Apple How to

How to Recover Unsaved Word Documents Mac

Written by Hassan Abbas

There are many computer-related disasters that can instantly drain the color from your face. These also include tapping Reply All instead of just Reply. Realizing that the hard drive that just failed consists of videos and photos you had not backed up. Or also that fateful moment when a document you have been busily working on disappears. In this article, we are going to talk about How to Recover Unsaved Word Documents Mac. Let’s begin!

If your Mac crashed or froze, you forgot to save or maybe you accidentally tapped on delete, all might not be lost. We will also tell you how you can recover that vanished Word document.

If everything is working as it should then it’s really hard to lose a file in Word. Word has an autosave feature that means that in the event of an accident you should still have the size of your work, except for the last ten minutes. We explain how you can recover a Word Document from autosave below. That also includes where does Word autosave on a Mac.

So don’t worry! There is a great chance that you can get your document back. We will run through the several ways you also can recover an unsaved or deleted Word document below.

You can also find one of these articles helpful: How can you recover lost TextEdit documents or also How you can recover deleted files.

Recover Unsaved Word Document on Mac

fix with more useful features in many collaborative situations than Pages, Microsoft Word becomes increasingly popular and famous among Mac computers. Office 365 even permits its users to create Word files on their Mac. On one hand, Microsoft Word also offers normal DOC or DOCX file formats that are compatible with almost every OS platform. On the other hand, Word 2020, 2019, 2018…2011 is featured along with auto-saving, which also enables us to recover a Word document before we could hit Save.

Based on the features of Microsoft Word for Mac, there are three potential ways in order to recover your unsaved Word documents. These methods can also be applied if you want to recover unsaved Excel files on your Mac.

Recover Word documents from the Trash

In order to start with, then we will check the most obvious place to which files disappear.

In most of the cases, your file might be missing because you deleted it. It is easily done when you are trying to make room on your Mac and you erase a load of old files only to realize that one of them was critical. However, this is not as disastrous as it sounds. You can still find the documents in the Trash.

  • Tap on the Trash can icon in the Dock to open it.
  • You will now view the contents of the Trash. You gotta look for your file. If you tap on a file and then press Space Bar you may be able to see a preview of it.
  • If you do not view your file look for a ‘Recovered Items’ folder in the Trash. It is also possible that your file is located in that.
  • If it’s there then you will need to right-click on it and select Put Back. This will place the file back in the folder where it was originally saved and you can then continue to work on it.

It would be really lovely if everything was that simple, but chances are that you did not find your file that easily. Do not give up hope!

Recover Unsaved Word Docs with AutoRecovery

The Word for Mac also includes an AutoRecovery option. It is actually turned on by default. The application will automatically save a copy of an open Word file in every 10 minutes. If Word freezes when you are working on a document, or if the computer crashes, then you can also use the AutoRecovery copy to recover unsaved Word document. Along with the changes or additions that you made in your last Word for Mac session.

Unlike recovering unsaved Word documents in Windows, the file recovery on Mac from the AutoRecovery folder is actually really different.

  • First, you need to open “Finder” on your Mac, then go to “Go” > “Go to Folder”.
  • Then type: ~/Library/Containers/ and then click “Go”.
  • Open the AutoRecovery folder, then locate all the files that start with the words “AutoRecovery save of”. Choose the one you that want to recover, rename the file, then add the “.doc” filename extension in it.
  • Then double-click the file. The document is now opens in Word for Mac.
  • Tap the File menu and choose “Save As”‘. Type a new name for the file into the Name field, choose a folder for the file and then tap the “Save” button.

How to find the AutoRecovery folder in Word 2016

Let’s see how we can find AutoRecover in Word 2016:

recover unsaved word documents mac

  • In Word 2016, the AutoRecovery folder is buried deep in the system and needs your Mac to display hidden files, so the first step is to reveal these secret folders, to do this we recommend you to follow our advice at the link below, although the key combination to use is cmd + shift +. (full stop).
  • With this done you will have to open Finder then tap on the Home icon in the left-hand column (it’s mostly your name). Now go to the following folder:
  • If you got any AutoRecovery files then they will be in here. One thing that needs to remember is that AutoRecovery files are temporary and only exist if they think that Word shut down unexpectedly. So, if you click Do not Save instead of Save when you were closing the document there won’t be an AutoRecovery file for it.

Find the AutoRecovery folder in Word 2011

If you are using Word 2011 then it is easy to locate the AutoRecovery folder:

  • Tap on the File option in the Menu bar then searches for Auto recover.
  • If you use Word most of the time then there might be a few different Autorecover files. So you have to check the date to see which one matches your missing item.
  • When you have found the document just tap on it to open it up, then remember to save it again under a new name.

Even if you do not find your document in the AutoRecovery folder, then it may not be the case that it is not there. Files in the AutoRecover folder do not always show up actually.

We actually have first-hand experience of this. In the past, our Mac has saved a Word document in the Office 2011 AutoRecovery folder as well. This would not be an issue, except for the fact that when we then accessed the folder (just an instant search in Spotlight for Office 2011 AutoRecovery) the files were nowhere to be seen actually.

recover unsaved word documents mac

As you can view from this screengrab, the most recent file in our AutoRecovery folder was from 5 March, however, we know that there are more recent files saved there.

The problem with the AutoRecovery file is that it is located in a Library folder that is not actually visible by default. And that will have few impacts on if your files are visible or not.

Fortunately, there is actually a way to locate the file. Let’s see

See files in Office 2011 AutoRecovery folder

  • Go to the Finder, and then click Alt (or Option) when choosing to Go from the menu at the top of the page. This will make the Library folder visible (if you do not press Alt you won’t see it – and you have to keep Alt pressed or it will vanish).
  • Tap on Library to open the Libray folder.
  • Then locate the following folder: Application Support > Microsoft > Office > Office 2011 AutoRecovery.
  • When you see the Office 2011 in this see then you should be able to locate your file.

Recover the old versions of documents

Did you know that Word can be making a backup of your documents? This can be helpful if in case you want to return to an older version of your document.

  • Tap on File: Restore.
  • You can also return to the last saved version, or browse through many versions of your document.

Recover old versions of documents through Time Machine

If you happen to have a Time Machine backup on an external drive then you can roll back to a time when a deleted or corrupted file was still on your system as well.

Head to the folder where you’d want to see your file or an earlier version of your file. You can even try the AutoRecovery folder mentioned above such as.

Open Time machine and flick back via the day, weeks, or months to see if your file is actually there. We will keep our fingers crossed for you actually.

If you are unfortunate enough not to have a backup routine then we suggest you to begin one immediately. Macs are very reliable and useful machines. However, there is always a risk of something going wrong, so it is best to protect and secure yourself against potential disasters.

What if you never saved your file – if in the case in a moment of madness you tapped on Don’t Save instead of Save?

How to Recover Unsaved Word Documents on Mac from TMP Folder

The Word for Mac saves a copy of the unsaved document that is named Word File in the Temporary folder. Your Mac also temporarily keep files in this folder as well. Although for many Mac users, it is actually not easy to find it.

How to recover an unsaved Word document on your Mac

  • Head to “Applications” > “Utilities” and then double-click the “Terminal”.
  • In Terminal, enter open $TMPDIR, and then you will be directed to the TMP folder that is used to keep files temporarily.
  • In the TMP folder, find and then open the folder named “TemporaryItems”. In it, right-click the wished  unsaved Word files and then “Open with…” Microsoft Word.
  • Save the Word file by tapping on “File” > “Save As” and then save it to another location.

Tips to prevent lost Word files

Save first, Save often

It goes without saying that you should save mostly especially if your Mac can be a bit unreliable or harmful.

You may be able to depend on Word autosaving for you, but remember that you have to save the file first to really take advantage of Autosave.

Change the autosave frequency | recover unsaved word documents mac

A helpful thing to know is that you can decrease the gaps between autosaves on Word for Mac. By default, they are set at ten-minute intervals, however, it’s actually easy to make them more frequent.

In Word go up to the Menu bar at the top of the screen and then tap on Word. From the dropdown menu select Preferences and then in the Output and Sharing section, you will then see a disk icon named Save. Tap this and you will now be able to adjust the time between saves through entering a value into the ‘Save every X minutes’ box at the bottom.

When it might be tempting to set it as low as possible, keep that in mind that Word’s performance will hampered slightly if it’s saving every minute, especially if you are working on a big file. Experiment to see that what setting works best for you.


Alright, That was all Folks! I hope you guys like this recover unsaved word documents mac article and also find it helpful to you. Give us your feedback on it. Also if you guys have further queries related to this article. Then let us know in the comments section below. We will get back to you shortly.

Have a Great Day!

Also See: What is Mac Recovery Mode and How to Use it

About the author

Hassan Abbas

Tech enthusiast with too many items on his wish-list and not nearly enough money! Specializing in all things tech, with a slight Apple bent he has been writing for various blogs for the best part of (too many) years

Leave a Comment