Can I ensure that if I mistakenly close a Microsoft Excel document without saving the latest version, that I can recover some of the work I've done?

I'm using Excel 2003.

  • "without saving the latest version" - You mean, "closing an excel document without saving", right ? Nope. That's the point of not saving it.
    – Rook
    Commented Aug 13, 2009 at 23:54
  • Also, what version of Excel are you using? Commented Aug 14, 2009 at 0:27
  • @Idigas - I had closed without saving an existing file, as opposed to one that had never been saved. Commented Aug 14, 2009 at 0:55
  • @Andrew Grimm - So, you worked on a file, and then said "No" to saving. I hate to rain upon you, but I'd consider that data lost. How important was it anyway ? Surely nothing that couldn't be redone in a few hours of hard work ?
    – Rook
    Commented Aug 14, 2009 at 1:01
  • Oh, don't make it sound so negative. Where would this world be without lazy people ? They're the ones that do the most work.
    – Rook
    Commented Aug 14, 2009 at 4:16

12 Answers 12


Look for any files in the following:

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Microsoft\Excel\

In my case, I found an errant file here:

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Microsoft\Excel\~ar3451.xar

For an Excel 2003 file on our office LAN the computer blue screened and all changes were lost to the document. I found the file shown in the above string and right-clicked, Open With Excel and voilà, there was the file with all of my changes.

Immediately saved it with new filename and back to work.

  • 1
    Indeed, C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Microsoft\Excel\~ar????.xar are the files to undelete (if possible)! Commented Aug 8, 2012 at 16:04
  • 3
    %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Excel\ is a path that works for everyone, no need to change the path according to your username.
    – JohannesB
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 23:23

Applies to Excel 2007 (and maybe 2003) on Windows 7.

Prior to Excel 2010, the Autosave feature creates hidden .xar files in "C:\Users\ username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Excel". The filenames are generated, and don't relate to the Workbook name. When you close Excel and select NO to save changes, the related temp .xar file is deleted PERMANENTLY... However...

I have come up with a way of saving the files in this directory to a backup directory at regular intervals using Task Scheduler and Powershell - effectively backing up the autosave files. Reason being, you can then (copy your backed up file to a temp location so as not to screw the backup) rename the extension to .xlsx and open it in Excel !! - If it wasn't a .xlsx file, Excel will prob. give you an error, try other extensions (.xls / .xlsm ...etc).

This is how to do what I did...

  1. Open Task Scheduler (tap Windows Key -> start typing "task scheduler", press enter/click on it when result is at top of Start Menu).
  2. Click Action -> Create Basic Task
  3. Give it a name and click Next
  4. Select "When I log on" as the Trigger
  5. Select "Start a Program" and click Next
  6. Type "Powershell" in the Program Name, then
  7. in the "Add arguments (optional):" box, type "% {Copy-Item -path C:\Users\ username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Excel\ -recurse -force -destination D:\Backup\ExcelAutosave}" (changing the username to your username obviously, and also modify the destination directory if you want), then click Next
  8. Then tick the box "Open the Properties dialog for this task when I click Finish", then click Finish.
  9. Under the "Triggers" tab, double click the "At log on" trigger, then tick the box "Repeat task every:" -> select an interval (i have 1 hour) and duration (i have 12 hours), make sure "Enabled" is selected, then click OK, then OK on the properties box.

I recall it may ask you to confirm that you wish to run a program with the following arguments or something...

Good luck!

  • This directory structure appears to be in place in Windows10/Office2016 as well.
    – CWilson
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 19:38

I had a similar situation but someone was working off of our company's server via remote desktop. Someone recommended the following file tree which was helpful:

C:\Users\*user name*\AppData\Local\Microsoft ⇢

I actually found the files on the server via a similar file tree with a weird non excel file extension and, while I could not double-click and open, I was able to open it just fine from the already launched Excel software and finally save it as a spreadsheet.

C:\Documents and Settings\*user name*\Application Data\Microsoft\Excel\XLSTART

On Windows 7 and Office 2010, you will find it under:

C:\Users\*user name*\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\UnsavedFiles\Book1((Unsaved-301910293917302138)).xlsb

Or in: C:\Users\*user name*\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Excel\abc(unsaved123).xls

Or in: C:\Users\\*user name*\AppData\Local\Temp\


Autorecovery only works if your Excel Crashed (like PC lost power or windows crashed.

If you select "NO" to save and close excel then you will lose the document.


I worked on an Excel 2007 file, then chose not to save it after getting confused by the many windows! Searching for the exact name of the file (using Google desktop) will show you a few cached versions of the file. Look at the time of your last file and use the cached file to copy and paste back your work. The format will not be the same but you'll have your work. I just did this and it worked!


MS Office has an autosave feature. It does this periodically just to make sure you do not lose anything. The question is whether or not it was actually enabled. If it was you might be able to find the temp file in the directory mentioned below.

Excel doesn't have the AutoSave feature enabled as default, you have to add it. This is because it isn't always practical to have this functionality enabled. If you have it enabled and want to experiment with a spreadsheet, you should create a copy then open that so that the AutoSave doesn't overwrite the original.

To enable the AutoSave feature, you have to use an Add In. Go to "Tools" "Add ins" and choose "AutoSave". With Office XP, AutoSave has been moved out from Add Ins to Options, in a similar way to Word. You will find the settings under "Save" where you can also disable the Auto Recover feature for that particular work book.

Excel automatically saves every 10 minutes to the default location of "C:\ Documents and Settings\\Local Settings\Temp" The files are identifiable as they are saved as a number .tmp e.g. "28.tmp". This means that they look different from word or any other temporary files that are being saved there by other applications.

With a little luck this suggestion will work for you. You will probably have to rename the file manually since excel file was closed normally.

  • I tried your suggestion. The recovery files seem to be deleted when I close the document without saving. Thanks anyway. Commented Aug 14, 2009 at 4:38

At that point (and it's probably too late now, but for future reference), whether from a close or a crash, open Excel up directly. DO NOT open up the file from a "Recent Docs" list or even from My Docs. Office creates a temp file to store your work in, so if you open (any) the program by itself, it should have a Recovery bar on the left. If not, maybe you can use some file recovery software. I use PC Inspector File Recovery alot.


If I have a trouble to recover my office files I use an OfficeRecovery application. Once I have helped a good friend of mine with this application restoring his monthly Access work!

  • Does it work with files that were closed without a crash occurring? Commented Aug 15, 2009 at 7:16

If it is Office 2010

Go to

File → Info → Manage versions Button

And then select the date.

  • 3
    You did read the question, did you? OP said that he was using Excel 2003
    – Darius
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 0:34

In Excel 2010 it was saved in a folder and I was able to recover my lost file. What a lifesaver this was!!

C:\Users\User name\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Excel\Book1302741752573156243\File name ((Unsaved-302741123615948362 Excel generated number)).xlsb


With Excel 2019, I found unsaved versions of different workbooks in the folders:

  • C:\Users<user name>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Excel
  • C:\Users<user name>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\UnsavedFiles

No idea how it is decided which files go in which folders.

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