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When working with multiple Excel files, individually or collaboratively, it’s very common to want to restore a previous version or recover an unsaved Excel file. Thankfully, Excel offers powerful version control features that allow you to recover data from a file that was never saved or a version that was accidentally saved over.

In this article, you’ll learn how to use AutoRecover in Excel 365, the difference between AutoRecover and AutoSave features, how to find AutoRecover files in Excel, and what Excel Autobackup consists on.

How to use AutoRecover in Excel?

AutoRecover is an Excel feature that needs to be enabled so that you can recover any unsaved files. There are three main reasons why you fail to save a document:

  • You accidentally click on “Don’t Save”.
  • Your computer crashes or shuts down.
  • Excel crashes.

Although AutoRecover is usually enabled by default in the most recent version of Microsoft Excel, this is how you can access the AutoRecover settings to customize how your Excel files are saved.

How to access AutoRecover settings in Excel?

  1. 1. Go to File > Options.
Auto Recover an Excel File Auto Recover Location File Options
AutoRecover an Excel File (& AutoRecover Location) - File > Options
  1. 2. Select “Save” from the left-hand menu. All of the AutoRecover settings are located here.
Auto Recover an Excel File Auto Recover Location Save option
AutoRecover an Excel File (& AutoRecover Location) - Save option

Now that you know how to access the AutoRecover settings in Excel, you’ll see how to customize them according to your preferences.

How to customize AutoRecover settings in Excel?

Customizing the AutoRecover feature in Excel is easy. You simply need to make sure that you understand the function of each type of setting.

How to edit the time interval for an AutoRecovered version?

Change the time interval for AutoRecover by selecting the dropdown box next to "Save AutoRecover information every". By default, it is set to 10 minutes, but you can lower it to 1 minute.

Auto Recover an Excel File Auto Recover Location Time interval
AutoRecover an Excel File (& AutoRecover Location) - Time interval

How to keep the last AutoRecovered version?

The “Keep the last AutoRecovered version if I close without saving” option ensures that your data is saved in case your computer or Excel crashes.

Auto Recover an Excel File Auto Recover Location Keep last version
AutoRecover an Excel File (& AutoRecover Location) - Keep last version

How to disable AutoRecover?

In the second category of options, “AutoRecover exceptions for”, you can select any file that is currently active and “Disable AutoRecover for this workbook only”. This option is also important to check every once in a while in case it has been enabled for some reason.

Auto Recover an Excel File Auto Recover Location Disable Auto Recover
AutoRecover an Excel File (& AutoRecover Location) - Disable AutoRecover

How to enable AutoSave?

As shown below, “AutoSave files stored in the Cloud by default in Excel” is the first option in customizing how your Excel workbook is saved.

Auto Recover an Excel File Auto Recover Location Auto Save
AutoRecover an Excel File (& AutoRecover Location) - AutoSave

AutoSave is a recently added feature in Excel 365. We will now explain the main differences between the AutoRecover and AutoSave features.

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AutoRecover vs. AutoSave

Both AutoRecover and AutoSave are features that work in combination in Excel Office 365. However, the AutoSave feature was introduced after and allows you to save your files in real-time when uploaded to OneDrive or SharePoint.

If you are using any of the previous versions, Excel 2010, 2013, 2016, or 2019, your files cannot be saved in real-time as OneDrive and SharePoint are not included in the package. You simply need to make sure that AutoRecover is enabled, as previously shown, and set your preferred AutoRecover time intervals.

Now, let’s see where the Excel AutoRecover feature stores files, depending on your operating system and Excel version.

How to find AutoRecover files in Excel?

If you are using Windows 10 or later, there are two ways to access your Excel AutoRecover files. We will now explain how to open an AutoRecover Excel file in Windows 10 through the “Document Recovery” pane.

How to find AutoRecover files using Document Recovery in Excel?

Let’s say you’re working on an Excel workbook and your computer or Excel crashes. This is how you can quickly recover your unsaved data.

  1. 1. Launch Excel and the “Document Recovery” pane should appear as shown below.
Auto Recover an Excel File Auto Recover Location Document Recovery
AutoRecover an Excel File (& AutoRecover Location) - Document Recovery
  1. 2. Click on the drop-down arrow and select “Save As…”.
Auto Recover an Excel File Auto Recover Location Save as
AutoRecover an Excel File (& AutoRecover Location) - Save as
  1. 3. Type in a new name and select a different folder to save. Note that it is currently saved in a temporary location.
Auto Recover an Excel File Auto Recover Location Name and folder
AutoRecover an Excel File (& AutoRecover Location) - Name and folder

Now, let’s take a look at the other way to recover your document in Excel.

How to find AutoRecover files using Recover Unsaved Workbooks in Excel?

  1. 1. Launch Excel and go to File > Open. Click on the “Recover Unsaved Workbooks” button, at the bottom of the screen.
Auto Recover an Excel File Auto Recover Location Recover Unsaved Workbooks
AutoRecover an Excel File (& AutoRecover Location) - Recover Unsaved Workbooks
  1. 2. A new window will pop up, so you can save the document with a new name and on a different folder, similar to the previous step.

So far, you have seen how to access AutoRecover Excel settings to customize how your files are saved, as well as how to find these files in Excel 365 and Windows 10. But, where does Excel save AutoRecover files on a Mac?

How to find AutoRecover file location on a Mac?

  1. 1. In Finder, head to Go > Go to Folder.
Auto Recover an Excel File Auto Recover Location Go to folder
AutoRecover an Excel File (& AutoRecover Location) - Go to folder
  1. 2. Enter the following path:
“/Users/<username>/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Application/Support/Microsoft”

Make sure to replace “<username>” with the name of your system. Press “Go”. Your unsaved files should appear, ready for you to recover and save.

Auto Recover an Excel File Auto Recover Location Enter path
AutoRecover an Excel File (& AutoRecover Location) - Enter path

You now know how to use the two most common recovery file features in Excel. A third option is the AutoBackup setting, which can serve as a complement to make sure you don’t lose any data, regardless of the situation. Let’s see how you can enable the Excel AutoBackup feature in a few simple steps.

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How to use Excel AutoBackup?

A third option under the Excel version control features is AutoBackup, which allows you to retrieve any saved-over version of an Excel file. This is especially useful in case you need to go back to a version immediately before the one you just saved. Follow these steps to make sure AutoBackup is enabled, so you can then retrieve the backed-up version.

  1. 1. Open Excel and go to File > Save As > More options…
Auto Recover an Excel File Auto Recover Location Save as options
AutoRecover an Excel File (& AutoRecover Location) - Save as options
  1. 2. Select “Tools”, to the left of the “Save button”, and then “General options” from the drop-down menu.
Auto Recover an Excel File Auto Recover Location Save as general options
AutoRecover an Excel File (& AutoRecover Location) - Save as general options
  1. 3. Tick the “Always create backup” option. Click “Ok” to enable AutoBackup.
Auto Recover an Excel File Auto Recover Location Always create backup
AutoRecover an Excel File (& AutoRecover Location) - Always create backup

Excel saves AutoBackup files in the same location as the original. Together with AutoSave and AutoRecover, you will save data and valuable time. If you are using Excel 365, it’s also a good option to store files in OneDrive or SharePoint as an extra safety measure.

If you are working on a different Excel version, spreadsheet program, or operating system, Layer may be the best alternative. It offers users full version control by providing a complete history of changes and spreadsheet versions, that you can easily restore or download in one click. Moreover, you’ll be working on a fully automated workflow that is customizable to your business preferences.

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Conclusion

Although failing to save data may not be a daily occurrence, it takes just that one time to have a major and long-lasting effect on your data management process. In a few simple steps, you can save yourself from a completely unnecessary and unpleasant scenario.

You should now know how to use AutoRecover in Excel 365, distinguish between AutoRecover and AutoSave, locate AutoRecover files in Excel using different methods, and use Excel Autobackup as an additional safety measure to restore previous versions.

Hady ElHady
Hady is Content Lead at Layer.

Hady has a passion for tech, marketing, and spreadsheets. Besides his Computer Science degree, he has vast experience in developing, launching, and scaling content marketing processes at SaaS startups.

Originally published May 16 2022, Updated Sep 23 2022