How to Recover an Excel File After a Crash

by Michael Joseph HallUpdated September 28, 2017

Losing an Excel document due to a computer or program crash costs time and money. Fortunately, you can locate and recover your "lost" file, in many cases with little effort, thanks to automated backup features now commonplace in Excel and many other programs. Learn a few suggestions on how to recover an Excel file following a crash.


Start Excel back up and wait to see if it automatically offers to recover the document for you. Later versions will walk you through the process of recovering the document systematically. Just be sure you don't close down any windows before you are certain they are not your lost file.

Click Start > Recent Documents. Your file should be there, although your most recent changes may not be.

From within Excel, go to "Open" and choose "Recent Documents" (it may show automatically). If you see your document there, open it and you will recover the version of your document most recently saved. (In some versions of Excel, you will first need to click File > Open on the drop-down menu. On others, you will need to click the icon in the upper left hand corner and go from there.)

Go to "My Computer" and perform a search. Be sure to indicate which file type and what folders the file may have been saved to. To do this, you may have to select the option to do an advanced search.

If you are in an office, contact your tech support department or systems administrator. Many companies back up all their computers regularly, and your file may have been saved to a separate server that can be recovered by someone with the right access level.

Look in your temporary files. There are a number of ways to do this, but sometimes the easiest trick is to backtrack. One technique is from within Excel click File > Save As. (If Excel says there is nothing to save, enter a letter or number into 1 of the fields in your new file first.) In the dialogue box that opens, select "Recent Documents." Scroll around and see if your file is there. If so, make a note of the path (some computers will allow you to highlight, right-click, and save the path), close the dialogue box and go to my computer and plug in the path.

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