Microsoft Word documents (DOC and DOCX) created using the native Word app or the Word for the web app that’s available to Microsoft 365 users are the go-to choice for work, school, and personal document creation on Mac.

But despite their popularity, Microsoft Word document formats are not immune to accidental deletion, loss, or failure to save. Understanding that such setbacks can cause significant stress and inconvenience, we set out to create a comprehensive guide to help you recover your missing Word documents by addressing as many scenarios as possible.

The reason a Word document was lost Solution
I have accidentally deleted an important Word file that is no longer in the Trash. Recover Word document on Mac using Time Machine or try a data recovery software
The document was recently deleted by the user. Search your Mac Trash for the lost file.
I had to force quit Word and need to recover files. Use the AutoRecovery feature.
Word froze and I did not save the document. Search in the Mac Temp folder or try AutoRecovery.
Word crashed while I was working on a document. Use AutoRecovery or check your Mac Temp folder.
I need to recover an unsaved Word document, but AutoRecovery was not enabled. Try searching the Mac temp folder or recovering from within the Word app.
I want to restore an earlier version of a Word document on my Mac. You can recover an earlier version of a file with a Time Machine copy or from a backup.
My Word document got corrupted, and I can’t open it. Attempt repairing it or restoring previous versions

How to Recover Unsaved Word Document on Mac

Have you closed a Word document before saving it? Or perhaps Word crashes on your unexpectedly, causing you to instantly lose all your progress? Such unfortunate situations do happen, but this section offers multiple methods that can help you recover unsaved Word documents on your Mac.

Method 1: Recover Unsaved Word Docs on 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 on Mac via Auto Recovery

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.

save Word auto recovered file

Method 2: Recover Lost Word docs from the Mac Temporary Folder

Your Mac’s temporary folder may have the lost Word file you need. Try the following procedure to check the contents of the temporary folder:

  1. Open Terminal.
  2. Type: cd $TMPDIR.
  3. Type: ls to display the files. Look in the TemporaryItems subfolder for your document.
  4. Search for the lost file. If you find the Word doc you are looking for, protect it by saving a copy to a new storage temp folder for lost word document

Method 3: Restore a Previous Version of a Word File from Within the Word App

Steps to perform the recovery: 

  1. Open the most recent version of the Word file you want to recover.
  2. In Word go to File > Browse Version History.locate previous version of word file
  3. You will see a panel displayed that shows all previously saved versions of the file.
  4. Select the previous version you wish to recover and choose Restore to complete the process.restore previous version of world document

How to Recover Deleted Word Documents on Mac

It would be impossible to find a seasoned Mac user who hasn’t accidentally deleted the wrong file at least once, so don’t feel too bad if it happened to you too. Instead of crying over spilled milk, follow our step-by-step guide on how to recover deleted Word documents on your Mac to retrieve your valuable document quickly and efficiently.

Method 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-right corner of your Mac’s trash bin on Mac
  2. Right-click on the file name and select “Put Back”. This will return the file to its original location.recover lost word files

Method 2: Recover Deleted Word Documents Using Disk Drill

Word document recovery software like Disk Drill 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.

Follow these steps to recover a Word document on Mac:

  1. Download and install the free version of Disk Drill.Software to recover lost documents on macOS
  2. Launch the application and select the disk on which your lost documents were last seen.
  3. Click the ‘Search for lost data’ button to start a scan of your storage for lost Word document via Disk Drill
  4. Use filters to display specific types of files to speed up the search. If a preview of a selected file can be displayed, then the file can be recovered, but you need to upgrade to the Pro version of Disk Drill to perform the recovery.restore deleted Word document on mac using data recovery software
  5. Click ‘Recover’ and choose where you want to restore your lost Word files.Word document recovered with Disk Drill for Mac

Method 3: Recover Lost Word Document Using Time Machine

If you’re using Time Machine to back up your Mac, you may be able the recover your lost Word doc from the backup media.

Steps to recover a lost Word file from a Time Machine backup.

  1. Connect the storage device that contains the backup files created by Time Machine to your computer.
  2. Open a Finder window in the folder that previously stored the lost Word file.
  3. Launch Time Machine by clicking the Time Machine icon on the menu bar.Browse Time Machine backups
  4. Search through the snapshots and backups with the timeline and arrows to find the Word doc you want to restore.
  5. Highlight the file you want to recover and click the Restore button. The doc will be restored to its original location.Recover Word document via Time Machine

Method 4: Try Different Backup Solutions to Recover a Lost Word Document on Mac

There are many backup solutions that can be used to retrieve copies of lost Word documents on your Mac:

  • ☁️ Use iCloud: If you’ve enabled iCloud backups on your Mac, then you might be able to find a copy of your Word document in iCloud Drive. We recommend you check the contents of this backup location from the web because you can then conveniently see all Recently Deleted files even if they’re no longer present on your computer. 
  • 💿 Examine your external devices: Do you sometimes back up your files on external devices like USB drives or external hard drives? If so, you should examine them because there’s a chance that a copy of your lost Word document could reside there. 
  • 🗂️ Check the downloads folder: Word documents downloaded from the web, instant messengers, and various team collaboration apps end up in the downloads folders, so it’s always a good idea to look there. You might just find an old copy of your missing Word document sitting there intact. 
  • 💬 Check your messages: If someone shared the Word document with you through iMessage, Telegram, WhatsApp, Viber, or just a good old email, then checking your chat history might just be the solution.
  • 🔎 Manually search for the missing file: Using Finder’s search feature, you can perform a thorough manual search in all the potential backup folders. We recommend you look for the document by name or extension (.doc or .docx) to narrow down the number of results.

Method 5: Contact Data Recovery Service

hard drive data recovery service

If the strategies outlined above for recovering Word document files on your Mac are unsuccessful, it might be time to consider enlisting the help of a professional data recovery service.

These firms utilize advanced tools and methodologies specifically designed to retrieve documents from damaged, corrupted, or otherwise inaccessible storage devices. However, it’s important to set your expectations regarding the potential costs and the time frame for recovering your Word files. This option should be considered when your documents are critical, and all other recovery attempts have failed, indicating the situation may require specialized expertise.

How to Recover Text from a Damaged Word File

Microsoft Word has a built-in feature to repair corrupted files. Use the following steps to try this recovery method:

  1. In Word, click File > Open.
  2. Select the damaged file from the dialog box.
  3. Click the arrow on the Open button to display the submenu.
  4. Click Repair or Recover Text damaged word document

Check out this Microsoft support page for more information on handling damaged Word documents.

Tips to Help Avoid Losing Important Word Files

Here are a few tips that might help you avoid losing Word files. If the files contain important data and hold value for you, we suggest you take the necessary steps to protect them against accidental loss.

  • ⏸️ Pause before manually emptying the Trash – Take a minute to see what items you are about to delete. It’s very possible that you can rescue a mistakenly deleted file easily from the Trash at this point, rather than with data recovery software after it has been emptied.
  • 🛡️ Run Antivirus software – Malware and virus infections can lead to data loss. Run a reputable antivirus tool and make sure it’s always kept updated.
  • 🔋 Consider a surge protector – Power spikes and surges can lead to unexpected system crashes that cause you to lose data. Using a reliable surge protector can help eliminate that source of lost Word documents. 
  • 💾 Turn on AutoRecovery – This Microsoft document explains everything you need to know about this feature. You should turn it on and use it to automatically protect your Word files.
  • 💎 Configure Guaranteed RecoveryGuaranteed Recovery is a free data protection tool available with the trial version of Disk Drill. It allows you to configure specific files and folders for additional protection from accidental deletion and provides a one-click data recovery method.


Robert Agar

Robert Agar, a dedicated data recovery writer, has been a pivotal part of the CleverFiles team for over 6 years. Before this, he enriched IBM for 13 years as a Backup and Recovery: TSM Subject Matter Expert. A proud alumn...

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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.