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I have a Mac running OS X 10.6.8 and was working on my dissertation in Word, pressing Save regularly.

A message came up saying Word had to unexpectedly quit, and then when I went to open my document, the only version was one from four hours ago. I tried to access the autorecovery via two different ways, but there is nothing!

How can I find my dissertation?

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If you only lost 4 hours, you got away lucky. You should save to multiple separate locations/media any time you are working on "critical" documents. Computers love to eat "critical" documents; sure, it's anthropomorphizing, but it's observably true... try just searching for "autosave" on your disk. That might or might not find something. – Ecnerwal Oct 20 '13 at 23:17

If you've already examined the autorecovery files in ~/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Office 2011 AutoRecovery and there's nothing, you're out of luck.

For the future, here are some tips:

  • Office for Mac is terribly unstable. This is not a subjective statement—it's what I've experienced with all versions on several machines of colleagues and friends. I would never do critical work with Office for Mac, as I expect it to crash occasionally. Especially with large files such as dissertations. Honestly, I wouldn't recommend anyone to buy Office for Mac.

    Rather install Windows on your Mac through Boot Camp or in a virtual machine and work with a "regular" Office there, or use an alternative for writing documents, like Pages from the iWork suite. Or write your dissertation in LaTeX if you're up for it.

  • Always keep at least one backup. OS X has Time Machine, which keeps regular snapshots of your important files. And you don't even have to think about it, really: Just plug in a USB drive, and OS X will ask you to make backups on that drive. Keep the drive plugged in at any time. If something happens to your machine, or Office crashes again, you'll have a backup.

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I was trying to recover an unsaved file (I never saved it, was working on the document from the start) and had my computer on for around 15 days. I think I just assumed that I saved it at some point since I was working on it for so long and every time my Mac went off, the file would pop back up when it switched back on, until one day, where it didn't.

My main problem was that the folder that saves all the auto-recovered files wasn't located in the place it was supposed to be. It was in some random hidden folder (which I wouldn't have been able to locate unless I turned on the show hidden folders command).

It wasn't even located in a Microsoft Office folder, as I said, completely random folders.

All I can say is – don't give up! If I can find my unsavedfile I'm sure you can too. Just make sure you locate that folder (Office 2011 Autorecovery) and go from there.


  • Sometime no matter how many different searches you try, the file name won't appear. If you're lucky it can sometimes, but with me it didn't. If you're looking for that latest version of your file, it's best to locate that folder and see what is has for you.

  • See if Time Machine can help you. If it was turned on, maybe the snapshots or the file itself might be there to help you through

  • Make sure you make your hidden folders visible. I cannot stress how important this is.

  • Try to leave no folder unturned, well, that's a lot of folders, but let the date created section help you through.

Just remain calm and keep trying folks, if you need to download an external software to help you locate your files then don't hesitate in getting that too. It all depends on how important the work you lost is. If it worth the time and energy to search back for it.

Good luck!!

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guest here...

I am a college student who just spent 2 days making an extremely in depth study guide for a final exam, and just like everyone else on this page, my word crashed making me lose everything! I looked everywhere online and have FINALLY found the answer to retrieving your lost document EVEN if AutoRecovery did not save it. This is free with no external software needed, you just need to follow these quick couple steps.

So If you did as everyone else said and found the folder "Office 2008/09/11 AutoRecovery" and your file is still NOT there, that means it is being stored in your computers Temporary or "-Tmp-" folder.

The "-Tmp-" folder is very hard to find, even if you have made hidden folders visible, so what you need to do is go to "Applications"- "Utilities"- "Terminal"

Once you are in the terminal copy this phrase: "open $TMPDIR" and press ENTER. That will open your Temporary files folder where you will see another folder named "Temporaryitems"

Open up the "Temporaryitems" folder and you will find your lost file, that even AutoRecovery could not find. However when you do find your file, make sure you open up the document with "TextEdit" because a .tmp file will not work with Word. An example name of your lost document will be "WordWorkfile D-57238.tmp"

I spent hours on the internet looking for a solution and this is the only way I have actually been able to find the lost or unsaved file. I hope this helps and I can save everyone some extra hours of time.

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I'm pretty sure this only works if you haven't quit Word (or had it quit on you). Great explanation though. – Carson May 3 at 17:03

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