The best ways to recover an unsaved Word document on Mac

9 min read

Microsoft Word is probably the world's most popular word processor: most of us have it installed on our Macs and have used it for creating texts. So we can all relate to the panicky feeling you get when a Word document you've been working on disappears unsaved. 

This may happen if you’ve accidentally quit the app, the app has crashed, or your Mac has experienced an unexpected system error. But if you know how to recover unsaved Word document Mac has lost, you’ll be able to easily get your files back and never lose your data again.

Fortunately, there are various steps you can take to try and recover Word document Mac didn’t save — using Word’s own recovery features, macOS tools, and specialized data recovery apps.

One-click solution to recover an unsaved Word document

The easiest way to recover unsaved Word document Mac can no longer locate is with Disk Drill data recovery.

Disk Drill can bring your lost files back in a matter of seconds and also comes with the tools to help you avoid data loss in the future — helping you create disk backups, monitoring for possible disk issues, and sending out risk alerts in case your data safety is threatened.

You can use Disk Drill on different kinds of devices (Macs, iPhones, iPads, Android, USBs, and SD cards) and restore data no matter what caused its loss — be it your own carelessness, unexpected shutdown of your Mac, or a disk utility error.

Here’s how to recover a Word document on Mac with Disk Drill: 

  1. Install and open Disk Drill
  2. Choose the drive you want to be searched from the panel on the left ➙ Search for lost data
  3. Choose Documents in recovered files ➙ Review found items
  4. Filter by the type of file and the date it was last modified ➙ Recover

recover unsaved word document

How to recover unsaved Word documents with AutoRecovery

To protect you from data loss, Word has a built-in AutoRecovery feature designed for unplanned disruptions that might prevent you from saving your file. It has your open Word documents automatically saved to a hidden dedicated folder, so there’s a good chance you can recover your file from there.

To check files saved by AutoRecovery in order to recover lost Word document Mac can no longer locate:

  1. Go to Finder 
  2. Choose Go from the top Finder menu ➙ Go to Folder
  3. Enter ~/Library/Containers/ ➙ Enter
  4. Review files in the AutoRecovery folder and find the one you need

How to recover Word documents from Trash

If you’ve accidentally deleted a Word document, there’s also a chance to restore it from the Trash folder on your Mac.

To recover Word document macOS has stored away in Trash:

  1. Double-click on the Trash icon on your Desktop
  2. Go through the list of documents in the Trash folder to see if you can find the Word file you’re looking for
  3. Right-click on the file you want to restore ➙ Put Back
  4. Find your file restored to its original location

recover word documents from trash

How to recover lost docs from the Temporary folder

Temporary folder where your Mac places temporary items is another great place to look for a copy of your unsaved Word file.

You’ll need to use Terminal command to help you recover lost Word document Mac is possibly keeping for you in its folder for temporary items:

  1. Open Terminal from Utilities in Finder
  2. Type open $TMPDIR in the Terminal window ➙ Enter
  3. Find TemporaryItems folder in the directory you’ve just opened
  4. Look for your unsaved Word file in TemporaryItems

recover lost docs from the Temporary folder

How to recover text from a damaged file in Word

Sometimes the problem isn’t that you can’t locate your Word document on Mac, but that it won't open. This might be a sign that your file’s damaged — but, luckily, your text can still be recovered!

If you want to know how to recover unsaved Word document Mac refuses to open because of the file corruption issue, follow these steps:

  1. Open Microsoft Word and click on Word in the top menu ➙ Preferences
  2. Click on General in the Authoring and Proofing Tools section
  3. Make sure to check the box next to Confirm file format conversion at Open
  4. Close the General dialog 
  5. Go to File in the top menu ➙ Open
  6. Find your file and choose Recover Text from the dropdown menu next to Open ➙ Open

recover text from a damaged file in Word

How to recover using documents from a backup

Establishing an effective backup routine might save you the trouble of worrying about how to recover an unsaved Word document on Mac. Because backups are sometimes your most solid chance to make sure all your critical data can be quickly restored, lost items found, and older versions of your document recovered.

You don’t even have to always choose backups that copy the entire content of your Mac, there’s also a way to back up only the specific folders or even the specific files you’re working on. Setting up such extra-tailored protection for your files is easy with Get Backup Pro.

Get Backup Pro is a smart backup tool for Mac that can help set custom backup schedules for the files or folders of your choice. 

recover docs from backup

You can also use this app to have folders on your Mac bidirectionally synchronized with another Mac, create clones of your Mac’s disk to migrate your data to a new location whenever needed, or compress your backups to up to 60% of their original size to save you disk space.

Is it possible to recover a replaced Word document on Mac?

Yes, if you’ve replaced your file and now want to recover Word document Mac has overwritten, you can go back to an older version of your document. Consider recovering from a backup or check out previous versions of your document in Word:

  1. Open your document 
  2. Go to File in the top Word menu ➙ Browse Version History 
  3. Choose the version you’d like to revert to from the list ➙ Open Version
  4. Click on Restore to go back to the earlier edit of your file

Tips to avoid losing data on Mac

Losing the work you’ve already done on your document is frustrating, no question about it. It’s great that we can take steps to recover the lost data but acting to prevent the loss is important as well. So that it’s not too often that you have to think about how to recover a Word document on Mac. 

Here are some of the things to consider:

  • Save your Word documents early and often
  • Organize consistent backups of your files (preferably to an offsite location or disk)
  • Make sure you work in a place with a stable power supply 
  • Update to the latest available versions of your system and apps
  • Use an antivirus

Get a reliable Microsoft Word alternative

Trying out alternatives to creating text documents exclusively in Word might surprise you — with great functionality, convenience, and looks of your texts. Who knows, maybe you won’t have to worry about how to recover Word document Mac has lost ever again!

One of the apps that can become your new go-to writing app is Ulysses.

Ulysses automatically saves and backs up everything you write, so an unsaved file is simply not something that could happen to you with this app. Besides, Ulysses is great when it comes to organizing your files: Groups structure lets you save similar projects or research and drafts pertaining to the same project, and set up Filter criteria to quickly find files that match them. 

You’d also be able to work on your texts from wherever you are thanks to Ulysses iCloud sync across all your Apple devices and publish perfectly formatted ebooks, PDFs, and HTMLs right from the app with a built-in markup editor. 

ulysses mac

Another great alternative to writing in Word is Craft. 

craft app for mac

Craft uses a block-based system for document layouts, letting you use text, cards, Markdown, and images to create structured and visually appealing documents. You can also make use of a multi-level folder system or insert a link to something you worked on earlier into your Craft document, using pages as portals into sub-pages and interlinking your notes to keep things organized. 

How to recover a Word document on Mac with ease

Learning how to recover a Word document on Mac is easy, once you know how to turn to Word’s own features for autorecovery, restoring text from a damaged file, and browsing file’s previous versions. Plus, macOS also lets you check Temporary and Trash folders to recover lost Word document Mac has erased. Or you can skip searching for your lost file and simply restore in a couple of clicks with Disk Drill.

Whichever method you’d find working best for you, remember to use Get Backup Pro to ensure you have your most important data safely backed up and ready for you, should you ever need to restore. And dare yourself to break from the standard and try Ulysses and Craft for new ways to create text files.

Most importantly, don’t pass on a chance to try Disk Drill, Get Backup Pro, Ulysses, and Craft for free with the seven-day trial of Setapp, a platform of high-performance, best-in-class iOS and macOS apps. Learn how to recover lost Word document Mac has trashed and check out more than 240 new options to boost your productivity.


That’s a lot of information, we know! That’s why we’ve put together some of the most common questions about macOS malware protection.

How do you recover trashed files on Mac?

You can recover Word document macOS has already sent to Trash by right-clicking on the file in the Trash folder and choosing Put Back from a pop-up menu that appears. This will restore your file to its original location.

How do I recover deleted files from Mac without software?

When deciding how to recover lost Word document Mac no longer seems to have you don’t always need a specialized app. First try using Word’s own AutoRecovery feature, check TemporaryItems folder on Mac, or consider restoring from a backup.

How to recover deleted files after emptying the Trash folder?

To recover unsaved Word document Mac has already erased, use Disk Drill to bring your files back.

How do I use Terminal to recover deleted files on Mac?

When trying to recover unsaved Word document Mac has lost, you can use Terminal command (type open $TMPDIR in the Terminal window) to look for your file in the TemporaryItems folder.

What’s the best tool to recover deleted files from a Mac?

Use Disk Drill data recovery to bring back any deleted files — images, videos, archived data, or a lost Word document — in a matter or seconds. This app is without a doubt your best shot at how to recover Word document Mac has erased.

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