Recover Unsaved Excel Files When Excel Crashed

Last Updated: October 23, 2023

- Written by Puneet

There are a few things that 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 the application crashes 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, we can’t avoid these kinds of things because it all depends on the system’s performance.

But the good news is: In Excel, we can use some options and features 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 them.

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 them. 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
  1. Save files in this format: You can choose the format of the workbook in which you want the save your file with unsaved work.
  2. Save AutoRecover option every: You can set the duration time in minutes to get your file autosave.
  3. Keep the last AutoRecover: The 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.

Note: 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.

(Recovering Unsaved Excel Files) You Want Your Unsaved File Back with Data

The first case is when you are working on a file that is not yet saved anywhere just before you save it Excel got crashed or you close it without saving it. Here are the steps to recover a file that is not yet saved by you.

  • First of all, go to the 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:Users/UserName/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Office/UnsavedFiles) where Excel has saved a copy of all the unsaved workbooks.
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 changes to it.
save as file which you want to open the unsaved file

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

(Recovering Unsaved Excel Files) Forget to Save Files or Excel Got Crashed

Now, this is the thing that happens to all of us. We are working on a file that is already saved somewhere. And, after updating we forget to save it or Excel got crashed. In this case, everything which you have updated is lost.


With the 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 the “Document Recovery Pane” with the list of all the unsaved versions 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.

(Recovering Unsaved Excel Files) 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 that can’t be undone. Here are the steps to do it:

  • First of all, click on the “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 versions 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 the AutoSave option, and Excel saves a version of your file after every 10 minutes.

3.1 Recover the Previous Version of an Excel File from OneDrive

If you are like me and love to use cloud storage to save files then you can also recover the previous version of a file. In OneDrive, there is an option to get a list of the old version of an Excel workbook. Follow these simple steps which you can use:

  • Open OneDrive and then open the folder in which 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 “View History” to open that file in another tab.
click on version history to open that workbook
  • Here on 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 is one of the most reliable software to repair MS Excel files and recovers all the components including tables, charts, chart sheets, cell comments, images, formulas, sorts, and filters.

  1. Resolves the errors arising in MS Excel files.
  2. A batch repair option is available wherein software repairs multiple Excel files at the same time.
  3. Available in SOHO and Tech versions. The SOHO version is applicable to a single system and the 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, and XP.

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