to share everything you need to know about recovering any unsaved Excel file.

We will also inform you about the pre-emptive steps and precautions that you have to take.

Whenever you want to become sure that nothing will go wrong, we will also share a VBA code that will allow you to use a timestamp whenever you save your Excel file.

Let’s begin!

Every Possible Way You Can Recover Unsaved Data or Excel Files

Windows and Excel can be so unpredictable as they can crash anytime that can put you in a bad situation if you don’t save it.

However, you can tackle this in different ways. Excel has some functionalities that can help you in recovering unsaved data or Excel files.

These are three scenarios wherein Excel has in-built checks that can help in recovering data and files:

  1. You were updating a file that you saved previously, but Excel ends up crashing before you can save it.
  2. You saved the changes, but there was a mistake, and you want to return to the past version.
  3. Your Excel or system crashes as you work on a new file that you haven’t saved yet.

Here are the ways on how you can tackle all of these issues:

Recover Updated Files in Excel Files if you saved the past version

You can have this method used for files that you previously saved, but Excel or the system crashed, or the power went off as you worked on it.

You may still have the file you saved before, but the changes that you made got lost.

Allow yourself to recover your updated Excel file with these steps:

  1. Get to open any existing Excel Workbook.
  2. Once it opens, check out the document recovery pane wherein every unsaved file is listed. Load the data by clicking on any of the file names.                                 
  3. Once you get your needed information, use a different name in saving the file.

You can also alternatively have the Excel application opened. Here, you’ll see the option ‘Show Recovered Files’ as shown here.

Click on it, and the same pane for Document Recovery will open.

Recover a New Excel File That You Never Saved

If Excel or your system ends up crashing as you work on something, it can still be possible for you to recover your unsaved Excel file. 

However, this method would only work as Excel with an inbuilt AutoRecover and AutoSave functionality.

Since it is enabled by default, you need to have these methods used to recover the files.

Whenever it doesn’t get enabled, you may need to do this if you want to have these functionalities used.

We will cover how you can allow AutoRecover and AutoSave in this article later.

Here are the steps that you need to whenever you want to recover any Excel file that you haven’t saved:

  1. Open up a new workbook in Excel.
  2. Click on the tab ‘File.’                                                                                                                                                                                                             
  3. Tap on ‘Open.’                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
  4. Check out the Recent Workbook option. You can see this at the top-left portion. Click on it.                                                                                         
  5. At the bottom, there is the button ‘Recover Unsaved Workbooks.’ Click on it.                                                                                                                     
  6. Once you see the dialog box opens, review the list of your unsaved Workbooks and then open what you need.                                                                                                                                                                                 
  7. Use the option ‘Save As’ to save the file using a different name in our preferred location.

As default, Excel will save a copy of every unsaved file at the folder Unsaved Files:


Make sure to have [YourSystemName] replaced with your system’s name in this address.

You can even go to this folder directly and copy-paste the address to replace the URL.

Once you open a file that this folder has, a notification bar will appear to prompt you that you have to save it.

Tap on it and have it saved at a new location with your chosen name.

By default, every unsaved file that you recover will be in the format ‘XLSB.’ Make sure to save it in your desired format so you can recover the files that you made but haven’t saved.

Recover the Excel File Version that You Previously Saved or Overwritten (from DropBox or OneDrive Cloud)

Whenever you get into the habit of having your Excel files saved through services like DropBox or OneDrive or on the cloud, you wouldn’t have to be completely reliant on Excel to assist you in recovering any lost information unsaved files.

Through these cloud services, you can also keep the past versions of an Excel file.

Let us inform you how you can get DropBox or OneDrive’s past versions.

We are sure that there are a lot of other services that can provide the same functionality.

Use DropBox to Get the Past Version of Your Excel File

Similar to OneDrive, your Excel files’ previous versions are also kept in DropBox that you can review again and download.

If you want to have the past versions, check out the file in the website portal of DropBox.

Then, for the file that you want to see the past versions, click on the three dots and choose Version History.

Here, it will show every version of this file that you can download and open from DropBox.

Whenever you have the Dropbox folder installed on your system and keep the files there, right-click on any file and click on the Version History.

By doing this, you will get to DropBox’s web version that will allow you to see and download every version of that file.

Get the Excel File’s Previous Version from OneDrive

If you want to get the Excel file’s past version, check out OneDrive and right-click on the existing version, and then choose Version History.

Doing this will open a file to see every past version of the file on the left pane.

Once you see the version you desire to have, click on it and it will have the file content shown and provide you with the option to have the file either downloaded or restored.

Recover Previously Saved or Overwritten Excel Files from within Excel

In the other methods mentioned, you can blame power failure or Windows or Excel for crashing.

However, this one is only because of you. In this case, you have saved an Excel file, updated the data, and saved it once more.

However, you create some changes that you don’t want to happen, which could happen a lot.

The only thing you want to do is to get the past version back.

Since it can be impossible to return to the past to correct any mistake that you made as having a time machine may be impossible, you can still do this with the wonders of Excel spreadsheets.

From the version of Excel last 2010 and the versions afterward, Excel has an in-built feature that can help you get the past versions.

Here are the steps that will allow you to go back to a past version of Excel even if you were able to save and update it:

  1. Click on the File tab.
  2. Check the Info page and then tap on the Manage Workbook. Here, you’ll see all of that file’s past versions. https://v1.nitrocdn.com/zciqOWZgDznkuqFpvIJsLUeyHlJtlHxe/assets/static/optimized/rev-c9a56c8/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Recover-Previous-Versions-of-the-Excel-file-2.png
  3. Tap on the version that you would like to restore.
  4. Make sure that you save the file. We recommend that you use a new name for it.

Excel will show the prompt below whenever you choose a version that you saved previously and open it.

If you want to get the past version that you selected, click on Restore. You may then have it saved as a new file that has another name.

If you desire to make this work, you have to make sure to enable AutoRecover.

Even if it is often enabled by default, it can be something that you have to make sure of and check.

Whenever the recovery of unsaved Excel data or files is involved, you can use Excel’s three built-in options.

Aside from that, we also highly recommend saving your files on the DropBox or OneDrive cloud as this can remove so many worries that the cloud services are capable of keeping your files’ previous versions.

Precautions On How To Enable The Easy Recovery of Your Unsaved Files

Even if there are default settings in Excel that can make sure you will have a great chance of recovering your Excel file, ensuring that you enable everything is highly recommended.

Save Your Excel Workbook’s Time-Stamped Copy Automatically

Even if all of the methods that I covered relied on the in-built features of Excel, you may also have a short VBA code used whenever you want to make sure that you don’t ever lose your work.

The VBA code will have your Excel file’s timestamped copy saved once you close or save it.

With this, you will surely have every past version that you can return to recover a file whenever you make a mistake.

Aside from that, because of the timestamp, it can be easy for you to look for your desired version or check where you made a mistake.

Here is a code that can make your workbook’s timestamped copy once it gets saved:

Private Sub Workbook_BeforeSave(ByVal SaveAsUI As Boolean, Cancel As Boolean)

Application.ScreenUpdating = False

Dim BackUpPath As String

BackUpPath = “C:\Users\ExcelMaster\Desktop\Test\”

ThisWorkbook.SaveCopyAs BackUpPath & Format(Now, “dd-mm-yyyy hh:mm:ss”) & ” ” & ActiveWorkbook.Name

Application.ScreenUpdating = True

End Sub

Take note that you need to specify the folder’s location to have the backup copies saved.

In the code mentioned above, you can change the highlighted path.

With this, you may end up having so many copies.

However, it can save your life whenever you need to work on any important project.

You can have the same code used to have a copy saved before closing the workbook instead of having a copy saved whenever you save it.

Private Sub Workbook_BeforeClose(Cancel As Boolean)

Dim BackUpPath As String

BackUpPath = “C:\Users\ExcelMaster\Desktop\Test\”

ThisWorkbook.SaveCopyAs BackUpPath & Format(Now, “dd-mm-yyyy hh-mm-ss”) & ” ” & ActiveWorkbook.Name

End Sub

Here is the code that you need to put in the code window ThisWorkbook.

Do this by using the keyboard shortcut – ALT + F11 to open the VB Editor.

Then, in the project explorer, click on the object This Workbook.

AutoRecover and AutoSave Enabled

Always make sure that you are automatically showing recovery options and saving your files in Excel by enabling these.

Even if it must get enabled by default, you can manually do it whenever that is not the case.

With these steps, you can enable Excel’s AutoRecover and AutoSave functionality:

  1. Click the tab ‘File.’
  2. Tap on ‘Options.’
  3. Once you see the dialog box Excel Options, choose Save. You can see this on the left part of the dialog box.
  4. Be sure to enable these settings:

Allow us to explain the meaning of these options quickly:

  • Whenever I close without having to save the file, I will keep the last version AutoRecovered: With this, you can make sure that you can auto-recover a saved version whenever the system or Excel crashes.
  • File location AutoRecover: Here is the default location where you can save auto-recovered files. It can be possible for you to have this changed whenever you want to.
  • Have AutoRecover Save the Information Every Specified Number of Minutes: With this option, you can make sure to have your files saved for every five to ten minutes) or whatever time value that you specify. By default, it is at ten minutes. You can have this changed to five minutes or less, whatever you want it to be.

Please note that whenever you are working on a big file that involves many charts and formulas, avoid having it saved every five minutes, as this can make the system freeze because of the recalculation. It would be better to make the calculation mode manual or select a longer duration of time.

Repair Corrupt Excel Files

Whenever you end up working on a corrupt file in Excel, there are things that you can do about it.

Initially, use Excel’s in-built repair option.

Recover any corrupt file by having it repaired with these steps:

  1. Open the application Excel.
  2. Tap on ‘File’ and then choose ‘Open’ (You may also have the Control + O keyboard shortcut used).
  3. Click on the button Browse.
  4. Once you open the dialog box, choose the corrupted file.
  5. In the ‘Open’ button, tap on the small triangle pointing downward.                                                                   
  6. Select Open and Repair.                                                                                                                                                     
  7. You will see this prompt in Excel. When this appears, choose Repair.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Whenever you are lucky, things would happen properly that you can have your data recovered from the corrupted file.

If the option repair doesn’t work, have all the steps until Step 5 followed.

Instead of choosing Repair, tap on ‘Extract Data.’

Here, Excel will ask if you want to ‘Recover Formulas’ or ‘Convert to Values.’

Be Automatic in Creating A Backup Copy of Your Saved Excel File

Even if the Autorecover and Autosave options may be useful whenever the system crashes, or you forget to save files, with auto-backup, you can create a copy of the file every time you save it.

For instance, if you work on a file that has the name Test.xlsx and saves it in a folder, it will automatically make a copy that has the name – ‘Backup of Test.xlk.’

So, every time you save a Test file, every change will also get saved in the backup copy.

It can be useful to have this whenever there are changes that you make in a saved file that you would like to undo.

For this case, you can instead use the backup copy.

Whenever your file becomes corrupt or crashes, you will have the content you last saved, the backup copy.

With these steps, you can enable the workbook’s auto-backup feature:

  1. Click on the tab File.
  2. Tap on ‘Save As’
  3. Choose Browse so you can open the dialog box ‘Save As.’
  4. Once you get to the dialog box Save As, click on the option Tools you can see at the lower right portion of the dialog box.                                     
  5. Tap on ‘General Options.’                                                                                                                                                           
  6. Once you get to the dialog box ‘General Options,’ check the option ‘Always Create Backup.’                                                                                             
  7. Click on OK.
  8. Save the file in the location or folder that you desire.

This time, whenever you have this file saved in Excel, it will save an exact copy with ‘Backup of’ as its pre-fix.

Here are some of the essential things you have to know when it comes to using Excel’s auto-backup functionality:

  • It can be different compared to the options Autosave and Autorecover as these settings are independent. Thus, having one configured wouldn’t impact the other. With this, you will be with a workbook, and here, AutoBackup, AutoSave, and AutoRecover will all work.
  • Here is a level setting for your workbook. Whenever you let it get enabled for a workbook, it will only work for that specified workbook. In case you want it to also work for the others, you need to enable it manually.
  • Except for when you first save it, the backup file will always be a version behind your main file. For example, whenever you make a new file and then have backup enabled, you can make changes and then save it. It will have a new file, including a backup copy of it saved. By this time, both main and backup files will exactly be the same. Letting the main file undergo some changes and saving it for once won’t save it in the backup file. However, once it gets saved again, it will also apply to the backup file.
  • You can have the backup file saved with an extension.XLK. As a backup file extension, you will see a prompt every time this file gets opened. Let the backup file open by clicking on Yes.

Auto-backup can be a great feature because it provides the file version that you last saved whenever you make any unwanted changes and then save the file.

If you want to have the version before the one you last saved, you can use the backup file instead.

Try to use any option that works best for you.

Excel may attempt to extract as much data as possible and make a new workbook with the extracted information.

Whenever this is not working, and you want to recover corrupted Excel files, you would have to depend on third-party tools instead.

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