Tech Tip: Finding a Lost Word Document

Don't Stress Over Lost Work

We’ve all been there. For one reason or another, Microsoft Word has closed and you didn’t save the document you were working on and need to get it back. Sometimes the program crashed or you didn’t hit “Save” on the dialog that popped up when you closed the document – either way, you need to get that document back. Thankfully, out of the box, Word autosaves most documents so you might not have lost it. Even in older versions, the document may be around someplace. Here are a few methods to track down those documents.

Using Built-in Auto Recovery

If the program crashed, there’s a good chance Microsoft Word auto-saved a copy of the document. If you open up Word again, you may be in-luck and get a “Document Recovery” tab. Double-click on the document you lost, save it somewhere, and you’re golden.

Document Recovery Tab

You may also be able to recover unsaved documents under the “File” menu in Microsoft Word. If you click on “Recent Documents” and scroll down to the bottom, you’ll see a “Recover Unsaved Documents” button. Click on that, and you might find your unsaved document there.

Recover Unsaved

Open Up Auto-Recovery Docs Directly

This method is a bit more advanced, but desperate times call for desperate measures. If you search your computer for *.asd (the auto-save files that Word and Excel create), you may be able to get some or all of your document back.

By default, *.asd files are saved in your user profile folder. If you open up a run dialog (Windows Key + R) and type “%appdata%MicrosoftWord”, your Word app folder will open. You may see the latest document you were working on listed right there. Copy that file elsewhere on your computer. Double-click on the copied version.

If the ASD file doesn’t automatically open in Microsoft Word, you can force the issue by manually forcing file types such as this to open in Word. On the dialog the pops up, select “Select a program from a list of installed programs” and hit “OK”

Cannot Open File in Windows

Scroll down the list until you see Word. Click on it, type in a description (optional) and then hit “OK”:

Select Word to Open

The recovered document should then open up in Microsoft Word where you can then save it somewhere else. Word might be smart enought to tell you that it’s found a newer version:

Newer Version

Go ahead and click on that to see if it will get you a newer version. Do note that sometimes the newer version might have some edits you might not want, so be careful.

If that folder doesn’t open or if the autorecovery documents are stored elsewhere (which is could be, depending on your configuration), you can manually search for the auto-recovery (*.asd) documents. To search for *asd documents, hit Windows Key + E to open up the My Computer dialog. Type “*.asd” in the search field and hit enter. It will chug away for a while.

Found Files

If it finds some files, right-click on them and select “Open File Location” to open the folder location.

Like before, copy those files elsewhere and try to open them following the above steps.

What If Those Methods Don’t Work?

You might have to search manually for the document and hope it was saved someplace out of the ordinary. Hit the Windows Key+E combo again to open up My Computer and search using that field again. You can try a few different options:

  • Search by the name of the file: It may find a copy you had saved elsewhere. If it does, open it, and save it where you’ll find it.
  • Search by file type: You can search for by file type to view all Word documents on your computer. *.doc? will search for all Microsoft Word documents, both with newer DOCX file type and older DOC filetype.

And If Still No Luck?

You’re probably out of luck if you’re unable to find the files using the above methods or recovering from backup. Microsoft has some more things you can try including methods to troubleshoot damaged documents. But nothing beats a good disaster recovery plan.

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