System crashes, abnormal shutdowns, faulty OS updates – many factors outside of your control can cause your AutoCAD drawings to go missing. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to recover AutoCAD files by using the app’s own data protection features or by using special software.

Can you recover AutoCAD files?

Yes! However, the right solution depends on how you lost your files. Below is a simple navigation table that you can use to quickly jump to the right solution for your specific case.

How to Recover Deleted or Unsaved AutoCAD Files?

The available dwg recovery options depend on your situation. If you have enabled the Autosave and backup feature of your AutoCAD, you have better chances of getting your file back. But in case it is disabled, there are other methods you can try.

Method 1 and 2 primarily use AutoCAD autosave files and backup files. If you aren’t sure which is which, you can read the differences between these files on the Autodesk website.

Method #1: Recover Deleted or Unsaved AutoCAD Files from the Autosave Folder

By default, the Autosave feature is enabled and creates an autosave (.sv$) file every 10 minutes. But as soon as you close the app or save your drawing, all autosave files are deleted automatically.

However, in case a crash occurs, your system retains the autosave file for data recovery purposes.

You can enable and disable the Automatic Save feature in two ways: (1) Through the Open and Save tab in the Options dialogue box; or (2) By setting the SAVETIME system variable to 1 (to enable) or 0 (to disable).

How to find the autosave folder?

There are three ways you can find the autosave folder:

  • In the temp folder – By default, your computer saves the .sv$ files in the temp folder. To go there, type %TEMP% in the Start Menu.temp command in search bar
  • Using the Options dialog box – Type Options in the drawing area and hit Enter. The Options dialog box will pop out. From there, go to the Files tab and expand the Automatic Save File Location by clicking the plus sign. It will show the location of your autosave files.location path shown in Options dialog box
  • Using system variable –  Type SAVEFILEPATH in the drawing area and hit Enter. The Command window will show the path to the location of the autosave folder.savefilepath command in command window

How to use autosave files?

To recover an unsaved AutoCAD file, do the following steps:

  1. Find and open your Autosave folder using any of the methods in the preceding subsection.
  2. Search for the .sv$ file you want to recover by file name and/or by its timestamp.autosave file in File Explorer
  3. Copy the file to another folder to avoid overwriting the original .sv$ file. You can do this by selecting the file and hitting CTRL + C.
  4. Right-click on the copied file and select Rename.Rename button
  5. Change the .sv$ to .dwg.Rename drawing file in File Explorer
  6. Open the file in the AutoCAD app.Renamed drawing file in File Explorer

Method #2: Restore Deleted AutoCAD Files Using .bak Files

If you accidentally deleted your drawing file, you can use the backup file. By default, AutoCAD creates a backup (.bak) every time you save a drawing. And it gets overwritten each time you save the file after making some changes.

Note that the backup is the drawing prior to the last saved version. Say, floorplan.dwg is the incomplete plan for the ground floor. You added some details and saved it again. The most recent backup (floorplan.bak) will contain the incomplete floor plan without the additional details. In short, .bak files are not mirror images of .dwg files.

How to find .bak files?

By default, you can find the .bak files in the same folder as your original drawing files.AutoCAD bak file in File Explorer

You can also find backup files in the same folder as the autosave files (though its file name will have some additional texts to it). This happens when a backup is created as a result of the overwriting of an autosave file.

Pro tip: If you want to save all the .bak files in a separate location, use the MOVEBAK Command. But note that this command is available only in products that include AutoCAD Express Tools.

How to use .bak files?

To recover a deleted AutoCAD drawing using a backup file, follow the steps below:

  1. Locate the backup (.bak) file and make a copy into another folder to avoid overwriting the file.
  2. Right-click on the copied file and select Rename.Rename button
  3. Change .bak to .dwg.Rename AutoCAD bak file in File Explorer
  4. Double-click on the file to open in AutoCAD.Renamed autoCAD file in File Explorer

Method #3: Recover Deleted AutoCAD Files Using Data Recovery Software

If you have no backups or autosaves to work with or if you’re dealing with severely corrupted AutoCAD files, you’ll need a third-party tool called data recovery software to restore your drawing. Does data recovery software actually work? Yes! You can click that link for more information about the data recovery process so you know exactly what you’re getting into.

Disk Drill logoFor this article, we’ll be using Disk Drill Data Recovery. It’s an easy to use data recovery software that recognizes over 400 file signatures, including AutoCAD formats. It also offers up to 500 MB of free data recovery, so there’s nothing to lose and a lot to gain by trying it.

If you want to read about our real-life experiences using the app before installing it on your system, read our full Disk Drill review.
  1. Download and install Disk Drill for Windows. Then, launch the Disk Drill app.
  2. Select the drive where your AutoCAD folder is located or wherever you saved your AutoCAD files before they went missing (for ex. a USB pen drive). Then, click Search for lost data.Disk Drill drive selection window
  3. Click Review found items to check the list of recoverable files.Disk Drill scan results window
  4. Locate the file you want to retrieve. You can use the search bar at the top-right corner to limit the showed list to AutoCAD *.dwg files. The columns on the right display each file’s size, format, date when it was last modified, and most importantly, recovery chances – this is indicated by “Low”, “Average”, or “High” parameters.Search bar and file type filter in Disk Drill file selection window
  5. Select the drawing file. You can preview the file by clicking on the eye button that appears on the right side of the file name.File preview window in Disk Drill
  6. Tick the checkbox near the file name. Then, click Recover.Recover button in Disk Drill
  7. Use the folder button to choose a location on a separate partition than where it was originally saved. For example, if the file was originally located in Disk C, recover it to Disk B, D, or on an external drive. This will avoid overwriting any data. Then, click OK to begin the recovery process.Destination folder selection in Disk Drill
You can use Disk Drill not only for AutoCAD files, but to recover deleted files on Windows 10 in almost any format – like we said, it recognizes over 400 signatures. It’s one of the best data recovery apps on the internet

Method #4: Restore Unsaved AutoCAD Files From the Temporary Files Folder

In some cases, you can recover your unsaved progress using the temporary (.ac$) files. It doesn’t contain any drawings, but it stores information for various in-program commands like Undo and Redo. Like autosave files, these files are deleted after a normal save but are retained when a crash occurs.

Here’s how to recover deleted AutoCAD files using temporary files:

  1. Hit (Windows key + R) to open Run.Windows Run box
  2. Type %temp%. Then, hit Okay.temp command in Run box
  3. Search for the temporary (.ac$) file. Then, make a copy in another folder.Autocad temporary file in File Explorer
  4. Locate the original drawing file and double-click to open it in AutoCAD.
  5. Click the AutoCAD icon at the top-left corner. From the dropdown list, select Drawing Utilities > Recover > Recover.Recover button in Drawing Utilities menu
  6. In the Open File dialogue box, select the copied .ac$ file to recover your file.
It’s a good idea to do preventive maintenance on your Windows temporary folder by clearing it from time to time. This can also resolve many errors Autodesk users experience with temp files. To do it, follow this guide provided by the Autodesk Knowledge Network.

How to Restore Damaged/Corrupted Drawing file?

When AutoCAD crashes, you run the risk of corrupting your drawing file. Fortunately, there is a built-in feature that you can use to repair a damaged .dwg file.

Upon launching AutoCAD after a crash, the Drawing Recovery Manager will automatically appear with a list of any active drawings, including the related .bak and .sv$ files, under Backup Files.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Click the AutoCAD icon at the top-left corner. Then, select Drawing Utilities > Drawing Recovery Manager.Drawing Recover Manager button in Drawing Utilities menu
  2. Expand the drawing node to view the active drawing before the crash happened. Then, double-click the file you want to recover.drawing node in Drawing Recovery Manager window
  3. If that didn’t work, repeat Step 1. Then, select Audit instead. If the file is still damaged, a message will appear asking whether you want to proceed.Audit button in Drawing Utilities menu
  4. Choose Yes or Enter Y in the command window to start the repair. You will see a diagnostic report during the process. Just wait for it to finish.Audit dialog in AutoCAD command box
  5. Save the drawing file when it opens. This indicates that the repair is successful.

FAQ

Conclusion

Unfortunately, data loss concerning AutoCAD files is a common occurrence. There are just a lot of things that can go wrong… Not exactly the words you want to hear if you have a deadline.

However, you can prevent the worst by making sure that autosave and backup features are enabled. And if those don’t work, you can always use data recovery software like Disk Drill. Just make sure you act fast!