When Excel 2011 crashes, it often does not automatically re-open the latest version from the auto-recover files. Instead Excel may bring up the last user saved version that may not have the latest changes.

How can I locate and use the latest auto-recovery files, and hence recover the most recent changes?

Version information: Excel 2011 for Mac version 14.3.1 (130117) Mac OSX 10.8.2

  • If Excel didn't find them, are you sure it created them? What frequency of autosave do you have set?
    – Kazark
    Feb 27, 2013 at 20:50
  • @Kazark Yes, the files were created. I have autosave enabled with a 10min interval. Plus after posting the question, I was able to locate the files in the autorecovery directory (see my answer below)
    – Bryan P
    Feb 28, 2013 at 0:42

3 Answers 3


Found 'em! Here are the solution steps:

  1. Go to ~\Library\Application Support\Microsoft\Office\Office 2011 AutoRecovery in Finder (on OSX10.7+ this may first require making the Library directory visible using one of the methods described here or here)
  2. Change the Extension of the Excel autorecover files of interest from .xlsx to .xlsb
  3. Open the files with Excel (either double click or using Excel's File>Open menu)
  4. Enjoy!


As described in this post, if you are lucky, a newer auto-recovery version can often be found in ~\Library\Application Support\Microsoft\Office\Office 2011 AutoRecovery. Files in this directory often have somewhat munged/cryptic names, but you can always open them up to find the best one.

However, in the current version of Excel for Mac 2011 (14.3.1, maybe others) there is a bug that prevents easily opening these backup files. Specifically, the filenames are listed with an .xlsx extension (corresponding to Excel XML format), but are actually in a different format. As a result attempting to open them in Finder or through the Open menu fails, claiming the files are corrupt. The exact error is

Microsoft cannot open this file The file format or file extension is not valid. Verify that the file has not been corrupted and that the file extension matches the format of the file.

Changing the file extension to .xlsb (Excel binary format) or .xlk (older Excel backup) will allow Excel to open the file.

  • This answer just saved my life. I might add that I had to perform one step to actually find the correct library. OS X Lion hides the ~/Library folder. To see it, open the Terminal and type: chflags nohidden /Users/[username]/Library/
    – user249549
    Aug 29, 2013 at 9:50
  • @Simon: good point, although the links at the end of step #1 describe this and other solutions for viewing the ~/Library folder.
    – Bryan P
    Aug 31, 2013 at 4:42

Bryan P's answer is great. Agreed 100%. I just wanted to add one other trick to try if you can find the files but can't open them. That suggestion: OpenOffice.

Excel could not open its own auto-recover file no matter what extension I used. However, OpenOffice had no problem.

The only twist is that you'll need to drag the file onto OpenOffice's icon in the dock or right click to open with OpenOffice, because you're likely to be unable to navigate to the file through the dialogue windows.


My file system structure turned out to be a little different than that suggested in Bryan P's excellent answer (no Microsoft in Application Support), and I couldn't search for file name since search doesn't work for hidden files. Luckily, there is a tool called Find Any File.

It does not use a database but instead uses the file system driver's fast search operations, where available

I was able to use the program to search my whole HD for a word in the title of my lost Excel file, and I found a suitably up-to-date version of the file. I highly recommend using the app to find what OS X deosn't want to show you.

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