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A friend is writing his master's thesis with Word on a Mac, and hasn't saved his document, he simply closes the laptop (sleep mode) and reopens to continue (bad idea, I know).

Anyway, he said as he worked all of a sudden all his writing changed into asterisks (*). No spaces, nothing, all just a bunch of asterisks.

Any way he can get his data back? Undo isn't working.

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What happens if he selects a small sample, uses "Edit", "Copy" and pastes into Notepad?

I would try "File", "Save As" and save as plain text. That way you you have a chance of saving a separate copy of the written material separate from the formatted material.

To prevent a recurrence, as well as regularly saving ("File", "Save"), make sure your friend knows how to make a backup of all his documents to at least one separate location (a set of USB sticks, another PC or two, some cloud-storage, etc).

There are two kinds of PC users: those who have learned the worth of backups and those who are going to.

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All this can be done without closing the original document or saving over it.

1) Check the font first and make sure it's not some asterik-only font.

2) Then do a Save As... and then open the new file you just created to see if the data really is missing.

3) If necessary do an Open and Repair to try and restore the copy of the file.

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Microsoft Word tends to do automatic saves to a backup copy of your documents every 5 minutes or so while they are open. I don't know if this works for documents that--as of yet have no filename, though; nor do I know if it works for your version of MS Office; nor if it works on a Mac.

You have to shut down the program and reopen it to try this, so try anything else, first.

This sounds like a bug in Microsoft Word. Programs, by and large, are notorious for having bugs, which is the reason that saving your work often is so often recommended.

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Only if you have it configured to do so. If Office was installed on a personal system using default settings, it'll probably be set to do this every 10 mins. If there was any customization, it's possible this function was disabled. – music2myear Jun 29 '11 at 14:23

I'm writing in because I found a solution to this problem.

I just had this happen on an appellate brief that's due in two days. There had been some other obnoxious glitch earlier (everything turned into symbols that time), so I had been emailing myself as I worked on the next section. Well, I just finished a section and was in the middle of saving, and **************. The immediate shut-down option was not going to work, because it just saved.

Nevertheless, I shut down Word then re-opened the document. For a split second, the text was there before it turned back into asterisks. So I knew the data wasn't lost.

So I decided to open the asterisk-ridden file in another application to see what might happen. I tried Mac Pages first, and IT WORKED!!! All my data is there throughout my most recent save. I'm going to work in Pages until my draft is done then either export it back out or cut and paste back into Word. Got to be careful to save often, though, as Pages doesn't have an autosave feature, last I heard.

I hope this might help you get your files back too.

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Let me suggest you take versioned backups, say every day, and never ever even try to open, overwrite, delete or change your backups after you've verified them. Then you copy your backups somewhere physically at least a meter away at least a few times a week. – Eroen Mar 14 '12 at 5:30

Our friend just had this happen to her, and we figured it out. Just close out Word, open it again and under HELP, go to SEARCH FOR SOFTWARE UPDATES. Let Word update itself to Version 4.1.2. Now, reopen Word and your document will be recovered in the new version of Word. A lot simpler than it seems.

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I was able to recover an older, uncorrupted copy of the document in the temp file directory:


Generally running a find command like so can help find the TemporaryFiles folder:

find -type d -iname 'TemporaryFiles'

Once you find the TemporaryFiles folder, you can access it from Finder by using the "Go" > "Go to Folder..." menu and pasting in the full path.

Inside said folder look for files named "Word Work File*.tmp" - there should be lots. The best way to sort through them is to sort them by modification date in Finder and look for files modified roughly around the time/date of the crash.

I was able to successfully recover a client's file this way; the last good save anyway.

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protected by studiohack May 16 '12 at 23:33

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