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Recover Unsaved, Deleted, or Lost Word Document on Mac 2022

Posted on January 13th, 2022

iBoysoft author Jenny

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Summary: This post elaborates on how to recover a word document on Mac that was not saved, (permanently) deleted, lost, or replaced with the AutoRecover feature, Temporary files, Recovered items, iBoysoft, etc. It also tells you how to recover previous version of Word document on Mac.

recover unsaved deleted and lost Word documents on Mac

Although Macs have a built-in word processor Pages for creating documents, users may find Microsoft Word for Mac more useful regarding collaboration. One of the best features of Microsoft Word is AutoRecovery, which significantly reduces the risk of losing important Word files.

If you happened to forget to save changes made to a critical file or were forced to quit a Word document without saving it, you could make use of the AutoRecovery feature to get it back.

Besides the unsaved Word docs, you may also need to deal with files you accidentally deleted or lost in Word. This post covers various ways to help you recover files that are unsaved, deleted, lost, and replaced in Microsoft Word on Mac.

Solutions to recover Word documents on Mac

Cases of Word Document Recovery Solutions
You had to force quit Word. Recover an unsaved word document from AutoRecovery folder or the tmp folder
Word crashed and closed unexpectedly due to power off or bugs. Access AutoRecovery files, search the tmp folder in Terminal, or retrieve the unsaved file from Recovered items
You unintentionally closed Word without saving changes. Restore file from a backup like Time Machine, or recover a previous Word version
Unsaved Word document with AutoRecovery disabled. Search the tmp folder in Terminal, or recover Word files from Time Machine
The deleted Word document is still in Trash. Search Mac Trash for the deleted word document
The deleted Word Document on Mac is permanently erased. Try the lost Word file data recovery tool or retrieve it from a backup like Time Machine
The file is lost due to corruption caused by hard disk damage or malware. Recover damaged text within Word or restore with a Time Machine backup
The Word doc is replaced by another one. Recover replaced Word Document on Mac

How to recover unsaved Word documents on Mac with AutoRecovery?

The AutoRecovery feature has been in the Office programs for years, automatically saving open Word documents every 10 minutes by default. That being said, you can't recover lost files within the last 9 minutes before the app is closed. It's worth noting that AutoRecovery can't replace the Save button, and it only works for unplanned disruptions such as power failure or frozen Word.

Usually, all you need to do to recover unsaved Word documents is to reopen Word, and then a Document Recovery window will pop up to help you grab the unsaved Word file you were working on before the app crashed.

If that fails, you can manually find the AutoRecovery Microsoft Word documents on Mac. Now let's get to the details of how to recover a Word document that was not saved on Mac with AutoRecovery.

If you are unsure whether AutoRecovery is enabled, go to the Word > Preferences, then click Save under the Output and Sharing tab. Then check if the Turn on AutoSave by default checkbox is ticked.

check whether AutoRecovery is enabled

Where do I find AutoRecover files in Word for Mac?

  • 1. Open Finder.
  • 2. Select the Go menu at the top and click Go to Folder.
  • how to access Go to Folder in Finder
  • 3. Enter the file path based on your Word versions.
  • On Microsoft Office 2019/2016/Office 365 in 2020/2021:
  • /Users//Library/Containers/com.Microsoft/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery
  • On Microsoft Office 2011:
  • /Users//Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/Office 2011 AutoRecovery
  • On Microsoft Office 2008:
  • /Documents/Microsoft User Data/Office 2008 AutoRecovery

Bear in mind that some missing files may be hidden. You can open Finder then press Command + Shift + Period to show the hidden files on Mac and then recover it.

Recover unsaved Word document Mac 2021/2020/2019/2016/2011/2008:

  • 1. Find the unsaved files you want to recover, double-click to open them in Microsoft Word.
  • showing the AutoRecovery folder in Finder
  • 2. Click File menu > Save As to save AutoRecover files in a preferred location.

To eliminate the possibility of getting key ideas lost in the future, you can change the saving frequency to a shorter interval.

Steps to change how frequently AutoRecovery files are saved in Word:

For newer versions:

  • 1. Launch Word for Mac.
  • 2. On the top Word menu, click Preferences > Save.
  • 3. In the Save AutoRecover info box, enter a time interval you want Word to save documents.

For Office 2011:

  • 1. Launch Word for Mac.
  • 2. Click Word > Preferences.
  • 3. Under Output and Sharing, click Save.
  • 4. In the Save AutoRecover info or AutoSave or AutoRecover information every box, enter a number such as 5 minutes or less.

If you disabled AutoRecover or the lost file is a result of clicking the Don't Save button when you closed the app, recovering from the AutoRecovery folder may not work. But you can take a chance with the method below.

How to recover a lost Word document on Mac from the Mac's Temporary Folder?

macOS stores temporary files to better serve people using applications like Word. It typically deletes the temporary files when the program terminates. However, it may not be able to when an app quits suddenly. So there is a possibility that the lost Word doc may be inside.

Steps to recover unsaved Word files with Mac Terminal:

  • 1. Navigate to Finder > Applications > Utilities > Terminal.
  • 2. Type in open $TMPDIR and press Enter.
  • demonstration of how to use Terminal to open Temporary files
  • 3. Open the Temporaryitems folder and locate files beginning with ~Word Word.
  • 4. You can open the file with TextEdit software, then copy the text to Word.
  • 5. Alternatively, you can drag the unsaved Word file to the desktop then open them in Word to detect the one you need.
  • 6. Once you find the unsaved Word document you are looking for, click File > Save as to save it to the desired destination.

If you are unable to recover unsaved Word document with this solution, move on to the next solution.

How to recover a word document that was not saved on Mac from Recovered items?

Sometimes, Mac will move the temporary files to the Trash bin when it restarts. Therefore, you can probably recover unsaved Word document from the Recovered items folder in the Trash.

Steps to recover unsaved Word documents from Recovered items:

  • 1. Click the Trash bin icon on your Dock.
  • 2. Double-click the Recovered items folder to find the unsaved Word files you want.
  • picture showing the Recovered items folder in Mac Trash
  • 3. Drag the unsaved file from the Trash bin to your desktop.

Hopefully, you have recovered unsaved word document on Mac. If it's still not working, you can recover word documents with Time Machine or try to restore the previous version of the lost files.

How to recover deleted Word documents on Mac?

If you deleted the Word doc on Mac, here are three ways to recover deleted files on Mac.

Option 1: Recover deleted Word document on Mac from Trash

If the Word document is moved to Trash, you can easily get it back within 30 days.

Steps to recover deleted Word document on Mac:

  • 1. Click on the Trash icon on the right side of your Dock.
  • 2. Browse the list of deleted file to find the one you want to recover.
  • 3. Right-click on the file and select Put Back. Drag and drop it to your desktop if you don't recall the original location.
  • showing how to put back deleted Word document from Trash

If the document was emptied from Trash or permanently deleted using Delete Immediately or keyboard shortcut Option + Command + Delete, you can recover from a backup.

Option 2: Recover lost Word files on Mac with Time Machine

Here is how to restore the deleted or lost Word files on Mac from Time Machine:

  • 1. Connect the Time Machine backup disk to Mac.
  • 2. Open the folder where the deleted Word files are stored.
  • 3. Launch Time Machine by clicking the Time Machine icon in the top-right corner or from Launchpad > Other > Time Machine.
  • 4. Use the timeline and arrows to find the deleted or lost Word files you want to restore.
  • picture showing how to restore from Time Machine
  • 5. Select the file and click the Restore button. You can then see the recovered file in its original location.

On occasions that you don't have a Time Machine backup or any other backup available, you can rely on iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac to retrieve your important Word files.

Option 3: Recover Word document with iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac

iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery software can recover lost Word documents or accidentally deleted files users cannot retrieve otherwise from Office 2019/2018/2011 and Office 365 in 2021/2020. It searches every bit of your Mac, including the temporary folder.

This Word Recovery software employs an advanced scanning algorithm to recover permanently deleted files that are still on your hard drive but invisible to human eyes. To improve the chances of getting the deleted Word file back, you are recommended to stop saving any files to your Mac as soon as possible. Then start the recovery with these steps right away.

1. Download and install iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery software.

It's advisable to install the app in an external storage device like a USB flash drive to avoid overwriting the disk where the deleted Word documents are stored.

2. Launch iBoysoft and select your Mac hard drive or the partition where your file was stored.

3. Click Scan.

recover deleted files on Mac

4. Once the Scan is complete, use the filters or the search bar in the top-right corner to find the unsaved Word documents.

5. Press Space bar to preview the file.

6. Select the file and click Recover.

preview recoverable files on Mac

7. Choose a new location to store the recovered Word document.

Recover a previous version of a Word Document on Mac

If you have OneDrive turned on, you can return to an older version quickly. Depending on the Word version you use, there are two ways to recover a previous version of a Word doc.

Option 1: Restore old versions of Word documents on Mac with Restore

  • 1. Open Microsoft Word, then click File > Restore.
  • recover previous version of Word by choosing File, then Restore
  • 2. Browse through the versions you want to restore.

Option 2: Restore previous version of a Word document on Mac with Browse Version History

  • 1. Open the latest version of the file you want to recover.
  • 2. Click File > Browse Version History from the top menu bar.
  • recover previous version of Word by chooseing File, then Browse Version History
  • If you are using the Office website, select File > Info > Previous Versions.
  • 3. Now, you will see a panel displaying all the previously saved versions of the current file.
  • 4. Decide which version you want to go back to using the timestamps.
  • 5. Click the file to preview it, then click Restore.

Recover text from a damaged file in Word

Occasionally, a Word document may be corrupted and refuse to open on Mac. Fortunately, you can retrieve lost Word docs due to corruption within Word.

Steps to recover damaged files on Mac:

On newer Word versions:

  • 1. Open Microsoft Word.
  • 2. Click Word > Preferences from the top menu.
  • 3. Under Authoring and Proofing Tools, click the General tab.
  • the General tab in Word Preferences
  • 4. Ensure that the Confirm file format conversion at Open box is selected, then close the dialog box.
  • 5. Click File > Open.
  • 6. Choose the damaged file with lost data.
  • 7. Click the arrow on the bottom-right of the Open button, then select Recover Text.
  • recover damaged text from Recover Text in Word
  • 8. Open the document.

On Office 2011:

  • 1. Launch Word.
  • 2. Click Word > Preferences from the top.
  • 3. Beneath Authoring and Proofing Tools, click General.
  • 4. Be sure that the Confirm conversion at Open check box is chosen, and then click OK.
  • 5. On the Standard toolbar, click Open.
  • 6. On the Enable pop-up menu, select Recover Text from Any File.
  • recove damaged text from the Recover text from any file option
  • 7. Open the Word file.

How to recover a replaced Word document on Mac?

When you replace a Word file with another one using the same name, the reference to the original word document is replaced with a reference to the new one. Nevertheless, the data on the original file remains on the hard drive until it is overwritten, leaving the opportunity for data recovery.

You can recover a replaced or overwritten file on Mac by opening the current version and visiting the Version History to see whether the earlier version you need still exists. If that didn't do the trick and you recall backing up your Mac with Time Machine, you can restore the replaced Word document from Time Machine. Lastly, if you don't have any backup, try to recover with iBoysoft Data Recovery.

Avoid losing Word files again

  1. 1. Making Pressing Command + S a habit after editing parts of an important Word file.
  2. 2. Enable AutoRecovery and reduce the interval between saves to 5 minutes or so. Note that Word's performance will be hampered slightly if it's saving every minute, especially for large files.
  3. 3. Make sure no important files are in the Trash before emptying it.
  4. 4. Run an anti-virus tool to avoid data loss caused by malware and virus infections.
  5. 5. Always back up essential data.
  6. 6. Consider getting a surge protector to prevent unexpected system crashes due to power spikes.

FAQ about how to recover a word document on Mac?

1. How do I recover an unsaved Word document on a Mac without AutoRecover?

There are two ways to recover unsaved Word document on Mac without AutoRecover. One is to check the Temporary folder by typing open $TMPDIR in Terminal > opening the Temporaryitems folder > drag files starting with ~Word Work File to desktop > open the file in Word > Save the unsaved Word file to a preferred location.

2. Can a Word document be recovered?

Yes, you can recover unsaved Word document on Mac. If your Word has AutoRecovery turned on, you can locate the unsaved Word document from the AutoRecovery folder using the method described in this post.

Besides, you can recover unsaved Word document on Mac from the Temporary folder using Terminal. If none of these work, opt for restoring an earlier version of the file from Time Machine or OneDrive.

On top of that, you can employ a Word data recovery application to scan all corners of your Mac hard drive to recover unsaved, deleted, or lost Word documents efficiently.