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Recovering Lost Files in MS Office

Whether you're a college student writing your final thesis, a journalist covering a late-breaking news story or an office manager preparing the latest fiscal report, Microsoft Office is the go-to solution and the industry standard. Although there are plenty of alternatives, some of which provide just as much functionality, many organizations won't even accept a professional document that's been typed on another word processing program.

But what if the power goes out at the last minute? What if your hard drive fails and your file becomes corrupted? Thankfully, Microsoft Office makes it easy to recover lost and corrupted files.

Integrated Protection

All of the programs in Microsoft Office – including Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access and more – include built-in protection to safeguard your data against such issues. If a problem occurs while the file is open, Office will automatically attempt to recover the lost file next time the program is restarted.

While Office's integrated protection works the majority of the time, it's not perfect. You might be left with an outdated document or, in some cases, an unrecoverable file – but you're not out-of-luck yet. There are still two methods you can use to try and recover the file manually.

Method #1

The first method involves opening the program in question – either Word, Excel, PowerPoint or another app – and clicking on the File menu. Next, click the "Info" tab on the left rail and navigate to "Manage Document." Note that in MS Excel, the option is called "Manage Workbook" and in PowerPoint it's known as "Manage Presentation." Regardless, click this option to continue.

Next, click "Recover Unsaved Documents" from the drop-down menu. You'll see a list containing the latest unsaved files. If there aren't any files present, or if the desired document isn't there, move on to the next method.

Method #2

This method is considered a last-ditch effort to try and recover an MS Office file without resorting to third-party software. To begin, navigate to the folder "C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Romaing\Microsoft\Word". If you are looking for an Excel or PowerPoint file, navigate "Excel" or "PowerPoint" instead of the "Word" folder, as listed above. Additionally, if you installed Office on a different drive than the standard C: drive, you'll need to ensure you're looking on the correct drive.

Once you've navigated to the necessary folder, you should see your lost file. The document's original filename might have a series of numbers attached to the end or, if it was unnamed, might be difficult to recognize based on the name alone. Simply load up the desired file from this folder and re-save it under a new name and location to restore your file and resume your work.

Using Third-Party Software

If the above methods don't work, you'll have no choice but to start a brand new document or seek assistance via third-party software or services. Not only are these utilities costly, but many of them use the same tricks described above – so it's no guarantee that they'll even work. As in all cases, it's best to backup any sensitive or important data at regular intervals to avoid any serious data loss incidents.


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