Almost everyone has used Microsoft Word at some point. From students doing homework to office workers writing project reports, we all have to put fingers to keyboard and Word is still at the top of the word processor pile. Things don’t always go smoothly, though.

The doorbell rings and you leave your desk to answer it. Five minutes later, you come back to find Windows decided to reboot for an update, then crashed, leaving your data in limbo. It may not be lost forever, though, which is why we’ve put together this article on how to recover a Word document.

If you’ve saved your work recently, you will probably be able to recover it after such a crash. That said, saving manually is unreliable and, sooner or later, you’re bound to forget. If that happens, you risk losing your work.

As always, prevention is better than the cure, so backing up as you go is a good idea to keep yourself from experiencing a total loss. There is plenty of software that can help you with that. If you back your data up using an automatic solution, you’ll nearly always be able to recover it should something go wrong.

OneDrive and Office 365

Recover a Word Document Backup

If you are using Word as part of the Office 365 suite, storage space on OneDrive is included with your subscription. We put it through its paces in our OneDrive for Business review, so take a look at that for more details.

You can also use Office 365’s auto-save feature to have Word save your files regularly. The frequency of saves can be changed in the settings. That way, you don’t need to remember to do it yourself.

Using an online backup service gives you the usual benefits of saving your work, as well as a way to recover it, no matter what happens to your local device. Have a look at our best online backup article for more, or read about our favorite service in our Backblaze review.

Using online platforms can sidestep data loss problems as you’ll always be able to access your data from any device, even if one of them breaks. Google Docs, for example, saves automatically almost as soon as you finish typing, so you don’t even need to remember to click save.

Cloud storage is another good way to ensure your data is safe, even if your device has a problem. Sync.com is our top provider. Our best cloud storage article includes plenty of other options, though, so take a look at it.

That said, let’s assume you’ve done neither of those things and are facing the prospect of going to work without your 5,000-word masterpiece. You still have quite a few options. Let’s go over them.

How to Recover a Word Document

First, Word includes an auto-recovery feature that scans for files every time it starts. If you think you have lost data, you can try restarting Word to see if it recovers the file for you.

If it doesn’t start automatically, you can launch it manually. In Word 2010, doing so is as easy as clicking “recent” on the “file” menu, then clicking “recover unsaved documents”.

Auto-recovery is effective in our experience and will often come to your rescue after a crash or unexpected reboot. Even so, your last few minutes of work might be lost for good.

Word lets you save auto-recovery data more frequently. In Word 2007, for example, you can open the options, switch to the “save” page and change the value for “save AutoRecover information every.” You’ll also want to make sure the checkbox next to it is selected.

You can try hunting for files with the “asd” extension, too. They are the temporary files Word uses to store your work as you go, but before you save. If you can locate them, Word should be able to open and restore at least some of your lost data.

Using Data Recovery to Recover Word Files

Word isn’t the only tool that can recover its documents, though. If your hard drive has a problem, you can use chkdsk, which is included with Windows, or try a dedicated recovery tool. Our list of the best data recovery software is a good place to look for providers.

Disk recovery tools can also help if you’ve accidentally deleted something and it hasn’t shown up in the recycle bin.

Using chkdsk involves bringing up a command prompt by pushing Windows + R, then typing “cmd”. After that, you type “chkdsk /f E:,” replacing the E with your drive letter. It can take a while to perform the scan, so it might be a good time for a screen break while you wait.

Data recovery software can help you with more difficult data loss problems. If the disk has been damaged and chkdisk fails, they give you a decent chance of recovering your data. They are also easier to use than chkdsk.

There are plenty of data recovery tools available to help you. Take a look at our many data recovery reviews and our roundup of the best tools for more info.

As you can read in our Stellar Data Recovery review and CleverFiles Disk Drill review, these two tools are useful options if Word’s auto-recovery has failed you. Stellar will take you through the recovery process step-by-step and give you a list of recovered files at the end. It costs $50 per yearfor the standard version, which is a fair price to pay to recover your hard work.

Final Thoughts

If you think you’ve lost a Word document, there are many things you can do to try to get the data back. None of our tips will work every time, but they do give you a chance of restoring your data and evading the wrath of your boss or teacher.

The best tips to follow are done before the data is lost. Automated backup and storage solutions are inexpensive and easily pay for themselves after a single hard drive crash. You do have options after the event, though. They are never completely reliable, but are all worth trying should disaster strike.

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If you’ve suffered from data loss, we’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below. If you’ve used our guide to get your data back, or have other tips, do let us know. Thanks for reading.

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