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How to Recover a Lost or Accidentally Deleted Microsoft Word Document

Recently one of my colleagues ran to me saying that she lost a ~50 page Microsoft Word document because of some error forced to quit Microsoft Word. You may have come across similar situation or accidentally closed Microsoft Word without saving the changes you made and ended up retyping the entire work which you may be doing for the past few days! But do you know that there are ways – which works in most cases – to recover such lost or unsaved Word documents? In this article, we will look at various ways we can attempt to recover a lost or accidentally deleted Word documents. Please share this article with your friends on Facebook, Twitter and/ or Google Plus if you find it useful and also post a comment if you’ve further questions or other comments.

Note: Please note that not all lost documents are retrievable by following this article, but in most common cases, it is possible.

Some Common Ways to Check If Your Original Document Exists on Your Computer

Before we go in-depth, you can first try to look for the lost document using some of the common methods outlined below;

Method 1. Searching for the Original Document in Whole Computer

On a Windows 7 Computer

  • Click on Start button >> type the name of the document in the Search Box and press ENTER key. If you can find your document in the results list, then great. If not try the following;
  • Click on Start button >> type “*.doc” and hit ENTER key if the document is a Microsoft Office 2003 or earlier version. If it’s a Microsoft Office 2007 or 2010 document, type “*.docx” instead of “*.doc”. I’ve tested both, in most cases, typing “*.doc” returns both results.

Scan through the results list for your lost document and if you still cannot find the document, try the following methods outlined in this article.

Searching on a Windows 7 Computer:

Searching on a Windows XP Computer:

Method 2. Searching For Automatically Backed up Files by Word

By default, Microsoft Word automatically saves files every 10 minutes, unless you have manually changed this option, “Save AutoRecover information every”. If you have manually changed this option, the chances of finding the lost document by the methods described in the following steps is very unlikely.

To see if you have this option enabled:

In Office 2010: Click on File (Office Button in Word 2007) >> Options >> Save >> Check if “Save AutoRecovery information every” is ticked and a time is entered.

You can find the backup copy of the document by locating the folder you last saved your document. Look for files with the extension “.wbk” in the location you last saved your document. If you cannot find any “.wbk” files in that location, try the following to search the whole computer for “*.wbk” files;

  • Click on Start button >> type “*.wbk” in the Search Box and press ENTER key.

Once you can locate the “*.wbk” file, open Word and click on File >> All Files (*.*) and open the “*.wbk” file you just located.

Method 3. Finding Lost Word File by Searching for AutoRecovery Files Created by Word

If any of the above methods doesn’t work for you, try this method to see if you can recover the lost Word document. By default, Word creates an AutoRecovery of files created in Word, just like how it creates “*.wbk” files. But the file extention of AutoRecovery Word files is “*.asd”.

To find the “*.asd” file default location, click on the File (Office Button in Word 2007) >> Options >> Save >> AutoRecover file location. Copy the location and paste it in Windows Explorer. Once you locate the “*.asd” file, open Word and click on File >> All Files (*.*) and open the “*.asd” file you just located.

Method 4. Other Possible Ways to Find Lost Document

In case, if you still cannot recover your lost document, you can try the following methods as well.

Searching for temporary files

Sometimes you can recover files from the temporary files created by the application. To find temporary files, search for “*.tmp” files. Usually the result list for such a search will be huge, so you can sort out the list by date and look for the latest dates and try to locate the file.

You can also try searching for temporary files using tilde (~), because some temporary file name starts with ~ this symbol.

Once you locate the file, open Word >> Click on File >> Open >> Recover Text from Any File (*.*).

On a Windows XP Computer:

On a Windows 7 Computer:

Note: Recover Text from Any File is a built-in convertor in Word that lets you recover texts from most of the files. However, it has many limitations – the formatting is always lost and anything that is not formatted as text is also lost (e.g. graphics, fields, drawings, etc.). But I think this will be helpful in worst case scenarios.

If any of these methods don’t work for you and the document you are trying to retrieve is really important, then you may want to consider various Data Recovery solutions which are expensive in most cases depending on the people you approach. There are also off-the-shelf products for data recovery, but buy them with caution. I used one few years back and wasted my money because it simply didn’t work for me.

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