Microsoft Office AutoRecover - Darkman

How To… Recover Word & Excel Files After A Mac Crash

by John Carroll on July 28, 2014

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Every Mac owner has experienced crashes, freezes, and the dreaded spinning baseball of death.

When these things occur, give your Mac a little time. The CPU may be temporarilly overloaded and will eventually return to normal processing.

If after 15 – 30 minutes, you’re still frozen, save everything you can and perform a force shutdown – What Do You Do When Your Mac Freezes… Force Shutdown

Unfortunately, this means you’ll lose any work you haven’t saved 🙁

Unless… you were working in Microsoft Office – Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.

Microsoft Office employs an Auto-Recover system that’s second-to-none. It’s so good that 90% of the time I’ve ended up losing nothing.

The trick is… knowing how it works.

Microsoft Office AutoRecover 

This post is written for users of Microsoft Office for Mac 2011, although you’ll find much of the information applies to prior and subsequent copies of Office.

First thing, turn it on:

  • Open Microsoft Word.
  • In the Menu Bar, click Word then select Preferences…

Microsoft Word For Mac Preferences Menu

  • In the Output and Sharing section, choose Save.

Microsoft Word For Mac - Output and Sharing - Save

  • Under Save Options, you’ll find Save AutoRecover Info Every: X minutes.

Microsoft Word For Mac - AutoRecovery Parameters

  • Check the box to turn the AutoRecover feature on.
  • I suggest you change the AutoRecover timing to between 3 – 5 minutes, depending on your writing habits.

You must have saved your Document at least once for AutoRecover to function. Try to get in the habit of saving documents directly after creating them.

AutoRecover must be turned on individually for Word, Excel and Powerpoint.

How It Works

Once you save a document, AutoRecover works in the background dutifully saving that document according to the timing it’s been given.

If your Mac crashes or you have to force shutdown, AutoRecover makes a rescue copy of your document.

Apologies for the lack of images. I tried to make my Mac crash so I could provide screenshots of the kind of dialog boxes you might see… but, my Mac could not be fooled. Even after I yanked the power cable, it just restarted and lost no Office data 🙂

What To Do After A Crash

  • Restart your Mac.
  • After your Mac has rebooted, the Office application(s) and document(s) that were open during the crash should automatically reopen. If they don’t, open each application manually.
  • With each document you will be shown the file you were working on with the word “recovered” attached to the file name.
  • You have the option to keep the last saved version or the AutoRecovered version of the file.
  • Immediately, use Save As… to save the .docx, .xlsx or .pptx in a location of your choice.

If you’re not automatically given the option to open and save AutoRecovered files:

  • Locate the last AutoRecovered files by following this path: User>Documents>Microsoft User Data>Office 2011 AutoRecovery.
  • Open the files until you find the one you need.
  • Immediately, use Save As… to save the .docx, .xlsx or .pptx in a location of your choice.

Changing The Location Of AutoRecovered Files

By default, AutoRecovered files are saved in: User>Documents>Microsoft User Data>Office 2011 AutoRecovery.

Microsoft Word For Mac - AutoRecover File Path

If you’d like to change this location.

  • Open Microsoft Word.
  • In the Menu Bar, click Word then select Preferences…

Microsoft Word For Mac - Preferences

  • In the Personal Settings section, choose File Location.

Microsoft Word For Mac - Change AutoRecovery File Location

  • Select Autorecover files and click the Modify button.
  • Determine the new location you want to use and click Choose.

Microsoft Word For Mac - New AutoRecovery File Location

  • Close Preferences.

That’s it. Have a crash free week 🙂

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{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jonny May 12, 2017 at 6:23 pm

Hi John

I have read through this all but no luck. I had a previous saved excel file which I edited and I am sure I saved although it could have been that there was an excel crash which closed excel (I can’t remember). The weird thing is that now I cannot either file – the original one or the updated one. I am on OS X El Capitan. When I go to library and get to auto recovery for excel – there are no files there. I also checked my dropbox to which I back up and file is just gone. (not in trash either) and I haven’t time machined recently enough. Any ideas?

Thanks so much

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John Carroll 2 John Carroll May 17, 2017 at 3:58 am

Only to call Microsoft directly and see what their input is. If you saved it, they should be able to find it. – John

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3 Franklin McMahan May 1, 2017 at 5:34 pm

On my computer I had a Word document that I DID save, but my computer restarted and when I tried to access the document I could not find it anywhere. I checked my files, my recent word documents, and even my trash, and I still couldn’t find it.

If you know of a way to help please do asap because this is a time concerning issue

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John Carroll 4 John Carroll May 1, 2017 at 10:52 pm

If you can’t find it using the method above, check the comments below for alternative methods, then check any Time Machine backup and if all else fails call Microsoft. – John

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5 Tom February 8, 2017 at 3:26 am

This was the first site that came up when I searched for help. Thought I’d wasted 2 hours of work, but didn’t thanks to the info in your article. It really helped me. Thank you.

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John Carroll 6 John Carroll February 8, 2017 at 4:43 am

Awesome to hear. Thanks Tom.

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7 Matt Hunt December 29, 2016 at 10:25 pm

After working on an excel document all day my computer froze so I walked away planning to return in half an hour. When I did I discovered that it had crashed and upon reopening the excel spreadsheet it was the original document I had worked on that morning. I’ve tried checking in Office 2011 Autorecovery and also i the Library but I’m finding nothing there (despite my Autorecovery settings being turned on?) Any ideas?

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John Carroll 8 John Carroll December 30, 2016 at 12:18 am

Hi Matt – The possibilities are limited, but I would a) Check any Time Machine backup that you may have. You can drill down to the Autorecover Library, by going through the raw backup file on the Time Machine drive or b) giving Microsoft a call and see if they will throw you a life line.
If anyone else has any ideas, please leave a comment. Good luck Matt.

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9 Eric Morales November 16, 2016 at 12:54 am

Hi There,

My excel AutoSave file is a hidden file and it does not open.

I accidentally did not save my excel file (Mac Yosemite 10.10.2) and my computer run out of battery. I did not get a recovered file when reopened excel. I then made invisible-files visible on terminal and I found the AutoSave file (AutoSave to 42FE4466″filename”). However, when I double click on it, excel does launches but it does not open the file. It give the message:

“The file format or extension is not valid. Verify that the file has not been corrupted and that the file extension matches the format of the file”

It won’t let me modify the extension but the extension in the AutoSave is the same as the origina anyway. I tried right click – open with other applications but they either say the file is corrupted, empty or cannot find file….

how can I view/open this file? does this mean that the file is corrupted? what can I do?

I would really appreciate some help 🙁

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John Carroll 10 John Carroll November 17, 2016 at 8:20 am

Have you tried opening these files from within the App? With something this complex, I’d go straight to Microsoft or join one of their active forums. You’ll find the expertise they’re that you’re looking for. Good luck Eric – John

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11 Patrick Maroney April 2, 2017 at 8:43 pm

@Michael,
Background: So I’ve been using autor-ecovery ever since it’s been available. I learned this hard lesson way back in 1984 when I lost critical data on my Mac 128K, running “Jazz” (the revolutionary replacement for Visicalc). Back then Macs crashed often and hard, but we put up with it cause, even with the frequent crashes and data loss, we were still 10x more productive than everyone else.

So, I just had to hard crash excel after the rainbow wheel spun for ~30 Minutes. After 2 hours of work I finally completed one of those long, hard, repetitive, tedious series of tasks to fix/transform some data.

I said “Yes, pretty please, Recover my files when prompted on Restart”. I’m amazed at how well Recovery has worked. I often have 30-40 spreadsheets cumulatively left open over time. Excel almost always recovers everything, even tables with close to a Million Rows…takes a while, but it’s been solid.

Well of course this time, just as I just finished something I did not want to repeat, the recovery process started and Excel crashed.

I found the recovery file, backed up a copy, and tried every trick I knew from 30+ years of Excel crashes.

So I wanted to reach out to you personally and thank you for your post. I waded through a ton of useless stuff: “Just start excel and it will recover your files!”. It’s funny once I saw the post, I remembered this simple but elegant “fix” from years ago.

Thanks Mate!

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John Carroll 12 John Carroll April 12, 2017 at 3:17 am

Thanks Patrick.

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13 Michael Perez March 19, 2017 at 9:28 pm

I figured out how to open the “shaded” files in the auto recovery directory. Change the extension from xlsx to xls. Then the file opens no problem.

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John Carroll 14 John Carroll March 20, 2017 at 2:54 am

Great tip. Thank you. – John

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15 John Nielson August 4, 2017 at 10:46 pm

Michael, you are awesome, your tip worked!!!! I spent hours trying to figure out how to open the shaded files in the auto recovery directory.

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16 ToniF September 21, 2016 at 5:57 pm

My Excel is not saving to the AutoRecover folder (which I have found via username/library/application/microsoft/office/office 2011 auto recovery) – when i look in that folder, it has only been ‘saving’ Word docs and no Excel docs…and the last Word doc that it saved was 9 Sept 2016. My Mac has been crashing a lot – and i have been retrieving AutoRecover versions…but it crashed earlier today, and the doc i was working on all of yesterday and today (and had been saving) reverted back to the last version saved on 19th Sept. HELP please!!

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John Carroll 17 John Carroll September 22, 2016 at 9:04 pm

Did you check the standard Autorecover folder (see below). If your Mac is constantly crashing you need you do a verify disk under disk utility and if this fails, either call Microsoft if the crashes are related to Office products only… or to Apple if the crashes are general Mac crashes.

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18 Marc July 18, 2016 at 1:37 pm

After a crash of Excel (for Mac 2016 15.24 on Mac OS X 10.11.5, folder not changed, autorecovery set to 10 minutes), I could not find the autorecovery file as above (might be for Excel for Mac 2011?).

However, after using EasyFind to search for “AutoRecovery” (Finder does not index some folders!) and OnyX to make hidden files visible in Finder, I eventually found a (hidden) autorecovery file of my document here (worked, was able to recover):

/Users/*myusername*/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery/

Hope this is useful for someone.

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19 Beverly Wenger-Trayner December 1, 2016 at 12:33 am

Thank you SOOOOOOO much Marc. I searched high and low for advice about how to find an unsaved Word document that crashed. Yours was the trick that did it! (Substituting Excel for Word, of course). Eternally grateful.

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John Carroll 20 John Carroll December 1, 2016 at 10:08 am

Glad it worked 🙂

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21 Vivi December 1, 2016 at 2:25 pm

Hi John,
My Word Document crashed without it being saved and I have done all of the above, except I do not really understand what you are referring to searching in finder in the above statement. Any suggestions?

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John Carroll 22 John Carroll December 2, 2016 at 3:26 am

Hi Vivi – I’m not sure of your question. What do you mean by “searching in finder in the above statement” ?

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23 Marion January 4, 2017 at 6:31 am

Thanks Marc!! Thanks to your URL, I too, found the hidden file I was working on all day that was not (apparently) auto-recovered!!

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24 Valerie Van Horn Murphy July 2, 2016 at 4:22 am

I am trying to find my recovered Excel files as well I go to Spotlight search the eyeglass in the very upper right hand conner of screen next to date and time and I type in

> Go and then I type > and then I hold down the Option key and there is nothing to choose?

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John Carroll 25 John Carroll July 5, 2016 at 8:56 pm

Try checking Documents > Microsoft User Data > Office 2011 Autorecovery. If they are not there, let me know as they are most likely saved in the User library.

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26 Grant June 15, 2016 at 3:20 am

Hi John
Thanks for the advice
I find this works for word, automatically, its great
As to excel, I can even see it autosaving however after my crashes, I never get the recovered doc as I do with word. I have it set to save every 10 mins in preferences.
After my most recent crash, I tried finding it through your path, and I only have a couple of word files there. Not sure what to do, I don’t want to loose a week of work.
Any advice?

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John Carroll 27 John Carroll June 15, 2016 at 1:09 pm

From the comment by Bo Reeze, I would check the following: Click Finder -> Go (in the menu bar) -> hold down the Option (ALT) key and choose (the hidden User) Library -> Application Support -> Microsoft -> Office -> Office 2011 AutoRecovery to find your “autorecovered” files if you did not change the default path (as described in the initial tutorial) … If this doesn’t work, it might be worth giving Microsoft Support a call. If you explain the gravity go the situation, they may help you. Good luck – John

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28 Belinda February 6, 2017 at 4:08 pm

Thanks John. This guidance led me to my document when all other avenues failed. Thank you so very much for your helpful advice!!

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John Carroll 29 John Carroll February 8, 2017 at 4:44 am

Thanks for your comment Belinda.

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30 Marshal July 29, 2017 at 11:35 pm

I just want to say that I love you for this. You saved me at least 2 hours of work on a hard deadline!!

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John Carroll 31 John Carroll July 30, 2017 at 2:09 am

🙂

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32 Bo Reeze May 25, 2016 at 7:10 pm

Click Finder -> Go (in the menu bar) -> hold down the Option (ALT) key and choose (the hidden User) Library -> Application Support -> Microsoft -> Office -> Office 2011 AutoRecovery
to find your “autorecovered” files if you did not change the default path (as described in the initial tutorial) …

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33 Carrie September 4, 2016 at 8:03 pm

This worked for me!! Thank you so much!

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34 Jolla September 6, 2016 at 10:23 pm

This is a godsend! I have at four times previously had Excel Workbooks which for some reason – after crashes or even just when I have saved my excel in a hurry before turning off the Mac – backtrack to a saved version of the same file from like 2-4 weeks ago, losing me tens to hundreds of hours of work, and leading to more and more surly (and frankly speaking, uncouth) names for said Workbooks when I have to write the calculations over again.
I have checked online before for information, but it has lead me to either the standard Autorecovery folder, or solutions that are not available on the Mac version. Today it happened again when I turned on the computer that when I started up my Excel I did not get a popup asking me if I wanted the last autosaved version, instead when I opened my Workbook (which I know I “Saved As” about a week ago) I ended up with a version of the Workbook from May. Wise from previous problems I closed it immediately and looked one last time in a desperate hope online. The Apple Official support was of no help, and Library/Containers like Mark mentioned did not yield anything, but when I tried your path I found a folder FULL of old priced documents I thought lost forever, as well as the certain Workbook I was looking for which said “last modified today”.

Thank you sir, you just saved me a lot of money.

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John Carroll 35 John Carroll September 7, 2016 at 7:41 am

🙂 Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

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36 JM September 6, 2016 at 3:59 pm

This worked for me finding Xcel files. Thanks!

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37 Ariane Burgess September 13, 2016 at 4:18 pm

Thank you, John for the article, thank you Bo Reeze – I found my AutoRecover file following the path you suggested.

What a relief to get the document I put considerable time into, back!

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John Carroll 38 John Carroll September 15, 2016 at 3:17 am

Terrific. Glad it helped.

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39 Sol October 2, 2016 at 12:12 am

Thank you Bo Reeze! Found my autorecovered excel file with this path (it was not in the “standard” location). I also found a spreadsheet from 2 months ago that I’d given up on reproducing. Saved me a mountain of time. I’m copying this into a desktop file for future reference:

Click Finder -> Go (in the menu bar) -> hold down the Option (ALT) key and choose (the hidden User) Library -> Application Support -> Microsoft -> Office -> Office 2011 AutoRecovery

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40 Kerri March 11, 2017 at 3:50 am

Thank you! You just made my other half’s day!

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41 Zeph Grunschlag May 2, 2016 at 11:05 pm

These instructions did not work for me with El Capitan. I simply lost 3 hours of work.

I forgot to NEVER use Microsoft Office to edit anything of value. Always remember to use Google products, or anything other than Microsoft.

-Zeph

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John Carroll 42 John Carroll May 8, 2016 at 11:02 am

Your entitled to your opinion, but I’ve found just the opposite. Personally, I hate Google products, but I guess you just go with what works for you.

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43 Angelina March 27, 2016 at 5:48 am

I downloaded my Microsoft Office 365 courtesy of my college, and I can’t find my Microsoft User Data. I’m wondering if maybe I don’t have it because I didn’t buy the package, I downloaded it from NYU. Please let me know if I have any other options, I lost a 6 page paper that is due in 3 hours. Thanks!

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John Carroll 44 John Carroll March 27, 2016 at 11:03 pm

Sorry for the delay. Work gets in the way. The file should be in documents. Inside the Microsoft User Data file you’ll the file under Autorecovery. If not then contact Microsoft Support directly. They’ll be happy to help you.Hope everything went well. – John

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45 Chelsea February 16, 2017 at 6:41 pm

Hi John,
Thank you for the advice on here. I have had the same issue as Angelina with the missing User Data Folder after downloading Microsoft Office 365 through my university. There isn’t a User Data Folder in User -> Library -> Application Support -> Microsoft only a Silverlight folder. The University IT support and the guy at the Apple Store also checked but couldn’t find it. What is even stranger is the document that I most need to get back had actually been saved multiple times before Microsoft Word crashed. After this happened it seemed to have reverted my dissertation to a previous verions and on the Get Info on the document it said the document had not been opened for 9 days prior to Microsoft crashing (even when I had opened it after the crash). 3 other documents auto recovered but the other 3 documents did not. Do you have any suggestions? Any help would be much appreciated.
Thanks,
Chelsea

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John Carroll 46 John Carroll February 20, 2017 at 11:39 pm

Hi Chelsea – These are probably ideas you’ve already considered:( Do you have any Time Machine backups? If you do, it’s possible to get to the User Library without using the Time Machine interface. If this is not viable, you could try calling Microsoft (probably done this already) The other option is to use a Data Recovery Service to try to get the document back. You could at least find out if it is possible and what it would cost. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. If i think of anything else I will email you. – John

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47 Alan Barry March 23, 2016 at 1:17 am

Hi John,
Found your page here in Australia, as I have a problem locating a file in exel. I followed your directions, but preferences is not highlighted (visible but faded) therefore I cannot get past the preference pane in word. Any suggestions that may help?. If you can I appreciate it, if not, thank you for your consideration I have OS X El Capitan, 10.11.3. Word 2011.
Thanks again John, either way.
Kind regards,
Alan.

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John Carroll 48 John Carroll March 23, 2016 at 2:14 am

Hi Alan – I’m not sure I understand the question. How does a missing Excel file have anything to do with preferences in Word? – John. PS: If you need to close Word, Force Quit it. Just search the blog and you’ll find an article on how.

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49 Alan Barry March 26, 2016 at 1:08 pm

sorry to have troubled you John, what I read caused me to think I coulg recover a lost file in excel with autorecover. My sincere thanks for your response, and thanks. I am a bit of a mug and don’t understand to much about excel. Thanks again John Alan

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John Carroll 50 John Carroll March 27, 2016 at 10:57 pm

No worries. You can recover any crashed file from Autorecover, but it will be from the program that crashed. Hope that makes sense. Thanks for reading – John

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51 Erin February 29, 2016 at 7:01 pm

So all of this seems fine except the major problem that I don’t seem to have a Microsoft User Data file in my documents. I have never seen one or knew it was supposed to exist. I have googled for information on other locations and done a million searches, but there is no such file apparently. And I have my auto recover on, so where is this file?

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John Carroll 52 John Carroll March 1, 2016 at 10:06 am

This is not a file, it is a folder. If it is not in Documents it has been misplaced. Do a Spotlight search and see if you can find where it is on the Mac – John

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53 Christo Fabricius February 21, 2016 at 1:40 pm

My Word for Mac crashed. When I re-launched the application, it tries to load a large number of files, all of which I have previously saved and were not open at the time of the crash. It gets to a point where the memory is overloaded and then crashes again. This happens every time I launch the application. Is there any way I can instruct it not to automatically load files at startup?

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54 Mark Atkins February 6, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Thank you for your advise as above.
This process has worked for me since I started using some of the ms programmes word /and excel.
However, I can only get word to be saved, excel will not and is causing me problems.

I have updated the programme from ms but still issues with autosave

Any clues?

Looking forward to hearing from you
Best regards,

Mark Atkins

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John Carroll 55 John Carroll February 6, 2015 at 2:07 pm

Hi Mark – In Excel go to the Menu Bar, click Excel, then choose Preferences. Click on Save. Here you will find an autorecover checkbox. Set the autosave to about 3 minutes and it should be fine. Thanks for reading – John

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56 Hanna November 6, 2014 at 8:53 pm

What happens if I dont “immediately” save the autorecovery file, because I didn’t save it and now my file wont open again after my mac crashed again?

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John Carroll 57 John Carroll November 7, 2014 at 6:38 am

Look for it in the AutoRecovery folder.It’s in the Documents > Microsoft User Data > Office 2011 AutoRecovery.

If it’s not there, do a Spotlight search, but it’s most likely not saved.

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58 lost August 15, 2014 at 7:52 am

What happens if you accidentally click “Don’t Save” ? Can you still track down that file?

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John Carroll 59 John Carroll August 17, 2014 at 12:50 pm

With any file, you ned to have saved it at least once. After that, it depends on the software’s autosave and/or recovery functions. What kind of file was it? – John

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60 Yuriy Buha August 19, 2016 at 6:15 am

I think i accidentally hit Don’t Save on a new file which i worked for at least an hour. Suggestions above helped me to find it autosaved in the recovered documents.

Thank you for the information

Reply

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