How to recover unsaved Word documents

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to recover unsaved Word documents.

All you need to do is download a document recovery tool, scan your device, and locate the file you want to rescue.

Alternatively, if you’ve accidentally deleted a file, you can use Windows tools to retrieve it.

If you’re on a Mac, you can take advantage of the Time Machine function or restore from a previous version.

This article will give a detailed, step-by-step guide on how to recover unsaved Word documents for both MAC and Windows users. 

How to recover an unsaved Word document step by step

Here’s how to recover a Word document and stop it from being lost forever.

1. Download a document recovery tool

The simplest way to recover your document is to use a document recovery tool.

There are lots of options available to you. In this example, we’ll focus on the free version of MiniTool Power Data Recovery. 

2. Find the most suitable option

After downloading and launching the tool, go to the left-hand panel. Here you’ll find four options.

The option you choose will depend on your individual case. Let’s look at two options that might apply to you. 

  • Logical drives – Your document was created on a local partition. 
  • Devices – Your document was created on a USB or memory card. 

3. Choose the device you want to scan

Now, you need to select the partition or device that you want to scan.

As we’re looking specifically for Word documents, we should choose “scan settings” from the left of our screen. 

You’ll be given a series of scanning options.

Make sure you only tick Office “WORD Document (*.doc)” and “Office2007 Word Document (*.docx)”. When you’re satisfied with your choices, choose “OK”

Now, select the “Scan” button. 

4. Select the file you want to recover

The scan result will show a list of recovered Word documents.

You can tick all the files that you’d like to recover on your system.

Hit “Save”, and you’ll be given a choice to save your recovered files. Once you’ve chosen a destination, select ‘OK’. 

And there you have it: the secret of Word document recovery revealed! You should now have a better idea of how to recover a Word file. 

How to recover deleted Word documents

Forgetting to save your files is one thing, but accidentally deleting them is equally annoying.

If you find yourself in this situation, you’ll be eager to get your file back. 

Let’s look at some of the different methods you could use to recover Word documents.

We’ll consider some methods for both Windows and Mac. 

For Mac: Use time machine 

Time Machine is a handy tool for Mac Users.

It allows you to restore your system to a previous version, letting you recover your old files. 

Note: To make use of Time Machine, you first need to enable it. Once enabled, Time Machine can create a record of your hard drive every 24 hours. 

The easiest way to access Time Machine is to search using the finder tool.

From Time Machine, you can navigate through the different snapshots of your hard drive.  

Find a snapshot that should contain your file, click “restore” and the file will be returned to its original location. 

For Windows: Recover a file from the recycle bin 

All deleted files on Windows go to the recycle bin.

As long as the bin hasn’t been emptied, you can recover the Word document. Let’s look at how you can do that. 

On your desktop, look for the “Recycle” icon.

This should resemble a trash can. Once located, select the icon. 

This brings up a list of deleted files on your computer. Scroll through the list, and see if your deleted document is there. If so, you can right-click it and choose “Restore”

Your bin can get cluttered very easily, and it can be hard to track documents. To find the file you need, search for files ending in “.doc”, “.docx”, or “.dot”

Note: This method can also be used within Mac. Just select the trash can. 

For Mac: Restore from a previous version 

Another option for Mac users is to check if previous versions of a file can be found in Word itself.  

Note: To make use of this method, you first need to be connected to One Drive. 

From within Word, choose “File” > “Browse Version History”.

Next, you’ll be given a list of all previous versions of the file created in Word. Select the correct version of your file, and then choose “Restore”

For Windows: Using windows tools 

Windows has a built-in set of tools to help you recover lost files. 

From within Word, choose “File” > “Manage Document”. Next, choose “Document Management” and “Recover Unsaved Documents”.

You’ll be given a list of recent unsaved files. Choose the file you need, and you’ll be brought to the unsaved files folder.

Open your document, then choose “File” > “Save As”.

Now save the file into a relevant location on your computer and choose a file type (you might want the file to stay as it is, or consider turning a Word doc into a PDF).  

How to find unsaved Word documents

Microsoft Word has an inbuilt autosave function.

This ensures that files are backed up every few minutes.

Even if you haven’t properly saved a file, you may be able to find a record of an autosave to recover a Word document not saved. 

Of course, autosave files are stored in different locations depending on your operating system.

Let’s look at the locations for Windows and Mac devices. 

Note: To find autosaved files, autosave first needs to be enabled. Thankfully this option is enabled by default. Unless you’ve turned this off, you should find records of your files. 

For Windows 

On Windows, autosaved files are stored in the “AppData” folder by default. You can access this folder using the following route: 


Once you’ve found your file, it can be opened, and you save it. 

For Mac 

To find autosaved files on Mac, you first need to go to the finder.

From there, choose “Go” and then “Go to Folder”. Next, enter the following file location and choose “Go”


Again, open your file and save it in a relevant location. 

Utilize effective document management software to avoid the headache of lost files

It’s a feeling that many of us know too well. You’ve been working long hours on a Word document.

Thanks to the PandaDoc integration for Word, you’ve got all the elements you need, and a document is ready to send to a client. But disaster strikes, and you forget to save.  

Don’t panic! As we’ve explored today, document recovery is possible, but it’s also a lot of hassle.

You’re wasting time and resources that could be spent on more useful activities.

This, however, could all be avoided with better document management. 

PandaDoc offers a comprehensive solution. With our Document management systems,  you can create and manage documents with ease.

You can minimize the risk of losing important files and focus on tasks that matter to you. 

So, why not try PandaDoc today?