Love them or hate them, you probably use Microsoft Excel files at least once every week, be it at work or at home. From cost studies to inventory management and production scheduling to time sheets and business plans, Excel files are used for a wide variety of tasks, which makes them more important than many people would like to admit.

recover deleted excel file

When an Excel file becomes accidentally lost or deleted, the financial cost of such an incident can be quite severe. In this article, we explain how to recover Excel files with the help of Disk Drill, the most user-friendly professional data recovery software suite out there.

When Can Microsoft Excel Files Be Recovered?

how to recover excel fileWe’re sorry to say this, but there are some situations when Microsoft Excel files are impossible to recover. Let’s say that you have a USB flash drive that you use to transfer XLSX and XLS files from your home computer to the computer you use at work.

Why? Because you can’t recover Excel files that have been overwritten by other data. That’s why it’s critically important to restore Excel files as soon as possible, especially if they were located on the hard drive with the operating system. You may even want to considering shutting the computer down, removing the hard drive, and plugging it into another computer.

Steps to Recover Deleted Microsoft Excel Files

Method #1: Check the Windows Recycle Bin

If you’ve accidentally deleted your XLSX, XLS files, the first place to look is the Windows Recycle Bin. It’s quite common to delete an important file by mistake, and the Recycle Bin is in place to rectify such a situation. It is a folder that the Windows operating system uses to temporarily store your deleted files until you empty the bin.

Follow these steps to recover a deleted Excel file using the Recycle Bin:

  1. Open the Recycle Bin.
  2. Locate the item you want to retrieve.
  3. Right-click on the item and select the Restore option.

Method #2: Check your Backups

One of the best practices to safeguard your files against unforeseen data loss scenarios is to regularly backup all your data. You can do this on the native Windows operating system facility known as File History or backup your files to the cloud. For the purpose of this article, we’ll look at excel file backups made with File History on your Windows 10/11 system. 

Follow these steps to recover your XLSX, XLS files backed up by File History:

  1. In the taskbar’s search box, type Restore your files using File History.
  2. Ensure that the File History option is turned on.
  3. Locate the excel file you want to recover.
  4. Select Restore to recover the file to its original location, or select Restore to if you wish to save it to a different folder.

Method #3: Data Recovery Software

In this part of our article, we explain how to recover Excel documents using Disk Drill, providing easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions that you should be able to easily replicate without any special knowledge.

Yes, we could have condensed everything into just three steps, but we wanted to make the instructions as detailed as possible. The beauty of Disk Drill lies in its simplicity. Even though it can recover hundreds of file formats from virtually all storage devices that you may ever come across, all you have to do to retrieve deleted Excel files with Disk Drill is press a single button.

recover excel spreadsheetOf course, a simple user interface is not the only thing Disk Drill has going for it. You can use this data recovery tool to recover up to 500MB of data for free, which means that you can recover Excel spreadsheets countless times before having to upgrade to Disk Drill PRO.

Included with restore excel file Disk Drill for Mac are several extra free disk tools, including

  • recover excel file saved overA free S.M.A.R.T. disk monitoring tool that can alert you to any potential disk issues;
  • how to recover excel documentA handy duplicate finder that allows you to easily find and remove duplicate files scattered across your storage devices;
  • recover excel file not savedA useful data protection tool called Recovery Vault, which stores metadata of deleted files to make their recovery easier.

How to Restore Unsaved XLSX and XLS Files

Microsoft Excel for Windows 11/10/8/7/XP and Mac does everything it can to save your work at regular intervals.

This method is particularly useful when your computer crashes due to RAM shortage or abrupt power disruption.

  1. Open the file you were working on.
  2. Go to File > Info > Manage Workbook > Recover Unsaved Workbooksrecovering unsaved workbooks

recover excel file saved overAlternatively, you can store your XLSX and XLS files on OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint Online and keep them up to date using the AutoSave feature, which saves files for you every few seconds so that you don’t have to. To turn it on, all you have to do is click the AutoSave option located in the top-left corner of Microsoft Excel.

To make it more likely for you to successfully recover Excel spreadsheets, go to File > Options > Save and activate the AutoRecover feature. By default, it should be set to 10 minutes, but you can change it to 1 minute, which means that Excel will automatically save your progress every single minute.recover excel file not saved

How to Retrieve Overwritten Excel Files

But what if you need to recover Excel file saved overwritten by another Excel file? Here are a few techniques to aid your cause:

Method #1: Using Windows Backup

  1. Right click on the overwritten Excel file and go to Propertiesaccessing properties of excel sheet
  2. Now head over to the Previous Versions tab.looking for previous versions of the excel file
  3. Select the desired version and hit Restore

Method #2: Restoring from One Drive (Online Version)

  1. Go to File > Info > Open File Locationaccessing the location of one drive excel file
  2. Right Click and Select Version Historyversion history in one drive
  3. Select a previous version and save it.

How to prevent excel files from being deleted?

It is always important to adapt means that would prevent your excel files from getting deleted accidentally. Here we provide you with three methods to prevent it from happening.

Method #1: Protecting the Workbook Structure with Password

To protect your workbook structure using a password:

  1. Open your Excel workbook. In the ribbon menu, go to Review > Protect Workbook.
  2. Check the structure option and enter your password. Click Ok.

All the sheets in your workbook are now protected. Once you do this, you will no longer be able to Insert, Delete, Rename, Move, Copy, Hide, and Unhide sheets.

Method #2: Using the VBA editor to save Excel sheet from getting deleted

You can use this method if you wish to protect one of your Excel sheets.

  1. Select the sheet on your file that you want to protect—Right-click on the sheet tab and select View Code.viewing macro code of an excel sheet
  2. Double click on the desired sheet from the list of worksheets on the left side and type the following code:
    Private Sub Worksheet_Activate()
    ThisWorkbook.Protect “yourpassword”
    End Sub
    Private Sub Worksheet_Deactivate()
    ThisWorkbook.Unprotect “yourpassword”
    End Sub
  3. Save the file as an Excel Macro-Enabled Workbook and specify the destination.saving the macro code for password protection
  4. Close and reopen the file.

Method #3:  Opening files in read-only

You can choose to open the file in a read-only setting to prevent others who are opening the file from accidentally deleting important information. To turn this setting on:

  1. Go to Files > Info
  2. Click on Protect Workbook and select Always open Read-Only.selecting the read only option on excel to prevent deletion

Once this is turned on, users who open the file have to enable editing in order to make changes to the data, thereby preventing any accidental deletion. You can turn this feature off by following the same steps.


The recovery of unsaved, overwritten, or deleted Excel files doesn’t have to be complicated and difficult. If you know which data recovery tool to use and which instructions to follow, you can get your XLSX and XLS files back in no time.

how to recover excel document

We recommend Disk Drill because it’s by far the most approachable data recovery solution for Windows and Mac users that delivers on its promises and can recover hundreds of file formats with a single click, including Excel files. Of course, you should always save your files as often as possible and use cloud storage so that you can retrieve your work even after a natural disaster.


Joshua Solomon

Technology, SaaS, and digital marketing are Joshua's go-to niches. He understands the need for simple and easy-to-read articles on the internet. As technologies grow in complexity, guides and how-to pieces must remain com...

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Approved by
Brett Johnson

This article has been approved by Brett Johnson, Data Recovery Engineer at ACE Data Recovery. Brett has a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Systems and Network, 12 years of experience.