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How to Recover Unsaved Excel File on Mac

Data loss can occur when you least expect it. You might be working on a Microsoft Office app like Excel or Word when your system crashes. Sometimes the application terminates suddenly before autosave can protect your work. Don’t despair. We are going to show you several options to recover an unsaved Excel file on Mac.
You can hardly find a computer user who never experienced either a crash of MS Office apps, or an unexpected power-down of their Mac, or Mac computer crash, leading to loss of unsaved MS Office (Word, Excel) documents. Instead of redoing all the work that was lost, just grab a copy of Disk Drill and recover Mac documents that are highly possible to still be available. Disk Drill can help even when MS Office keeps loading an incorrect version of the document you were working on.

Launch Disk Drill, find the partition/logical volume within the main system disk where MS Office is installed, click Recover to run all the recovery methods, or head on to Deep Scan right away. But we don't want to miss out on Quick Scan either. Depending on exact timing and cause of the crash, it's possible that Quick Scan may pick the temporary file as well, and potentially in a better condition than the one recovered by Deep Scan.

Recover Lost and Deleted Excel Files with Disk Drill for Mac

1. Download and Install Recovery Software for Mac

Download and install Disk Drill for Mac to your computer or an external storage device. Do not perform the download and install on the disk that has lost data because this may result in overwriting the files you want to recover. If recovering from your main disk, we suggest using a flash drive for the software.
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2. Choose the Device where your important Excel files were lost

Launch Disk Drill and select the device for recovery from the app’s disk list. If you are attempting to recover unsaved versions of an Excel file on Mac from an external device, connect it to your machine before launching the recovery software.
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3. Scan for Lost Data

Click the Recover (Scan for lost data) button to start Disk Drill’s scanning algorithms. Let the software run all of its scanning procedures in the optimal order or select the type of scan you wish to run. Choose a Quick scan to find recently deleted items or a Deep scan to scavenge the media for long lost data.
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4. Select and Preview the Recoverable Excel files

Files can be previewed as they are discovered so you can verify your recovery selections. Choose the files that you want to restore and designate a new storage location where they will be saved. Avoid using the disk that had lost data or you risk overwriting your files before they can be recovered.
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5. Recover Your Lost Excel Files

Click the Recover button to perform the recovery. When the process completes, your files will be ready to use in the new storage location that you specified. Disk Drill can recover an Excel file saved as a CSV file on Mac as well as those in XLS\XLSX format.
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Recover Lost Excel Documents on Mac From any Device

Disk Drill can recover an unsaved version of an Excel file on Mac computers from any type of disk-based storage device. From your internal hard drive to memory cards, if you can connect it to your Mac, Disk Drill can scan it and recover lost data.
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    PC / Mac
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  • HDD / SSD
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    Apple®, Samsung Galaxy®, Microsoft Surface®, Amazon Fire®, Huawei MatePad®, Lenovo® and more
  • iPhone / Android
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    Samsung Galaxy®, iPhone®, Lenovo®, Huawei®, OnePlus®, Google Pixel®, LG® and more

Protect Your Excel Work Folder

Disk Drills data protection algorithms have zero impact on system performance, are totally safe to run, and offer potentially huge benefits. Recovery Vault provides multiple ways to increase the chances of a successful recovery. Guaranteed Recovery ensures that you will never lose your most important data. These two data protection options can be configured to protect designated files and folders and can be enabled in Disk Drill at any time. Both tools are completely free to use!

How to Recover Excel Documents on Mac with Other Methods

Here are some other methods to recover unsaved Excel files on Mac.

Recover Lost Excel docs from the Temporary Folder

Your Mac has a temporary folder that may contain your deleted Excel files. Use the following steps to see if they are there.

  1. Open Terminal.
  2. Type: cd $TMPDIR.
  3. Type: ls to display the files in the directory. Look in the TemporaryItems subfolder.
  4. If you find your files, copy them to a new storage location.
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Recover Unsaved Word Docs on a Mac with AutoRecovery

If you have lost an Excel file due to a sudden crash or power failure causing your Mac to crash, there’s a chance that the application automatically saved a copy of the file you were working at the time. You may be able to recover unsaved changes in Excel. Here’s how to recover an unsaved Excel file when your Mac dies with MS Office’s AutoRecovery feature.

Make hidden folders visible on your Mac with the Command+Shift+Dot (.) keystroke combination. Then go to this folder to see if your file has been automatically saved.

/Users/<username>/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Application Support/Microsoft

Click on the file of your choice and open it in Excel and then save it to a new location.
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Recover an Unsaved Excel File From Recent Workbooks

Here’s how to recover an unsaved Excel file from a MacBook or other type of Mac computer.

  1. Open Excel.
  2. Go to the File tab and click Open.
  3. Click on the Recent Workbooks option on the top left.
  4. Now scroll to the bottom and click on Recover Unsaved Workbooks button.
  5. Scroll through the list and search for the lost file.
  6. Double-click on it to open it.
  7. The document will open in Excel. Now use the Save As option to save the file.
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Recover Deleted Excel Files from the Trash

Here’s how to restore an Excel file on Mac from the Trash.

  1. Open the Trash by clicking on its icon.
  2. Locate the file you wish to recover.
  3. Right-click and select the Put Back option to restore the item.
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Recover Deleted Word Files from a Backup

Use these steps to restore your lost Excel files from a Time Machine backup.

  1. Connect the storage media that contains the Time Machine backup to your computer.
  2. Open a Finder window in the folder that contained the lost or deleted Excel file.
  3. Open Time Machine by clicking the clock icon on the Menu bar.
  4. Locate the items you want to restore using onscreen navigation.
  5. Select an item and preview it by pressing the Space Bar if you wish.
  6. Click Restore to recover the selected item.
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Tips to Prevent Losing Excel Files on Mac

Here are some tips and methods to use that will help prevent the accidental loss of important Excel files.
  • Configure AutoRecover
    Configure AutoRecover
    Make sure that you have the AutoRecover feature turned on and configured for your Mac. This built-in facility is part of Microsoft Office and can be extremely helpful if the app crashes while you are working on a file.
  • Perform manual saves
    Perform manual saves
    It’s always a good idea to save your data regularly as you update a file. After entering some new data into an Excel spreadsheet, take a second to save it rather than waiting for the next time an AutoRecover save occurs.
  • Backup your data
    Backup your data
    Whether you are running Excel 2010, 2016, or Excel Office 365, it is always a good idea to back up your data. On a Mac, you can use Time Machine or backup to the cloud with a third-party solution. It’s your best form of data protection.
  • Run Antivirus software
    Run Antivirus software
    An infection with malware or a virus can often lead to data loss. To minimize this risk, make sure you are running an updated and reliable antivirus tool on your Mac and follow its guidance if potentially dangerous software is discovered.
  • Use Guaranteed Recovery
    Use Guaranteed Recovery
    This free tool is included with the trial version of Disk Drill. It works as a supplemental Trash Bin and saves a copy of all designated files that are deleted from your Mac. You can configure the tool to protect your Excel files and other valuable data.
  • Use the Microsoft Cloud
    Use the Microsoft Cloud
    Logging into your Microsoft account enables you to store your Excel files in the cloud with OneDrive. When you save the file, direct it to your OneDrive storage to protect it from local disk issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated on by Disk Drill Team
The built-in AutoRecover feature can help you get back an Excel file that was not saved. Go to the folder where Excel stores AutoRecovery data and open the desired file.
Excel saves AutoRecover Files to this location:
/Users/<username>/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Application Support/Microsoft.

Here’s how to recover an unsaved Excel file on Mac without software, using a Time Machine backup.

  1. Connect the storage media that contains the Time Machine backup to your computer.
  2. Open a Finder window in the folder that contained the lost or deleted Excel files.
  3. Open Time Machine by clicking the clock icon on the Menu bar.
  4. Locate the items you want to restore using onscreen navigation.
  5. Select an item and preview it by pressing the Space Bar if you wish.
  6. Click Restore to recover the selected items.

Use the following procedure to recover a deleted Excel sheet on a Mac.

  1. Select File and Save As to save the current Excel spreadsheet to a new filename.
  2. Reopen the original Excel file.
  3. Copy the worksheet that was deleted to the newly renamed document.
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