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Recovering Unsaved Word Documents OS X

Have you ever had a moment where you thought you saved your work, but when you go back to find it and it is nowhere to be found? If this has happened to you, please keep reading. This losing of Microsoft Word Documents on a Mac happens more often than you think from various reasons from forgetting where you saved the document to the computer-system completing crashing on you in the middle of a sentence. Below are a list of methods if you are trying to locate your lost and unsaved Microsoft Word files.

Method 1:

The Apple Mac OS system created temporary files within your computer’s Temporary folder, or TMP folder. It is important to check there first to see if that is where your lost document has ended up. In order to find this folder, you must do the following:

  • Go to Applications, then Utilities, then click on Terminal
  • Once in Terminal, enter the following command and then press enter: open $TMPDIR
  • Once you have entered this, you have now opened your TMP folder.
  • Once in this folder, open the folder named: “Temporaryitems”
  • If you’re lucky you document should be there!

Method 2:

Now say you go there, and your document is still nowhere to be found. Microsoft Word on Mac computers include an Auto Recovery option. It is automatically turned on by default. What this does is save your opened word file every 10 minutes. This is especially helpful because if you’re computer freezes while you are working on a document, or in the rare case that your computer crashes, you can use the Auto Recovery copy to recover the word document that was last saved by your computer. In order to use this, follow these steps:

  • Close Microsoft Word for Mac
  • Click Home
  • Open the Documents folder, and then open the Microsoft User Data folder
  • Locate the file that starts with the following words: “AutoRecovery save of” and select the document you want to recover, and rename the file to your choosing
  • Add “.doc” to the file name extension
  • Double click on that file, and the document should now open up for Word on Mac.
  • Click the File menu, and then select Save As
  • Type the name of the file into the Name field, and then click the Save button.

The Other Side of This Is to Also Check This Way:

  • Go to Finder, then click “Go”, and then Go to Folder and then type in the following: ~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Word/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery
  • There is a good chance that your lost document may be here.


There are many ways to prevent losing documents, and the most important one is to remember to always save your documents yourself as often as you can. If you are in the middle of thinking before typing, make sure you click save so that your saves properly. The other sure fire way to make sure that this does not happen is to also save all work onto a flash drive. By having your work saved on both a flash drive and your computer, you are less likely to lose you work due to computer crashes, or just forgetting to save in general.

  • Chandu Donna Senevirathna

    This actually saved my assignment!!!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH

    • Shirley Aldana

      can you please tell me how? I tried all three steps with no results.

  • Rajesh

    For method 2, what do you mean by click home?

    • Michael Sarzer

      He meant the home folder in the side panel of finder, which contains default subfolders like music, movies, documents, etc.

      • http://www.lucianbane.com Lucian Bane

        i see no folder that says HOME so FUCKING annoying i hate mac!

        • Michael Sarzer

          It should be labeled “your name” rather than “home” but it should be represented by a house-shaped symbol. “Your name” meaning whatever name you gave when setting up your computer.

  • Akshata Sastry

    I got my assignment back!!!! THANK YOU. I was panicked

  • Fiaigoa Malolo

    I saved my working file online without saving on my mac (saving file is not directed to the mac). i accidentially press cancel while its loading on my icloud storage and i lost it there and theres no other option to inform first before agreeing to cancel completely for this case. Please how could i recover my unsaved file from this problem of

  • Andrea

    You saved my lifeeee!

  • gani

    thanks you just saved me time

  • william

    This has been as helpful as a bloody cucumber mate

  • Ali Van Putten

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! Looked all around and this was the only article that helped me find it!

  • Christina

    i still cant find my doc in that folder, i am using word 2016 in Mac OS high sierra. been tried everything still didnt work. I accidentanly hit dont save button when i close the word file…If anyone know please tell me

  • Jana Dermelkonian

    Thank you so much! This is the only article that helped. For me, the section ‘The Other Side of This Is to Also Check This Way’ is key. Thank you again!

  • Serena Walsh :D

    THANK YOUUUU The Other Side Of This worked for me :))) Also, when in finder and when u click ‘Go’ up the top, you can hold down the option/alt button, and it opens a secret library section. 😉

  • Elga Housin


  • Zoey Knobler

    Thanks so much! This worked for me and saved me from having to do over 2 hours of work! I used this method ~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Word/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery
    and changed the location of the document to my desktop and the ending from .docx to .doc 🙂

  • Topalovich

    You just saved my life. Thank you.

  • http://ofkin.com Kylie Lewis

    This is a life saver! The idea that worked for me was:

    The Other Side of This Is to Also Check This Way:
    Go to Finder, then click “Go”, and then Go to Folder and then type in the following: ~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Word/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery

    Worked a treat. Thanks a million!

  • Ahmad Abdulkadir Ahmad

    Thank you so much! This method worked for me ~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Word/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery