We’ve all been there. Pumping out an essay the night before it has to be handed in. Inevitably, Microsoft Word takes a dive when you need it most, and the work just seems to disappear. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered—here are 10 ways to find and recover a lost Word document.

Send Out A Search Party.

  • In Windows: click Start, Search, All Files and Folders.
  • Type what you remember of the name or simply *.doc to get all your Word documents.
  • Select My Computer under Look in, and then under More Advanced Options, make sure Search Hidden Files and Folders is checked.
  • Hit Search.

Still No Luck Finding That Word Doc? Check your Recycle Bin

Open it up and look through whatever files you’ve got. Did you find it? If so, right-click and choose Restore. Then if you’re not sure where it actually restored to, perform a search for it.

Or, You Can Pray for AutoRecover

Sometimes if Word crashes or closes unexpectedly, it’ll still save what you had. Re-open Word. If a Document Recovery task pane comes up, double-click your document to open it and immediately Save As.

Search for AutoRecover Files Yourself

  • In Word, go to Tools, then Options.
  • Under the File Locations tab, double-click AutoRecover files and make a note of that path location.
  • Click Cancel and Close.
  • Open up that folder in My Computer or Windows Explorer and search for any .asd files. (Or another way to do this would be to run a search similar to step one but with *.asd instead of *.doc)

Check the Original Folder for Any .wbk File

If you have Word set to automatically back-up your documents, there’s still a chance here.

  • In Word, click File, then Open.
  • Navigate to the folder you think the file used to be located in and make sure All Files *.* is selected.
  • Are there any .wbk file there? Select it and see if it’s what you’re looking for.

Still No Dice? Send Out A *.wbk Search Party

This step is the same as the first search party step, but now search for *.wbk files. You might find a few. Open them up, one by one.

Or, Search Your Temporary Files

Again, this is like step one. But search for *.TMP files this time. You’ll come up with a lot, so change the When was it modified? to the last week or so.

Or Search Even More of your Temporary Files

Some temporary files like to be unique. Search for those with ~*.* this time.

Open Up C:\Documents and Settings\*USERNAME*\Local Settings\Temp

This is a hidden folder, so you’ll probably have to use Windows Explorer. Hit Start, then All Programs.

Go to Accessories, then Windows Explorer. Navigate to that folder, where *USERNAME* is whatever your computer calls you. Do you see your document in that folder?

Search AppData/Roaming for Hidden Files in Windows 7 and 8

Click the start button and search %appdata%. Find the “Roaming” folder, then the “Microsoft” folder, and finally the “Word” folder. Check there for your file! (Thank user Zattara2222 in the comments for this tip!)


If none of those steps work, there are also programs that will help you recover deleted files. So this is the 10th and final option.

What’s important to understand here is that if you delete something, it doesn’t actually get deleted. Rather, it sits in a pile waiting to be overwritten. So the best way to recover a deleted file would be to try to find it right away – before it’s overwritten.

If you’d like to use a program, I’d recommend: Restoration, Undelete , or Recuva. All are free. [There's also a newcomer to the scene for Windows, UndeleteMyFiles. Thanks Lifehacker! ~Kelly, 6/25/08]

I hope this helps. And remember: Jesus saves, but Buddha does incremental back-ups.

So, to turn on the automatic back-up feature in Word, check out Tools, Options, and the Save tab.


[Photo Credit: dennisdervisevic on Flickr]