Don’t Lose That File! Using Microsoft Word’s AutoRecover


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When you’re working on that important brief or other legal document, the last thing you need is for your edits to get trashed by a computer crash or accidentally exiting the program without saving. While Microsoft Word has always had some form of AutoRecover for automatically saving documents, it’s more sophisticated in Office 2010. Protect your documents by setting up AutoRecover now.

Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows.

AutoRecover options to set (before it’s too late)

To make sure you can take advantage of these features when you need them, first do some quick set up in Word Options. To get there, click on the File tab, then click on Options near the bottom left. Once you’re in Options, click on Save on the left and you’ll see this:

Set AutoRecover options

First, be sure that the check box next to “Save AutoRecover information every ____ minutes” is ticked. By default, AutoRecover is set to save a temporary version of your document every 10 minutes. You may want to set this to a lower number, but setting it too low may drag down your computer’s performance. Every 5 minutes is probably okay for most computers.

Next, check the box next to “Keep the last autosaved version if I close without saving.” This will ensure that even if you close Microsoft Word without saving your document (assuming you’ve been working with it long enough for AutoRecover to kick in), there’ll be an AutoRecover version saved on your hard disk.

The next time you attempt to close Word without saving your work, Microsoft Word will assure you it’ll save a temporary version:


To illustrate this, I’ve created a file and deliberately not saved it when exiting Microsoft Word. When I go back to Microsoft Word, I click on the File tab and go down to the Versions section and click Manage Versions. Once there, I have the option to recover it:


When I click Recover Unsaved Documents, Microsoft Word takes me directly to the appropriate file folder and shows me a list of the temporary files:


To recover this and begin editing again, all I need to do is double-click on the file name.

Recovering and comparing more recent versions of a saved file

If the last version was not saved, whether due to a computer crash or other accident, you can review any AutoRecover versions. Open the file again (using Recent on the File tab is one quick way to do it) then go back to the File tab and click on the later version you want to look at:

You’ll see an information bar across the top of the document. If you decide that the later AutoRecover version is what you want to save, click Restore. If you want to compare the two versions to review the changes you’ve made before you make a decision, click Compare.


This ounce of prevention takes 30 seconds

You may not be the type to want to get under the hood of Microsoft Office and fiddle with the settings. But this one’s critical. Take 30 seconds to set AutoRecover up now. It’ll save you both time and headaches later.



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  • Deb, this is great, thanks.

  • It is very laudable to have pointed this out.

    However the example shown appears to refer to Word 2010. Not everybody has upgraded to that level.

    The procedure for autosaving is similar in the earlier versions, and in most cases is found in Word by clicking on Tools on the menu bar, then clicking on Options, then choose the Save tab (at the top of the menu), ticking the AutoRecover box, and in the space on the right hand side put in the number of minutes you want to AutoRecover . Personally I save every three minutes, and this has saved me major headaches every time there is a crash.

    When opening new files, it is advisable to immediately save it before you put anything in it. If you do not do that, then AutoRecoverwill not work.

  • Sheila Ward

    Good points to save your doc, just in case. Even though I have AutoRecover on I also will do a quick Ctrl/S and save to my screen, especially if I am working on something really involved or with graphics or just something that I do not want to have to redo. I have made it a practice to Ctrl/S as much as possible. These keystrokes only take few seconds but could save you from lots of headaches.

    • CTRL-S is definitely a good habit to cultivate. Even with AutoRecover on, it still saves time and hassle in case of a computer crash or power outage.