How to Recover After Saving Over a File in Word

Updated April 17, 2017

It's one of those quick, impulsive actions that can make you scream out loud, "No!" As in, no I didn't just accidentally delete half my Microsoft Word document and then save over my old file. Don't panic. All may not actually be lost. There's a chance that you can still recover an older version of your Word document using one of several tactics. In the latest version of the Microsoft Word application, Word 2010, there's even a built-in recovery tool designed to retrieve unsaved documents.

Go to the "File" tab.

Click "Info."

Select "Manage Versions." Click "Recover Unsaved Documents."

Locate the version of the file you would like to recover. Select "Open."

Type "Ctrl" plus "Z." This is the shortcut key combination for the "undo" command. While this will not undo the save action, it will undo the last typing or formatting action performed in the current Word document.

Continue to type Ctrl" plus "Z" until you have undone enough typing and formatting changes to recover the version of the document you want. Repeatedly typing Ctrl" plus "Z" undoes a series of typing or formatting actions in the reverse order in which they were performed. If you have not closed out of the document after saving over the file, this technique will allow you to recover a previous version of the document.

Type "Ctrl" plus "S" to save the recovered version of the file.

Open the "Start" menu. Click "Documents" to open the documents library. Navigate to the directory location where the Word file is saved.

Right-click on an empty space in the directory window. Point to "Sort" in the pop-up shortcut menu. Select "By date."

Click the arrow next to the "View" button. Select "Details."

Go to the "Organize" menu. Select "Folder and search options." Go to the "View" tab. Click "Show hidden files, folders, and drives" under the "Advanced Settings" section. Click "OK."

See if you can locate a .tmp file labelled with a date and time stamp consistent with the period of time when you were working on the Word document that you would now like to recover. Double-click on the file to open it. The "tmp" file extension is short for "temporary." Windows creates temporary files, in part, as a safety net to prevent data loss. There's no guarantee that you will find a .tmp file which contains the information you want to recover, but it's still worth checking.

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About the Author

Maya Austen began freelance writing in 2009. She has written for many online publications on a wide variety of topics ranging from physical fitness to amateur astronomy. She's also an author and e-book publisher. Austen has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the New England Institute of Art and currently lives in Boston, Mass.