How to recover a lost file in Miscrosoft Word

Microsoft Office Word documents can be lost in certain situations. For example, the document may be lost if an error forces Word to close, if you experience a power interruption while you are editing, or if you close the document without saving changes.This article discusses six methods that you can use to try to recover the lost document.Unfortunately, some documents might not be recoverable. For example, if you have not saved the document at all, the whole document might be lost. If you have saved your document, you might lose only the changes that you made since the last time that you saved it. However, do not worry. Many documents can be partly or completely recovered.

Because there are several versions of Microsoft Windows, the following steps may be different on your computer. If they are, see your product documentation to complete these steps. Also, because some of these methods include steps that require you to restart your computer. You may find it easier to follow the steps if you print this article first.

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Use these methods in the order in which they are presented to recover the lost document. If one of these methods is successful and you recover the lost document, you are finished and you do not have to follow any more steps.

Method 1: Search for the original document

The original document might not have been removed from the computer. Follow these steps to see whether you can find the document:

  1. Click Start, and then click Search.
  2. In the lower-left corner of the Windows Desktop Search pane, click Click here to use Search Companion, if that option is listed.
  3. In the Search Companion pane, click All Files and Folders.
  4. In the All or part of the file name box, type the name of the document that you want to find.
  5. In the Look in box, click My Computer, and then click Search.

If the search details pane does not contain the document that you are looking for, you might have typed the file name incorrectly or the document might have a different name. Follow these steps to search for all Word documents:

  1. In the Search Companion pane, click Start a new search.
  2. Click All files and folders, and then copy and paste (or type) the following text into the All or part of the file name: box, and then click Search.
    *.doc

If the details pane still does not contain the file that you are looking for, the document might have been moved to the Recycle Bin. To view the Recycle Bin and restore the document if it is there, follow these steps:

  1. On the desktop, double-click Recycle Bin.
  2. On the View menu, click Details.
  3. On the View menu, click Arrange Icons by, and then click Date Deleted.
  4. Scroll through the files.If you find the document that you are looking for, right-click the document, and then click Restore to return the document to its original location.

Note Microsoft currently does not provide any utilities to recover documents that have been deleted, or emptied from the Recycle Bin. However, some third-party utilities to recover deleted documents may be available on the Internet.

Method 2: Search for Word backup files

If the previous method did not work for you, the main document might be gone. But there might be a backup copy of the document available. The Always create backup copy setting in Word creates backup copies of every document that you create.

First, follow one of these steps to see whether the Always create backup copy setting is enabled:

  • If you use Microsoft Office Word 2007: Click the Microsoft Office Button, click Word Options in the lower-right corner, and then click Advanced. Scroll through the headings until you find the Save section, which is close to the end of the list. If the Always create backup copy setting, located in the Save section, is selected, Word created a backup copy of the document.
  • If you use Microsoft Office Word 2003: On the Tools menu, click Options. The Always create backup copy setting is located on the Save tab. If the Always create backup copy setting is selected, Word created a backup copy of the document.

Then, if the Always create backup copy setting is not selected, go to method 3: “Force Word to try to recover a file.”

If the Always create backup copy setting is selected, follow these steps to find the backup copy of the lost document:

  1. Locate the folder in which you last saved the missing document.
  2. Look for files that have the .wbk extension.If there are no files that have the .wbk extension in the original folder, follow these steps to search the computer for all files that have the .wbk extension:
    1. Click Start, and then click Search.
    2. In the lower-left corner of the Windows Desktop Search pane, click Click here to use Search Companion.
    3. In the Search Companion pane, click All Files and Folders.
    4. In the All or part of the file name: box, copy and paste (or type) the following text:
      *.wbk
    5. In the Look in box, click My Computer, and then click Search.
  3. If you find any files that are named “Backup of” followed by the name of the missing document, follow these steps to open the backup copy:
    1. Start Word.
    2. Perform one of the following actions:
      • If you use Word 2007: Click the Microsoft Office Button, click Open, click All Files (*.*) in the Files of type box, locate and select the file, and then click Open.
      • If you use Word 2003: Click Open on the File menu, click All Files (*.*) in the Files of type box, locate and select the file, and then click Open.

Method 3: Force Word to try to recover a file

If Word did not create a backup copy of the document, you might be able to use the AutoRecover feature to recover the lost document.

Note The AutoRecover feature in Word performs an emergency backup of open documents when an error occurs. Some errors can interfere with creating an AutoRecover file. The AutoRecover feature is not a substitute for saving the document.

If the Save AutoRecover information every [] minutes option is selected, Word creates a temporary AutoRecover file that includes the latest changes in the document. Every time that Word starts, it searches for AutoRecover files. If Word finds any AutoRecover files, it displays the files that it finds in the Document Recovery task pane.

First, to see whether the Save AutoRecover information every [] minutes option is selected, use one of the following steps:

  • If you use Word 2007: Click the Microsoft Office Button, click Word Options, and then click Save. The Save AutoRecover information every [] minutes option is in the Save documents section.
  • If you use Word 2003: Click Options on the Tools menu. The Save AutoRecover information every [] minutes option is located on the Save tab.

Then, if the Save AutoRecover information every [] minutes option is selected, try closing Word and reopening it. If the AutoRecover task pane appears on the left side of the screen, click the lost document to restore it.

If the Save AutoRecover information every [] minutes option is not selected, you can try to force Word to recover the document.

Use one of the following steps to force Word to recover the document:

  • If you use Word 2007: Click the Microsoft Office Button, click Open, select the Word document, click the down arrow on the Open button in the lower-right corner of the Open screen, and then click Open and Repair.
  • If you use Word 2003: Click Open on the File menu, select the Word document, click the down arrow on the Open button in the lower-right corner of the Open screen, and then click Open and Repair.

Method 4: Manually recover AutoRecover files

If Word could not open the AutoRecover file automatically or through the Open and Repair option, the AutoRecover file might be saved in a nondefault location. You might have to look for the AutoRecover file manually.

Follow these steps to search for AutoRecover files manually:

  1. Click Start, and then click Search.
  2. In the lower-left corner of the Windows Desktop Search pane, click Click here to use Search Companion, if that option is listed.
  3. In the Search Companion pane, click All Files and Folders.
  4. In the All or part of the file name: box, copy and paste (or type) the following text:
    *.ASD
  5. In the Look in box, click My Computer.
  6. Click Search.

If a file that is named DocumentName.asd appears in the details pane, follow these steps to open the document:

  1. Start Word.
  2. Follow one of these steps:
    • If you use Word 2007: Click the Microsoft Office Button, and then click Open.
    • If you use Word 2003: Click Open on the File menu.
  3. In the File of type list, click All Files (*.*).
  4. Locate and select the .asd file.
  5. Click Open.
  6. Restart the computer.
  7. Start Word.

If Word finds the AutoRecover file, the Document Recovery task pane opens on the left side of the screen, and the lost document is listed as DocumentName [Original] or as DocumentName [Recovered]. If this occurs, perform one of the following actions:

  • In Word 2007, double-click the file in the Document Recovery task pane, click the Microsoft Office Button, click Save As, and then save the document as a .docx file.
  • In Word 2003, double-click the file in the Document Recovery task pane, click Save As on the File menu, and then save the document as a .doc file.

Note If an AutoRecover file in the Recovery pane does not open correctly, go to the “How to troubleshoot damaged documents” section for more information about how to open damaged files.

Method 5: Search for temporary files

If you could not find an AutoRecover file or a backup of the lost document, you might be able to recover the document from your temporary files.

To search for the lost document in your temporary files, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, and then click Search.
  2. In the lower-left corner of the Windows Desktop Search pane, click Click here to use Search Companion.
  3. In the Search Companion pane, click All Files and Folders.
  4. In the All or part of the file name: box, copy and paste (or type) the following text:
    *.TMP
  5. In the Look in box, click My Computer.
  6. Click the two chevrons next to When was it modified?.
  7. Click Specify dates, and then type the from and to dates to include the time period since you last opened the file.
  8. Click Search.
  9. On the View menu, click Details.
  10. On the View menu, click Arrange Icons by, and then click Modified.
  11. Scroll through the files, searching for files that match the last dates and times that you edited the document.

If you find the document that you are looking for, go to the “How to troubleshoot damaged documents” section for more information about how to recover information from the document.

Method 6: Search for ~ files

Some temporary file names start with the tilde (~) symbol. These files might not appear in the list of temporary files that you found in method 5: “Search for temporary files.”

Follow these steps to find any files that begin with ~:

  1. Click Start, and then click Search.
  2. In the lower-left corner of the Windows Desktop Search pane, click Click here to use Search Companion, if that option is listed.
  3. In the Search Companion pane, click All Files and Folders.
  4. In the All or part of the file name: box, copy and paste (or type) the following text:
    ~*.*
  5. In the Look in box, click My Computer.
  6. Click the two chevrons next to When was it modified?.
  7. Click Specify dates, and then type the from and to dates to include the time period since you last opened the file.
  8. Click Search.
  9. On the View menu, click Details.
  10. On the View menu, click Arrange Icons by, and then click Modified.
  11. Scroll through the files, searching for files that match the last dates and times that you edited the document.

If you find the document that you are looking for, go to the “How to troubleshoot damaged documents” section for more information about how to recover information from the document.

How to troubleshoot damaged documents

Word automatically tries to recover a damaged document if it detects a problem with the document. You can also force Word to try to recover a document when you open it.

Follow these steps to force Word to recover the document:

  1. Follow one of these steps, depending on the version of Word that you use:
    • If you use Word 2007: Click the Microsoft Office Button, and then click Open.
    • If you use Word 2003: Click Open on the File menu.
  2. In the Files of type list, click All Files (*.*).
  3. In the Open dialog box, select the document.
  4. Click the down arrow on the Open button in the lower-right corner of the Open screen, and then click Open and Repair.

It’s a nightmare, the frightening scenario that scares every Microsoft Office owner: one of your most important Word, Excel or PowerPoint files has somehow been corrupted. And now it either won’t open at all, or you’re able to view some of the content – but the rest seems to have disappeared.

The sight of hours, days, maybe weeks of work apparently gone forever is enough to ruin anyone’s day, but don’t give up just yet. The situation may not be quite as bad as it seems.

Office itself can fix some broken files; there are free plenty of tools around that can achieve even better results; and even if they fail, applying a few simple, straightforward manual tricks could be enough to recover your lost work, and in just a few minutes.

Make a copy of the faulty document before you do anything else: our techniques aren’t destructive, but it’s best to be safe. And then you’re ready to begin. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Volume Shadow Copy

If you’re using Windows 7, or the Business, Enterprise or Ultimate edition of Windows Vista then the built-in shadow copy centre may have an older and uncorrupted version of your file.

To find out, launch Explorer, right-click the folder that contained the document and select Properties. If you see a Previous Versions tab then click that. And if all is well then you’ll see a list of entries for the folder, going back days, or maybe weeks.

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SHADOW: Windows may have made a backup copy of your document. How thoughtful

Double-click one with a date when you know the document was readable, and try opening this older version. If it works, save it with a new name, then repeat the process with later folder entries until you reach the point where the file became corrupted.

This will get you a baseline version of the file, but you may still have lost plenty of work: if so, don’t stop here. Keep trying the following steps and you may be able to recover the latest copy of the file, too.

2. Undelete

Depending on your Office setup and the history of this document, you may have backup, autorecover or other temporary copies of the file. If this is a Word document, for instance, try searching for *.WBK or *.ASD files of the right size and date, opening likely matches in Word to see what turns up (more on that topic at the Microsoft site).

In addition, Office apps will generally create a hidden temporary file with a copy of your document, as you work on it, so locating this file can be useful. The copy is deleted when you close your Office application, though, so you’ll need an undelete tool. Grab a copy of Recuva (www.piriform.com/recuva) if you don’t have one already.

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RECUVA: Undelete tools like Recuva may help you find old Office temporary files

Now ask the program to search the folder where your document is stored for all files (or *.TMP files if you can filter by extension).

If a deleted file of around the right date and size is available, then recover it, ideally to a different drive (a USB flash drive will be fine). Rename the TMP extension to match the real document format, then try opening it to see what you’ve recovered.

3. Test your assumptions

If Office tells you that a file is corrupt and can’t be opened then you’ll probably believe it – but there could be other explanations. Your Office app may be having some fundamental problems of its own, for instance.

So if you have a problem opening one document, then confirm the results by opening others, or creating a new document, saving and reopening that.

If the application works fine with other files then you’ve shown that the original document is most likely at fault.

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REINSTALL: If the problem is with Office itself then a repair installation may fix the problem

But if there are problems elsewhere, as well, then perhaps the issue is with Office. You might try repairing the current installation (in Windows 7, go to Control Panel, Uninstall a Program, choose Office, click Change and select the Repair option), or reinstalling the entire package. Now try opening the document again, and you may well have better luck.

4. Open and Repair

Office can fix some corrupt documents on its own. And this will often happen automatically. You’ll notice a longer pause than usual while Office is working on the file, then your document will either open as normal, or you’ll see an error message describing the problem.

If Office doesn’t try this itself, though, you can manually ask that it fix a specific document. Just go to open a file as normal, choose the document in question, then click the arrow to the right of the Open button and select Open and Repair.

If the corruption is relatively minor then this may be enough to restore your work. But don’t expect too much: the Open and Repair option doesn’t seem particularly smart, and in our tests, damaging just a byte or two in keys areas of a document would prevent it from opening at all.

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REPAIR: Office’s own Open and Repair function is enough to repair some documents

Should you still be having problems, there’s a second, very much bare-bones Word option.

Go to open a file again, choose your damaged document, and select “Recover Text from Any File” in the “Files of Type” box. This should be able to recover any raw text from the file, but images and raw formatting will be lost .

Save this version anyway – it may be the best you’ll get – but there are techniques that may be able to achieve more complete results.

5. Replace your template

While we’ve ruled out major Office-wide problems as the cause of your document difficulties, there could be more minor issues. Word could be affected by a faulty template, maybe; a dubious addon; possibly even a printer issue.

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TEMPLATE: A change of template could make a Word document viewable again

You could address each of these points individually. Or you might opt to tackle several of them in one go, for example running Word in Safe Mode (a bare-bones launch that disables all installed add-ons, amongst other things). Read Microsoft’s official guide to troubleshooting damaged documents in Word 2007 and 2010 to help you decide.

 

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