Just about anyone who has used a personal computer for any length of time has used files created by Microsoft Word. Its DOC and DOCX file extensions are something of a standard for documents and many other programs allow you to save data in these formats.
If you are like most users, it is almost inevitable that at some point you will have to recover a deleted Word document from your Windows system. We are going to show you multiple recovery methods that give you a good chance to recover a lost, delete, or unsaved Word file.
🔵 I didn’t save the file.
I deleted the file.
🔵 I deleted the file and it’s not in the Recycle Bin.
My computer crashed.
I want to restore another version of the file.
I want to recover a corrupt Word document.
I want to restore deleted Word documents in OneDrive.
Recovering an Unsaved Word File
You might need to recover an unsaved document if Word crashed while you were working on a file. You could come back from a short break and find your machine is frozen and you need to reboot it. In these cases, the AutoRecover feature might be able to get your data back. It’s built into Word but needs to be configured if you want to use it to protect your documents.
Follow these steps to configure AutoRecover in Word:
- Go to the File tab and choose Options.
- Click on the Save tab.
- Ensure that both the ‘Save AutoRecover information every X minutes’ and ‘Keep the last autosaved version if I close without saving’ are checked.
- Click on OK.
If AutoRecover has been configured, use the following procedure to recover your unsaved Word documents:
- Start Word and go to the File tab.
- Click Open and then Browse. Navigate to the folder where the file was last found. Search for files with the .asd extension.
- If the document you are searching for is not listed, select File > Info > Manage Documents (or Manage Versions) > Recover Unsaved Documents.
We recommend that you turn on AutoRecover and set the save interval to a small number to minimize the amount of work that may be lost.
How to Recover Deleted Word Files
We will run through several methods with which you may be able to retrieve a deleted Word file. These methods will work on all versions of the operating system from Windows 7 to the newest iteration of Windows 11.
Windows Recycle Bin
The first place you should look for any lost or deleted file is the Windows Recycle Bin. The Recycle Bin is a special folder in which the operating system temporarily stores deleted items. If your file is there, it can easily be recovered. Follow these simple steps to see if you can recover your deleted Word document from the Recycle Bin:
- Open the Recycle Bin by double-clicking on its icon.
- Locate the Word document you want to retrieve.
- Right-click on the item and select the Restore option.
The file will be restored to its previous location and be available to the OS and other applications.
Local Backups (File History)
You should be backing up your computer regularly to protect your data. On Windows machines, you can use File History, which comes with the operating system, or you can Fuse another third-party backup & recovery tool. In this example, we will show you how to use backups made with File History to recover a lost Word document. Just follow these simple steps:
- In the taskbar’s search box, type restore files.
- Select Restore your files with File History.
- Find the document you want to restore and use the arrow keys to locate different versions of the file.
- Select Restore to recover the file to its original location. You can also choose Restore to if you wish to save it to a new storage location.
Changes made to the document since the last backup was taken will not be recoverable, but you will get the original file back which is better than the alternative of losing it completely.
Cloud Backups (OneDrive)
OneDrive is a Microsoft storage service that allows users to store data in the cloud. It comes as part of Windows 10 and enables you to save disk space by storing files in the cloud and provides the ability to access them from any device. Use these steps to recover a deleted file saved to OneDrive:
- Go to the OneDrive website and log in with your Microsoft account.
- Select the Recycle Bin.
- Choose the files or folders you want to recover.
- Click the Restore button.
Data Recovery Software
Data recovery software takes advantage of the way the Windows OS handles data deletion. When Windows deletes a file from your machine, it removes the logical links that make the file accessible and marks the space it occupied as available for use. As long as the original data has not been overwritten, data recovery software can repair the logical links and make the document accessible again.
As previously mentioned, the most important factor that influences your chance of successfully recovering deleted data is to act quickly. Continuing to use the storage device that contained the deleted Word document risks permanently making the file unrecoverable by overwriting it. So don’t use the device until you have recovered your deleted files.
There are many data recovery products you can choose from to attempt recovery of lost Word documents. We are using Disk Drill Data Recovery as an example of how you go about performing a recovery with software, but you can use the application of your choice when you need to rescue lost or deleted documents.
The following steps outline the procedure for recovering a deleted Word document with Disk Drill:
- Download and install Disk Drill.
- Select the storage device that contained the deleted Word document.
- Click the Scan for lost data button to start searching for recoverable files.
- Preview the files that can be recovered. You can limit the scan results so you only see the Word documents in which you are interested.
- Select the files you want to retrieve and choose a safe location to save them.
- Click the Restore button to get your lost files back.
Most data recovery programs work in a similar manner. Some other recovery programs you might want to consider for a Windows 10 recovery of lost Word documents include:
Whichever solution you choose, our warning is the same. Don’t save any new data to that device until the recovery is complete.
Recovering an Overwritten Word File
You can recover an overwritten Word file that has been backed up by File History or included in a system restore point from the Properties menu of the folder in which the file was located thanks to the Previous Version feature:
- Open File Explorer.
- Right-click the folder where the Word file was located.
- Select the Previous Versions option.
- Select the version you want to recover.
- Click on the Restore button.
You should consider configuring System Restore so you have the option to recover previous versions of Word documents. Having access to older versions of a file can be very helpful to recover from accidentally overwriting a document.
Are There Differences in the Recovery Process for Different Word Versions?
Yes, there are some slight differences in the recovery process for different Word versions such as Word 2003/2007/2013/2019 and Office 365. One big difference is the AutoSave feature that is part of Office 365. You can still use AutoRecover to get back unsaved data, but AutoSave keeps your files constantly updated.
When using Office 365, by default the program automatically saves copies of your work. So if you have inadvertently closed the program or forgotten to save a draft, the data is easily available. When recovering a file in Office 365, use the File > Save a Copy option instead of File > Save As to avoid overwriting the original file.
There are many ways to get back lost or deleted Word files, and this article describes the most useful recovery methods and provides plenty of helpful tips to increase your data recovery chances. Regardless of which method you go with, we highly recommend you begin recovering your Word files as soon as possible and avoid using the storage device on which they were located until your missing files are back.
Robert Agar is the Content Writer & Managing Editor for Handy Recovery. Robert brings over 30 years of experience in data storage, security, compliance, backup, and recovery to the HandyRecovery team. Several years ago, he turned his attention from hands-on technical roles to develop a career as a freelance writer concentrating on technology and its impact on society. Areas of focus include the cloud, data recovery, artificial intelligence, and industrial automation.
Andrey Vasilyev is an Editorial Advisor for Handy Recovery. Andrey is a software engineer expert with extensive expertise in data recovery, computer forensics, and data litigation. Andrey brings over 12 years of experience in software development, database administration, and hardware repair to the team.