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How to Recover Deleted/Unsaved Word Documents on Mac

Have you lost vital Mac documents? No worries. Check out our guide with multiple recovery methods and learn how to retrieve deleted Word documents on a Mac.
David Darlington
David Darlington Originally published Mar 21, 24, updated May 14, 24

We've all been there. Your Microsoft Word crashes, or you accidentally close it down, only to realize you haven't saved the latest changes or the file itself. Even worse, you mistakenly delete a file you still need.

Don't feel bad, though. These disheartening scenarios happen to thousands of Office users daily, but there is good news to share about such situations. In most cases, it's possible to recover Word documents on Mac, regardless of whether you're dealing with deleted or unsaved items.

Today's guide will explore these Mac Word recovery methods. By the end of this article, you'll know exactly how to find and retrieve lost Word documents on a Mac.

In this article
    1. Way 1: Recover Deleted Word Documents Using Recoverit
    2. Way 2: Retrieve a Deleted Word Document From the Trash Bin
    3. Way 3: Restore Deleted Word Documents Using Time Machine
    4. Way 4: Use iCloud Backups
    1. Method 1: Use Word's Version History
    2. Method 2: Use Word's AutoRecovery Feature
    3. Method 3: Use Terminal
    4. Method 4: Contact a Data Recovery Service
    1. Use AutoRecovery
    2. Get a Surge Protection System
    3. Use a Reliable Antivirus
    4. Use a Backup Tool
    5. Don't Empty the Trash Instantly
    6. Manage Your File Correctly

Ways Your Word Files Can Get Lost

To help you master the unsaved Word document recovery on Mac devices, we've compiled a list of the most plausible file loss scenarios, including their causes and respective solution methods. You can find it below and use it to match your specific data loss situation with a possible solution.

Data Loss ScenarioCauseSolution
Accidentally Deleting a .doc/.docx File or Formatting an HDD/SSD– You mistakenly deleted the Word files you still need.
– Formatting the Mac's internal or external disk with .doc/.docx files.
Way 1: Recover Deleted Word Documents Using Recoverit
Way 2: Retrieve a Deleted Word Document From the Trash Bin
Way 3: Restore Deleted Word Documents Using Time Machine
Way 4: Use iCloud Backups
Malware and Viruses– Infection through suspicious emails, Image names, and downloaded apps.Way 1: Recover Deleted Word Documents Using Recoverit
Way 3: Restore Deleted Word Documents Using Time Machine
Way 4: Use iCloud Backups
Corrupted Word Files– Mac's HDD/SSD sector failure.
– Older or unused external disk drives.
Way 1: Recover Deleted Word Documents Using Recoverit
Way 3: Restore Deleted Word Documents Using Time Machine
Way 4: Use iCloud Backups
Accidentally Closing a Word Document Without Saving– Exiting without saving progress.
– Power loss.
Method 1: Use Word's Version History
Method 2: Use Word's AutoRecovery Feature
Method 3: Use Terminal
Microsoft Word and macOS Crashes– Memory leak.
– Overheating the device.
– Opening a massive Word file.
– Power loss.
Method 1: Use Word's Version History
Method 2: Use Word's AutoRecovery Feature
Method 3: Use Terminal
Method 4: Contact a Data Recovery Service
Physically damaged storage device– Failing Mac HDD/SSD. Method 4: Contact a Data Recovery Service

How to Recover Lost Word Documents on Mac

Now that we know about the various Word data loss situations and the culprits behind these issues, we can immediately explore the top solutions and show you how to recover deleted Word documents on a Mac. Below are the four most common methods, so let's dive right in.

Way 1: Recover Deleted Word Documents Using Recoverit

Utilizing a dedicated data recovery tool is your best bet for quick and efficient file restoration operations. Here, an app like Wondershare Recoverit emerges as a fantastic solution, providing highly effective search and recovery algorithms in a beginner-friendly and remarkably straightforward user interface.

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Using it for Mac Word recovery is effortless, and here are the detailed how-to steps with pictures:

  1. Open the app, select Hard Drives and Locations on the left, and choose your Mac's partition.
    user interface of recoverit for mac
  2. The intelligent data recovery app will automatically scan the selected partition thoroughly.
    scan the selected partition or folder
  3. You can adjust multiple file filters to search for specific data and instruct the app to search for Word documents.
    use filters to find specific data
  4. You can also add keywords to search for Word documents by their name.
    use keywords to find specific documents
  5. After locating deleted Word documents, tap the Preview button to verify their integrity before clicking Recover to save them.
    preview the discovered word documents
  6. If you're satisfied with the preview and the discovered data, select the files and hit Recover. Then, choose a location and tap Save to get the items to a safe location on your Mac.
    save the discovered documents

That's everything you'll need to do regarding Wondershare Recoverit Mac Word recovery. These effortless steps make the app indispensable for all data loss situations.

In addition, it can retrieve deleted data from over 2,000 storage devices, including internal disk drives, external devices, USBs, NAS servers, RAID configurations, etc. The app is also available for Windows users.

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Way 2: Retrieve a Deleted Word Document From the Trash Bin

There's always a chance that your Word documents have only been deleted from a folder they're usually saved in. If that's the case, you might be able to find them in the Mac's Trash Bin, so let's immediately see how you can restore them in such an unlikely scenario.

  1. Locate the Trash Bin on your Mac's dock and open it.
    find and open the trash bin
  2. Search for your Word documents. You can use Mac's Search tool in the top right corner.
  3. Right-click on a deleted Word file and tap the Put Back option to return it to its usual folder.
    restore deleted word file from trash

While undoubtedly an effortless Mac Word recovery method, the chances of finding a deleted file in Mac's Trash Bin are slim.

Way 3: Restore Deleted Word Documents Using Time Machine

Users who've remembered to turn on their Time Machine backups can also use this method to recover deleted Word documents on a Mac:

  1. Connect the external storage drive that holds your Time Machine backups.
  2. Open the folder that usually houses your Word documents and launch the Time Machine by clicking its icon in the top right and selecting Browse Time Machine Backups.
    open time machine backups
  3. Using the Arrow keys, browse the backups and find the Word file you want to restore.
  4. Select the Word file and tap the Restore button underneath it to retrieve it.
    restore documents with the time machine
icon note
Note: You can't use this method if you haven't previously set up Time Machine backups.

Way 4: Use iCloud Backups

Users who haven't set up their Time Machine can still use backups to recover deleted Word files on a Mac, as iCloud offers another built-in backup option you can use. Here's how:

  1. Open a browser and navigate to your iCloud account.
  2. Tap the Menu button in the top right corner and click on Data Recovery.
    find the icloud data recovery option
  3. Click the Restore Files option.
    use the icloud restore files option
  4. Select your deleted Word documents and tap Restore.
    restore deleted word files from icloud

Like with Time Machine, this method is only usable if you've turned on automatic iCloud backups.

How to Find Unsaved Word Documents From Mac

While recovering deleted Word documents on Mac requires dedicated data recovery tools, Time Machine or iCloud backups, and luck finding these files in the Mac's Trash Bin, things are different regarding Word documents that haven't been saved. As a result, unsaved Word document recovery on Mac uses the following solutions.

Method 1: Use Word's Version History

Mac users have more luck with unsaved files, as many apps automatically save versions when being worked on, opened, saved, duplicated, locked, renamed, etc. These file versions can be used to recover unsaved Word files on Mac, and here's how:

  1. Launch the Microsoft Word app and open a recent version of a file you need to recover.
  2. Navigate to File > Browse Version History.
    browse version history in word
  3. Browse the panel that holds the previously saved versions to find the one you need.
    find a specific file version
  4. Select a version of the file, open it, and tap Restore to revert your unsaved Word document to this version.
    restore a document through version history
icon note
Note: This method only works for retrieving files you've previously saved at least once.

Method 2: Use Word's AutoRecovery Feature

Over the years, Microsoft has noticed the frustration of users who accidentally exit the app without saving or frequently lose files because of app and system crashes. That's why the company developed a fantastic tool to prevent this—the AutoRecovery feature.

Thankfully, it's enabled by default and saves a copy of your Word file every 10 minutes. You can use that copy to restore your unsaved file:

  1. Launch Finder and type “AutoRecovery” in the window's Search bar, ensuring you select This Mac to search the entire device.
  2. You should see Word documents like “AutoRecovery save of…”
    locate autorecovery versions of word files
  3. Double-click such a Word file and open it through Microsoft's app.
  4. If it's the file you want, save it to a safe location. If it isn't, check the other AutoRecovery items.
    restore unsaved word documents through autorecovery

As it uses Microsoft Word's AutoRecovery feature, this method only works for files opened or worked on during an app or system crash.

Method 3: Use Terminal

While slim, there's a chance that you can recover unsaved Word documents on a Mac with Terminal. To reach it, you can follow these steps:

  1. Launch Terminal by tapping on Launchpad and searching for this utility.
  2. Type in the following command and press Enter.
  3. open $TMPDIR

  4. Browse the folder and locate temporary Word files.
    restore files from the temporary folder
  5. Open the file and save it to a safe location.

Navigating the temporary folder can be challenging, so searching for the file's exact name is best.

Method 4: Contact a Data Recovery Service

When all else fails, or you can't recover unsaved Word documents on a Mac by yourself, it might be time to contact the professionals. Utilizing a data recovery service can be expensive, but the experts working in state-of-the-art recovery cleanrooms can get your files back, even if your physical storage device is damaged.

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How to Avoid Losing/Deleting Word Documents in the Future

Preventing Word data loss is far better than looking into various recovery methods. That's why we've compiled a list of tips that can help you avoid similar situations in the future. Let's dig into it.

Use AutoRecovery

Although it should be enabled by default, you should also manually check the functionality of Microsoft's AutoRecovery feature in your Office apps. This built-in tool can usually be found by navigating to Preferences > Save > AutoRecover in any Microsoft Office app, but it might depend on a specific version of Office. Here, you can adjust the feature's timing settings and save location.

Get a Surge Protection System

Sudden power losses are one of the main culprits behind data loss, especially for desktop computers like iMacs and Mac Pros. That's why investing in a reputable surge protection system is highly recommended, as it can save your electronic devices and prevent data loss caused by sudden power surges.

surge protection devices

Use a Reliable Antivirus

Contrary to popular belief, Macs can be infected by viruses. That's why using reliable antivirus software is advised. Most such apps have real-time protection shields to prevent data loss, including losing Word files on a Mac device.

Use a Backup Tool

You can opt for external device backups with Time Machine, cloud-based backups with Apple's iCloud, or third-party apps that can create quick backups on a USB stick.

wondershare ubackit backup and restore app

Don't Empty the Trash Instantly

Most of us usually right-click the Trash Bin and tap Empty Trash immediately upon deleting a file or folder, which isn't a great habit. By avoiding these actions, you can save yourself a lot of trouble, as you leave room for effortless recovery in case you need any of the deleted files back.

Manage Your File Correctly

Correct file management goes a long way in keeping your vital data safe. It includes uninterrupted file transfers, safe external disk drive/USB ejection practices, and frequent saving. It would also help to practice using multiple backup locations and avoid force-closing any apps to prevent data loss.

Conclusion

While deleted and unsaved Word documents are a nuisance, all Mac users experience them at least once in their lifetime. These files often get accidentally deleted, formatted, infected, and corrupted, while the Word app and macOS can crash due to HDD/SSD failures, overheating, memory leaks, and power loss.

Fortunately, solutions exist for most of these data loss scenarios. For deleted Word documents, recovery solutions include Time Machine and iCloud backups, file recovery from Mac's Trash Bin, and data recovery apps like Wondershare Recoverit, arguably the top solution for most data loss scenarios.

For unsaved Word data, Mac users can utilize the Word app's Version History and AutoRecovery features or use Terminal to dig the file out of the temporary folder. A professional data recovery service is also an option, but due to its cost, it should only be used for physically damaged storage devices.

FAQ

  • How do you recover unsaved Word documents on a Mac without AutoRecovery?
    If, for whatever reason, your Word app's AutoRecovery feature is turned off, you won't be able to find copies or versions of your document anywhere on your Mac. Instead, you'll have to rely on Wondershare Recoverit, a dedicated data recovery tool that can quickly and efficiently retrieve files in many data loss situations.
  • How do I recover a permanently deleted Word document on a Mac?
    While permanently deleted Word documents aren't as easy to deal with as unsaved files, they can be recovered through Time Machine and iCloud backups. If you don't have those, you must use a professional data recovery service like Wondershare Recoverit. Of course, you can also take your Mac to a data recovery center, but remember: these services are expensive.
  • How do you recover a previous Word document version on a Mac?
    The Time Machine app is responsible for creating versions of all your files, including Word documents. As a result, you can use it to recover a previous version of a Word document, and here's how:

    1. Connect an external storage device you use for Time Machine backups.
    2. Tap the Time Machine icon in the top right corner and select Enter Time Machine.
    3. Browse the files, select the version you wish to restore, and tap the Restore button. This action will retrieve a previous Word document from the chosen period.

David Darlington
David Darlington May 14, 24
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