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How to Recover Unsaved/Deleted Excel Files on Mac - All Methods

If you want to recover an unsaved or deleted Excel file on a Mac, here are all the proven methods you can use.
Sue Wayne
Sue Wayne Originally published Mar 22, 24, updated Jun 14, 24

Although many newer tools do the same things even better, Excel is still essential because of its simplicity and functionality. Anyone can use Excel to make life easier, especially when working on maths-related tasks. Excel is a powerful tool used for data and business analytics.

But if you've lost your important Excel spreadsheet because of a crash, mistake, or virus, you're probably wondering if and how to recover your file. You'll be happy to know that you can recover your file. Here are all the methods to recover unsaved/deleted Excel files on mac.

In this article
    1. Restore an Unsaved Excel File From the "Recent" List
    2. Recover Unsaved Workbooks Using AutoSave and AutoRecover
    3. Retrieve an Unsaved Excel File From a Temporary Folder
    1. Restore Deleted Excel Files From Trash
    2. Recover Deleted/Lost Excel Files From Time Machine Backup
    3. Recover Deleted/Lost Excel Files From Online Backup (iCloud)
  1. How to Recover Permanently Deleted/Unsaved/Lost Excel Files on Mac | Ultimate Methodhot

How To Recover Unsaved Excel Files on Mac | 3 Ways

Many people forget to save their Excel files and turn off the program, creating a problem. On the other hand, you might also lose your files if your computer turns off or restarts in the middle of your work. Luckily, there are some proven methods you can use to recover unsaved Excel files on Mac:

Method 1. Restore an Unsaved Excel File From the "Recent" List

If you haven't saved an Excel file and turned off the program and the file has even completely disappeared, you can use the "Recent" list feature to recover the files and discover where they're stored. Here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Start Excel and click on File, Open Recent, and find the unsaved Excel file.
    open recent feature on excel
  2. Click on the file, wait until it opens, click File, Save As, Workbook, and select the desired location.
    saving excel files

Method 2. Recover Unsaved Workbooks Using AutoSave and AutoRecover

Excel has AutoSave and AutoRecover features designed to help you recover unsaved files. AutoSave automatically saves new Excel documents that haven't been saved, while AutoRecover helps retrieve unsaved files.

If you've enabled these two, you can follow these steps to recover your unsaved Excel files on Mac:

  1. Navigate to Applications, Utilities, and Terminal.
    accessing terminal on mac
  2. Write "defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles true" in your Terminal and press Return.
  3. Open Finder, press Return, and write: "/Users/username/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery," click Go.
    navigating to autorecovery folder on mac
  4. Locate the Excel spreadsheet you're looking for and copy it to your desired location.
    excel autorecovery folder on mac

Method 3. Retrieve an Unsaved Excel File From a Temporary Folder

Your Excel files might still be located in the Temporary Folder. Here are the steps to recover them:

  1. Navigate to Application>Utilities>Terminal.
    starting the terminal on mac
  2. Carefully type "open $TMPDIR" and then press "Enter" or "Return," and this will open your Temporary files folder. Click on TemporaryItems.
  3. Copy the file to your desired location.
    temporary folder on mac

How To Recover Deleted Excel Files on Mac | 3 Methods

If you've deleted your files intentionally or by accident only to realize you shouldn't have done that, here are the methods you can use to recover them.

Method 1. Restore Deleted Excel Files From Trash

If you accidentally deleted your Excel file, you can get it back quickly. All deleted files on Mac are sent to the Trash bin until you delete them again. If you haven't emptied the Trash bin, your Excel files are still there. Here's how to recover them:

  1. Open Trash by clicking on the icon in your Dock on the right side.
    mack dock trash icon
  2. Look for your Excel file(s) in the Trash bin.
  3. Select the files you want to recover, right-click them, and click Put Back. They will be restored to their original location.
    using put back from trash

Method 2. Recover Deleted/Lost Excel Files From Time Machine Backup

All Mac devices have the Time Machine tool. It's a built-in recovery software to back up all your data or even whole drives. If you use Time Machine to backup your Excel files to a backup disk, you can recover your deleted files quickly.

Here are the steps:

  1. Navigate to the folder where your Excel files were saved using Finder.
  2. Click on the Time Machine icon (backward clock) in the Menu Bar. Select Enter Time Machine.
    enter time machine mac
  3. Find the Excel file you're missing using the arrows on the right side of the screen. Find the date before you've deleted the file. Select the file and click Restore at the bottom of the screen.
    restoring excel files using time machine

Method 3. Recover Deleted/Lost Excel Files From Online Backup (iCloud)

Many Mac users have cloud backups set in place. You can use Google Drive, OneDrive, or iCloud. However, most Mac users use iCloud because this is the native cloud support for OS devices, and it syncs seamlessly with iPhones and other Apple devices.

Here are the steps:

  1. Go to the official iCloud website and sign in to your account.
    icloud official home page
  2. Click on iCloud Drive and Browse.
  3. Locate your Excel file on the list of backed-up files, select it, right-click, and click Download a Copy. Select the destination, and your Excel file will return to your drive.
    download a copy from icloud

The Universal Way to Recover Permanently Deleted/Unsaved/Lost Excel Files on Mac

The most successful method for recovering permanently deleted, unsaved, or lost Excel files on Mac is to use recovery software. Wondershare Recoverit is specifically designed to recover Excel files, meaning you can always turn to this software if other data recovery tools fail.

It offers a high success rate for restoring deleted/unsaved Excel files, including other office documents. It can recover Excel files from USB drives, hard drives, SD cards, and crashed Mac devices and works with all formats, including XLS, XLSB, XLTX, XLSM, SLSX, XLT, XML, TSV, CSV, etc.

Before you can use it, you will have to download and install the tool.

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Here are the steps for recovering Excel files using Recoverit:

  1. Start the program and click Hard Drives and Locations on the left panel, then select the drive where your lost Excel file was located.
    wondershare recoverit home screen
  2. Wondershare Recoverit will automatically start scanning the drive and display any discovered files in real-time. Select your Excel file and click Preview to see if this is the document you're looking for.
    wondershare recoverit scan process
  3. After reviewing the file, click Recover in the bottom right corner.
    preview feature in wondershare recoverit
  4. Select the save location and click Save.
    saving excel files using recoverit

Video Tutorial on How to Recover Unsaved and Deleted Excel Files?

How to Manage Excel Files Properly on Mac

Even though there are many recovery methods available, you need to adopt some good practices to prevent losing Excel files on Mac in the future.

  • Save files in a dedicated folder: Save all your essential files in a dedicated folder. If you work on multiple projects, create a separate folder for each;
  • Name your files numerically: Create a sense of order by numerically and logically naming your files;
  • Turn on AutoSave and AutoRecover: Turn on these features to make it easier to recover files in the future;
  • Use backups: Use Time Machine and cloud backups to make recovery hassle-free.


Professional recovery software is the best option for recovering deleted and unsaved Excel files on Mac. You can recover unsaved files using the "Recent" feature, AutoRecover & AutoSave, or your Temporary Folder. If you've deleted Excel files, restore them from Trash, Time Machine, or iCloud backup.

Take the time to follow all these steps carefully and determine how you lost your files so you can select the correct recovery method. If not, you can always use Wondershare Recoverit to return your files quickly.

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  • Can I recover an Excel File I didn't save?
    If you haven't saved your Excel spreadsheet, you can recover them using AutoRecover & AutoSave, the Temporary Folder, or the Recent feature.
  • How do I AutoRecover in Excel for Mac?
    To recover Excel files on Mac using AutoRecover:

    1. Navigate to Applications, Utilities, and Terminal.
    2. Write "defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles true" in your Terminal and hit Enter.
    3. Open Finder, press Enter, and write: "/Users/username/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery," click Go.
    4. Find your Excel file and copy it where you want it stored.

  • How do I open a previously saved Excel File on a Mac?
    You can open the Excel file by double-clicking the file or by starting Excel and using the Open feature.
  • How do I recover a hidden Excel File on a Mac?
    If your Excel file is hidden, type "defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles true" in your Terminal and press Return.
  • Can you bring back permanently deleted files on Mac?
    Yes, you can recover permanently deleted files on Mac using a recovery tool like Wondershare Recoverit. After downloading and installing Recoverit, follow these steps:
    1. Start Wondershare Recoverit and scan your hard drive.
    2. Go through the recovered files, find the Excel spreadsheets, select them, and click Recover.
    3. Select the save location.
  • Where is the AutoRecovery folder on Mac?
    The AutoRecover folder on Mac is located in: /Users/username/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery.
  • How do I restore Excel history on Mac?
    Open an Excel document on your Mac, then go to File, Revert To, and Browse All Versions. Here, you can see the history of a document and restore it to a desired version.
Sue Wayne
Sue Wayne Jun 14, 24
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