recover unsaved word document on mac

The Microsoft Word document format is extremely popular and is considered the de-facto standard by many users. Many document requests include a reminder to send the work as a DOC or DOCX Microsoft Word file. An inability to create documents in this format can definitely hinder your ability to get your work done.

There are some features of Microsoft Word that make it more useful in certain collaborative situations and some users find easier to work with than Pages. You might also have Word files on your Mac if you are an Office 365 user.

You might need to recover a Word document on a Mac for a number of reasons:

  • Accidentally deleting files from your hard disk.
  • The application crashes while you are working on a file.
  • Damage to your hard disk or storage device that leads to corrupt or missing files.
  • Infection with a virus or malware that causes data loss.

#1 Recover Unsaved Word Docs on a Mac with AutoRecovery

Microsoft Word for Mac has an AutoRecovery feature that can help you recover unsaved Word documents. This option is turned on by default when you install the application and automatically saves a copy of open documents every 10 minutes.

You can modify this setting to have the app save at a shorter or longer time interval if you like. If the application or your computer happens to crash while you are working on a Word document, you can recover it to the state it was in when the last automatic save was performed.

Steps to recover an unsaved Word document on Mac:

Step 1. Open a Finder window on your Mac.

Step 2. Select the entire computer as the location.

That will be searched and enter ‘AutoRecovery’ in the Search field. You will be presented with a list of files. It begins with “AutoRecovery save of” followed by the name of the Word document you are trying to recover.recover unsaved word doc mac

Step 3. Double-click on the file to be recovered. This will open the file in Microsoft Word.

Step 4. Select the File menu and choose Save As. Pick a new name for the document and a folder in which it will be stored and click the Save button.

This procedure should allow you to restore Word documents on a Mac as long as you have not turned off the AutoRecovery option. This method will only work for files that are in the process of being worked on when they disappeared.

Other methods must be used to recover Word document on Mac OS X systems if they have been deleted from your computer after they have been completed.

#2 Recover Deleted Word Files from a Backup or the Trash

Once you have exited Microsoft Word and saved your document there are no longer any means to automatically recover a lost or deleted file. If you accidentally delete some files or are subject to a data loss scenario due to a faulty disk, there are ways that may allow you to get your files back.

Way 1. Recover deleted Word documents from a Trash Bin

Files that have been deleted from the folder will no longer be visible in that location. They are, however, not totally removed from your Mac until you empty the Trash.

  1. Open the Trash folder by clicking its icon in the lower-left corner of your Mac’s screen. recover deleted word files
  2. Right-click on the file name and select “Put Back”. This will return the file to its original location.recover lost word files

Way 2. Recover deleted Word documents from a backup

Hopefully, you are in the habit of taking regular backups of your Mac. You can use your backup to recover lost Word documents as long as the backup was made prior to the file deletion. You will need to use the media on which you save your backups and the program, perhaps Time Machine, that you use to back-up your computer.

Recovering from a backup or the Trash is only effective if the file actually exists on the backup or is still resident in the Trash bin. If you have recently emptied the Trash, your files will no longer be visible there and cannot be recovered with this method.

There is still a way to recover deleted Word files even if you do not have a backup of the file in question, and it is not available through AutoRecovery or your Trash bin, by using data recovery software.

#3 Recover Deleted Word Documents using Disk Drill

Word document recovery software can prove to be instrumental in recovering those important Word files that have mysteriously vanished from your computer. It employs deep scanning technology to find deleted files and file fragments that are still physically on your computer’s storage but are no longer visible to the operating system.

Disk Drill
Data recovery for free
Your Companion for Deleted Files Recovery

Stop using your machine as soon as you find that files are missing to prevent the system from overwriting the files before you can recover them.

Follow these steps to recover a Word document:

1. Download and install the free version of Disk Drill.

We suggest you install it on a USB drive to minimize the chances that the installation will overwrite your files.

2. Launch the application and select the disk on which your lost files were last seen.

3. Click the ‘Recover’ button to start a scan of your storage device.

recover lost word doc mac

4. Use filters to search for specific types of files and speed up the scan. The application will return a list of the files that can be recovered using the tool.recover word document mac

5. If the preview indicates that the files you need can be recovered, you need to upgrade to the Pro version of Disk Drill to perform the recovery.restore word document mac

6. Select a location where you will store the files.

Do not use the original location as this may overwrite the files as they are being recovered.

7. Click ‘Recover’ a second time to restore your lost Word files to the new location you have selected.recover word document on macOS

Video Tutorial:

Disk Drill will find any lost files that can still be recovered, in some cases, even overwritten data can be recovered. It’s an excellent data recovery tool that will allow you to restore those lost Word files to your machine and let you get on with your work.


Robert Agar

Robert is a freelance writer who graduated from Pace University in New York with a Computer Science degree in 1992. Former computer specialist at IBM. Over the course of a long IT career, he has worked for a number of lar...

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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.