How to Recover Unsaved or Deleted Excel File

Forgetting to save or accidentally deleting an important Excel file after working on it for hours and days is a painful experience, but it doesn’t have to end badly. This article is here to teach you how to recover unsaved Excel files using several different methods, breaking each of them down into a series of easy-to-follow steps.

Word and Excel Document Recovery

Common Situations That Can Lead to the Loss of Your Excel File

Over the years, we’ve noticed that the loss of Excel files tends to have the same causes, and being aware of them is the necessary prerequisite for avoiding them.

User error

User error

Excel users can be their own worst enemies. From overwriting important files to accidentally deleting files that weren’t supposed to end up in the Recycle bin, there’s no shortage of user errors that most Excel users end up making at one point or another. When addressed quickly, the consequences of these and other errors can be erased or at least greatly minimized.

Forgetting to save

Forgetting to save

It’s surprising how easy forgetting to click the Save button can be when editing an Excel file. The good news is that Microsoft knows this, which is why Excel saves your work automatically for you, giving you a chance to recover your unsaved data when Excel closes unexpectedly.



Instead of manually deleting all files stored on a storage device, it’s often quicker and easier to format it. The only problem is that it takes just one mistake to format a completely different storage device by accident and wipe all Excel files that were stored on it. Fortunately, formatted files can almost always be recovered, but you must begin the recovery process promptly.

Malware infection

Malware infection

Most Excel files are created on computers running the Windows operating system, which is known to be the biggest target of desktop malware. In recent years, various strains of ransomware have been collectively responsible for the loss of a huge number of Excel files, and the situation isn’t getting any better. Malware infections can be difficult to deal with, but the recovery methods described in this article can be highly effective.

Data corruption

Data corruption

It’s not uncommon for Excel files to take multiple megabytes of storage space and include all kinds of complex functionality enabled by features like Visual Basic for Applications. Because of how large and complex Excel files often are, they’re far more likely to become corrupted than regular text files. While heavily corrupted files are best recovered from backups, less extensively corrupted data can sometimes be reconstructed.

Hardware failure

Hardware failure

Unlike the previous causes of Excel data loss, hardware failure is often impossible to recover from—especially if you’re not willing to spend a lot of money on professional data recovery services. The only thing that can save your Excel files is a previously created backup.

How to Recover Deleted Excel Files with Data Recovery Software

Data recovery software lets you effectively respond to Excel data loss and retrieve the missing files with a few simple clicks. Here’s how you can recover Excel files using Disk Drill:

1. Install Disk Drill

Disk Drill can be downloaded for free and installed on any computer running Windows XP and newer, including Windows 11 (macOS version of Disk Drill is also available). The free version can recover up to 500 MB of data, which should be plenty for dozens of large Excel files.

Install Disk Drill

2. Scan for Excel Files

Make sure the storage device on which the missing Excel files were stored is connected to your computer and launch Disk Drill. Select the storage device and click Search for lost data. It’s best to let Disk Drill finish scanning, but you can also preview recovery results in real-time.

Scan for Excel Files

3. Recover Excel Files

You can filter the scan results to display only document file formats using the filters on the left. Before adding an Excel file to your recovery queue by clicking the checkbox next to it, it’s a good idea to preview it to verify its integrity. To complete the recovery process, click the Recover button and specify a suitable recovery destination.

Recover Excel Files

Recover Excel Files from Any Device

With the help of Disk Drill, you can recover unsaved or deleted Excel files from any storage device that’s recognized by your computer.

Spinning hard disk drives (HDDs)
Spinning hard disk drives (HDDs)

Disk Drill can effortlessly recover data from HP, Kingston, Seagate, Western-Digital, SanDisk, and other HDDs.

Solid-state drives (SSDs)
Solid-state drives (SSDs)

All SSDs that don’t enable the TRIM command to instantly wipe deleted files can be recovered using Disk Drill.

USB flash drives
USB flash drives

Brands like SanDisk, Kingston, Corsair, Patriot, and Verbatim represent only a fraction of USB flash drives that can be recovered using Disk Drill.

Memory cards (SD, CF, etc.)
Memory cards (SD, CF, etc.)

It doesn’t matter how large your memory card is or what its exact specifications are. As long as your computer can recognize it, Disk Drill can recover Excel files from it.


Dell, Asus, HP, Lenovo, Acer, and other laptops with spinning hard disk drives or fast solid-state drives can be scanned using Disk Drill.

Desktop computers
Desktop computers

Disk Drill is a flexible data recovery software application capable of recovering lost data from all desktop computers running Windows XP or newer.

cleverfiles PROTECT

Protect Your Excel Files to Guarantee Their Recovery

The preparations for Excel document recovery should begin a long time before any data loss occurs. That’s why Disk Drill comes with useful data protection features, called Recovery Vault and Guaranteed Recovery. The former backup feature stores file metadata to speed up the retrieval of associated files, while the latter backup feature creates full copies of important files to ensure their recovery is possible under all circumstances.

Protect Word and Excel Documents

7 Ways to Recover Unsaved or Deleted Excel Files without Third-Party Software

In many cases, it’s not necessary to install third-party software like Disk Drill to perform Excel document recovery. The backup and recovery features included in Windows are enough to get the job done.

Method 1

Recover Excel Files from Recycle Bin

Recently deleted Excel files can usually be recovered from the Recycle Bin folder, which is a special storage area where deleted files are automatically moved to give the user one last chance to retrieve them.

  1. Double-click the Recycle bin icon on the desktop.
  2. Look for the deleted Excel file.
  3. Right-click the deleted Excel file and restore it back to its original location by clicking the Restore button.
Recover Excel Files from Recycle Bin
Method 2

Recover an Unsaved Excel File

As soon as you create a new Excel file, also referred to as a workbook, Excel automatically starts keeping track of all changes made to it. Should you lose your work because of a power outage, software error, or some other cause, you can recover the unsaved workbook with a simple click.

  1. Launch Excel.
  2. Click File.
  3. Click the Recover unsaved workbooks link at the bottom of the Home tab.
  4. Select the lost workbook.
  5. Move the workbook to a safe location.
Recover an Unsaved Excel File
Method 3

Recover Unsaved Changes Made to an Existing Excel File

Similarly, Excel also automatically keeps track of changes made to existing files. If you lose your work before you manage to click the Save button, it will automatically display a Document Recovery pane with the automatically saved copy of your workbook. To recover it, all you need to do is click on it.

Recover Unsaved Changes Made to an Existing Excel File
Method 4

Recover a Previous Version of a Saved Excel File

If you use the File History feature in Windows to back up your Excel files, then you can recover any previously saved version from your backup drive.

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Go to the folder where your Excel files are stored.
  3. Right-click the Excel file whose previous version you want to recover and select the Previous Versions option.
  4. Select the version you want to recover.
  5. Click on the Restore button.
Recover a Previous Version of a Saved Excel File
Method 5

Recover an Excel File from a Cloud Backup

The latest version of Microsoft Excel can save files to OneDrive and keep track of all changes in real-time, constantly saving your work as you make edits. Because Excel files saved to OneDrive are located on Microsoft’s servers, they can be recovered even when you experience a hardware failure.

  1. Go to:
  2. Log in with your Microsoft email address and password.
  3. Locate your Excel files and decide what you want to do with them.
Recover an Excel File from a Cloud Backup
Method 6

Recover a Previously Saved Version of the Excel File from DropBox

Dropbox is one of the most popular cloud backup solutions and an excellent alternative to iCloud. If you count yourself among its many users, then there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to recover your Excel file just by completing the following few easy steps:

  1. Go to:
  2. Log in with your email address and password.
  3. Look for the missing Excel document & select it.
  4. Click the Download button.
  5. Open the downloaded file to verify that the Excel document has been successfully recovered.
Recover a Previously Saved Version of the Excel File from DropBox
Method 7

Recover an Unsaved Excel Document in SharePoint

SharePoint is Microsoft’s collaborative platform that helps teams share and manage content, including Excel documents. The steps you need to go through to download a SharePoint file are similar to those for downloading OneDrive files:

  1. Log in to SharePoint
  2. Locate the Excel document you want to recover (you can use the search feature).
  3. Select the Excel document.
  4. In the top navigation, select Download.
  5. Choose a suitable download location if prompted to do so.
Recover an Unsaved Excel Document in SharePoint

Use AutoRecover and AutoSave to Prevent the Loss of Excel Files

Excel comes with two incredibly useful features that can significantly reduce the likelihood of you experiencing irreversible data loss. The two features are called AutoRecover and AutoSave, and you should ensure they’re enabled before you start using Excel for any important work.


The AutoRecover feature automatically saves your work at a fixed interval, making it possible for you to recover it even if you forget to save it manually. To enable this feature:

  1. Launch Excel and click File.
  2. Select Options and go to the Save tab.
  3. Make sure the “Save AutoRecover information every XY minutes” is turned on.

As you can see, you can configure the interval and change the default value of 10 minutes to something else. We recommend the lowest value possible (1 minute), but keep in mind that it can negatively affect the performance of your computer.



The AutoSave feature saves Excel files in real-time to OneDrive every few seconds, preventing sudden power outages, system crashes, and other unexpected causes of data loss from destroying your hard work. To enable it:

  1. Launch Excel and click File.
  2. Select Options and go to the Save tab.
  3. Make sure the “AutoSave OneDrive and SharePoint Online files by default on Excel” is turned on.

For the feature to actually do anything, you need to select OneDrive as the location for your Excel file when saving it for the first time.

onedrive autosave feature in excel

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated on by Disk Drill Team

How to recover a deleted Word document?

To recover a deleted Word document, perform this procedure:

  1. Download, install and launch Disk Drill.
  2. Select the disk that contained the deleted Word document.
  3. Click Search for lost data to scan the disk for lost files.
  4. Review the documents that can be recovered and choose which to restore.
  5. Click Recover all and the app will retrieve the selected Word documents.

Can I recover permanently deleted Word document for free?

You can recover permanently deleted Word document without any cost by using Disk Drill data recovery software for Windows. The free version of the software allows you to recover up to 500 MB of data for free before upgrading. It is a great way to recover some data for free and examine the features of this excellent data recovery tool.

Can I recover lost Word document without software?

Yes. There are several ways that you can recover a lost Word document without software.

  1. Check the temporary file folder for unsaved Word documents.
  2. Use the Microsoft Office document recovery feature which opens after an unexpected crash of the Word application.
  3. Try using Word’s AutoRecover tool to restore a lost document.
  4. Recover your Word documents from previously created backup media.

How can I recover permanently deleted Excel files in Windows 10?

To recover permanently deleted Excel files in Windows 10 follow these steps:

  1. Download, install and launch Disk Drill for Windows.
  2. Select the disk or partition that contained the deleted Excel files.
  3. Click Search for lost data to initiate the scanning algorithms.
  4. Preview the available files and select the ones you want to restore.
  5. Click Recover to retrieve the Excel files.

Is possible to recover unsaved Word or Excel documents?

Yes, it is possible. Microsoft Office creates temporary copies of your files as you work in the application. These temporary files can be recovered if the app crashed before you can save your work. There is also an autorecover feature that will make copies of your files at set time intervals. You can set the interval to your desired value.

Can you recover an Excel spreadsheet that was not saved?

Yes, it’s often possible to recover an Excel spreadsheet that was not saved because Excel automatically saves backup copies of all opened files.

Where are unsaved Excel files stored?

Unsaved Excel files are automatically stored in the AutoRecover file location drive:\Users\user_name\­AppData\Roaming\­Microsoft\Excel on Windows, which can be changed from Settings.

How do you AutoRecover in Excel?

The AutoRecover process is triggered automatically the next time you launch Excel following a crash:

  1. Launch Excel.
  2. Wait for the AutoRecover pane to appear.
  3. Select your Excel file.

How do I recover an unsaved Excel document in Office 365?

Office 365, now known as Microsoft 365, is a subscription service that gives you access to Microsoft’s office applications, including Excel. Included in the subscription is OneDrive cloud storage, which enables the AutoSave feature in Excel. To recover an unsaved Excel document from the cloud:

  1. Go to:
  2. Log in with your Microsoft email address and password.
  3. File the latest AutoSave backup of the unsaved file.
  4. Download the file to your computer.

Where are temporary Excel files stored Office 365?

Office 365 (now called Microsoft 365) applications store temporary files inside a local folder on your main system drive, such as C:\Users\UserName\­AppData\Roaming\­Microsoft\Excel on Windows.

Can I retrieve an Excel file I didn't save on Windows 11?

If you want to retrieve an unsaved Excel file on Windows 11, then your best option is the AutoRecover feature, which should be triggered automatically next time you launch Excel, allowing you to retrieve the most recent local backup.

How to recover Word document on Mac with Disk Drill

More Recovery Scenarios...

File recovery tutorials

How Others Use Disk Drill

Used by world famous companies