Recover Unsaved Excel Files When Excel Crashed – (Simple Steps)

There are few things which I hate from my soul and a crashed Microsoft Excel is one of those things.

Just think like this, you are working on an important report and suddenly application crashed and you get a message “Excel is not responding” or “Excel has stopped working”.

Well, it’s fine if you have saved your workbook but, if not, then it’s almost like the world is going to end kind of feeling. The fact is, you and me, we can’t avoid these kinds of things because it all depends on system’s performance.

But the good news is: In Excel, there are some options and features which we can use to recover an unsaved file and get our work back.

Today in this post, I’d like to share with you these simple steps to recover unsaved Excel files and all the important points related to it.

So let's get started.

Activate/Configure AutoSave Option to Recover Files

In Excel, there is a feature “AutoSave” which allows it to save files [temporary basis] even if you haven’t saved it.

To configure it,

  • First of all, go to File Tab and click on options.
to activate auto save click on file tab options to recover unsaved files after that
  • Now in the options window, click on Save Tab.
to activate auto save click on save tab to recover unsaved files after that
  • Here you have these three options which you can configure according to your need.
to activate auto save fill all the three options to recover unsaved files after that
  • Save files in this format: You can choose the format of the workbook in which you want the save your file with unsaved work.
  • Save AutoRecover option every: You can set the duration time in minutes to get your file autosave.
  • Keep the last AutoRecover: Last version if I close without saving: It creates backup versions of a file.

Important Note: Make sure to keep the duration time short to get more versions to save.

Apart from this, there is also an “AutoRecover” option which helps you to recover the last unsaved version of a file (which is saved once).

auto recovery pane for unsaved files

The good news is, by default these options are activated and continuously save unsaved workbooks on your system.

Recovering Unsaved Excel Files

While working with Excel for a while, I have observed that there can be three different scenarios when you need to recover your Excel files.

1. You Want Your Unsaved File Back with Data

The first case is when you are working on a file which is not yet saved anywhere just before you save it Excel got crashed or you close it without saving.

Here are the steps to recover a file which is not yet saved by you.

  • First of all, go to File tab and click on “Open”.
click on open to recover unsaved files folder
  • Now, click on “Recent Workbooks”.
click on recent to open unsaved files folder
  • After that, scroll to the end and click on “ Recover Unsaved Workbooks”.
click on recover unsaved workbook button to open the folder
  • Once you click on it, it shows an open dialog box, and locate it to (C:UsersUserNameAppDataLocalMicrosoftOfficeUnsavedFiles) where Excel has saved a copy of all the unsaved workbook.
select file from the folder which you want to open
  • Select the workbook to open and click OK.
  • Once you open a workbook, it shows a message alert to save that file before you use it or make any change in it.
save as file which you want to open the unsaved file

Quick Note: The files which Excel saved as a backup is in "xlsb" format, so when you save them to make sure to use the correct format.

2. Forget to Save File or Excel Got Crashed

Now, this is the thing happen to all of us. We are working on a file which is already saved somewhere.

And, after updating is we forget to save it or Excel got crashed. In this case, everything which you have updated is lost.


With auto recover option you can recover the file with all the updated data.

Here the point is simple when you re-open Excel it shows you “Document Recovery Pane” with the list of all the unsaved version of the files.

auto recovery pane for unsaved files

You can click on the file which you want to open and once you open it save it.

Simple is that.

3. Get the Previous Version of a Workbook

If you use Excel 2010 or above then you can also recover the previous version of a workbook. It can be helpful if you have made a mistake in your work which can't be undone.

Here are the steps to do it:

  • First of all, click on "File" tab and go to the "Info" category.
click on info to get version of a workbook
  • Here you have a list of all the version of the workbook which you can restore.
click on any of the saved version to open it
  • When you click on a version, Excel opens that version along with the present one so that you can compare both.

The save AutoSave option works behind this as well. Let's say, you have specified 10 minutes in AutoSave option, Excel saves a version of your file after every 10 minutes.

3.1 Recover the Previous Version of an Excel File from OneDrive

  • Open OneDrive and then open the folder your file is saved.
open folder in one drive to get old versions of a file
  • After that, select that file and right click.
  • Now, click on the "View History" to open that file in another tab.
click on version history to open that workbook
  • Here at the left side of the window, you have a list of the versions which you can open by clicking on it.
a list of old versions of file saved in one drive which you can recover

Bonus Tip: Recover Corrupt Excel Files

Stellar Phoenix Excel Repair software is one of the most reliable software to repair the MS Excel files and recovers all the components including table, chart, chart sheet, cell comment, image, formula, sort, and filter.

  1. Resolves the errors arising in MS Excel files.
  2. Batch repair option available wherein software repairs multiple Excel files at the same time.
  3. Available in SOHO and Tech versions. SOHO version is applicable to a single system and Technician version supports multiple systems at a single location.
  4. Supports all versions of MS Excel including the latest 2016 and the older versions.
  5. Provides support for all Windows OS including Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7, Vista, XP.

...learn more about it from here.


As I said, it’s painful when your Excel file crashed and you struggle to recover it back. But with all the steps I have mentioned, now it can be quite easy for you.

If you want to do the way I create backup files then OneDrive is the best way where you can easily recover previous versions of files.

I hope this tip will help you to save your time and work but now tell me one thing.

Have you ever tried to recover an unsaved Excel file?

Share your views with me in the comment section, I’d love to hear from you. And please don’t forget to share this tip with your friend.

About the Author

puneet one point one

Puneet is using Excel since his college days. He helped thousands of people to understand the power of the spreadsheets and learn Microsoft Excel. You can find him online, tweeting about Excel, on a running track, or sometimes hiking up a mountain.