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How to Recover Unsaved Excel File on Mac – everything you to need know

It can be very frustrating to lose work because you did not save an Excel document, especially when you spent hours creating and editing it. There are several ways to recover an unsaved Excel file on a Mac to reduce the impact of this unfortunate event. This article will guide you through the steps of recovering your unsaved Excel files on a Mac, using various methods including Excel’s in-built recovery tools, temporary file, and third-party programs.

Excel AutoRecover

What is Excel AutoRecover?

Microsoft Excel has a feature called AutoRecover that saves copies of open workbooks at regular intervals. This feature allows you to recover any unsaved data in the event that your Mac crashes, or loses power.

How to enable AutoRecovery in Excel

AutoRecover must be enabled on your Mac before you can recover an unsaved Excel document. Follow these steps to enable AutoRecover:

  1. Open Microsoft Excel for Mac.
  2. Select “Preferences” from the “Excel menu” at the top left corner of the screen.
  3. Click “Save” in the Preferences Window.
  4. Excel will save your work as often as you specify.
  5. Click “OK” to save the changes.

How to recover an Excel file that has not been saved using AutoRecover

Follow these steps to recover an unsaved Excel document using AutoRecover:

  1. Reopen Microsoft Excel if you have experienced a power outage or a crash.
  2. Excel will display a “Document recovery” pane to the left of the window if it detects an AutoRecover File.
  3. You will find a list of files that have not been saved in the “Document recovery” pane. Click on “Save as” to save the file to the desired location.
  4. Click on the “File Menu” then “Open Recent”. Look for the file that was not saved under “Recovered.”

Recover unsaved Excel files from temporary folder

What are temporary files (Temporary Files)?

Applications on your Mac create temporary files to store data while working on a document. You may be able recover an un-saved Excel document from your Mac’s temporary folder in some cases.

How to recover an Excel file that has been saved in the temporary folder

Follow these steps to recover an unsaved Excel document from the temporary folder:

  1. Open the Finder application on your Mac.
  2. Select “Go to Folder” by clicking on “Go” and then “Go”.
  3. Enter the path /private/var/folders in the “Go to Folder window”
  4. Click “Go” in order to open the temporary folders.
  5. Find a folder called “TemporaryItems”, or “Excel Workfile”, within the folders.
  6. Find any Excel files that have not been saved (with an extension of.xlsx,.xls or.xls) in the folder “TemporaryItems”, or “Excel Workfile”.
  7. If you can find the file that was not saved, copy it and save it somewhere safe. Then open it with Excel.

Time Machine Back-up

What is Time Machine?

Time Machine is an integrated backup feature that backs up all your files, applications, and system settings. If you have Time Machine activated,

How to recover a saved Excel file with Time Machine

Follow these steps to recover an unsaved Excel document using Time Machine:

  1. Connect your Time Machine Backup disk to your Mac.
  2. Navigate to the folder that contains your Excel file.
  3. Select “Enter Time Machine” by clicking on the Time Machine icon.
  4. You can navigate your backups using the up/down arrows or the timeline on the right-hand side of the screen.
  5. Find the version of Excel that you wish to recover.
  6. Click “Restore” and select the file to restore it to its original folder.

This method is not applicable if you haven’t installed Time Machine.

Third Party Data Recovery Software

What is data recovery?

Data recovery software helps users recover deleted or lost files from their computer. You can recover an unsaved Excel document using a variety of third-party Mac data recovery software.

How to recover an Excel file that has not been saved using data recovery software

Follow these steps to recover an unsaved Excel document using data recovery software:

  1. Install a data recovery software for Mac. Popular options include Disk Drill EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard and Wondershare Recoverit.
  2. Select the drive that contains the Excel file you haven’t saved.
  3. Scan the drive you have selected to look for any Excel files that are missing or not saved.
  4. Locate your unsaved Excel document in the list of recovered files.
  5. Click “Recover” on the Excel file you want to save to a location safe on your Mac.

Note: This method is only effective if the Excel file that you are trying to recover has not been overwritten with new data.


It can be frustrating to lose an unsaved Excel document on your Mac, but you have several options for recovering your work. Excel’s AutoRecover feature can help you recover your unsaved Excel file. Temporary folders, Time Machine back-ups and third-party software are also available to assist. To minimize the chance of losing future work, it’s important to set up Time Machine backups and enable AutoRecover.


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