It doesn’t matter if you’re a student, office worker, or anyone who uses a Mac to work with documents because you’re guaranteed to encounter Microsoft Word documents on a regular basis, and it’s only a matter of time before you accidentally delete the wrong .DOC or .DOCX file or forget to save it before shutting down your Mac.  

Instead of simply accepting the consequences of your mistake and starting from scratch (and potentially losing hours or even days of hard work), you should attempt to recover the lost Word document from your Mac’s hard drive or any other storage device using the three methods described in this article. 

Method 1: Recover a Word Document from the Trash Folder 

To prevent one wrong click from causing irreversible data loss, Mac computers place deleted files inside the so-called Trash folder, where they typically stay for 30 days before they are permanently deleted to free up storage space. 

If it’s still less than 30 days since you deleted the Word document, and if you haven’t manually emptied the Trash folder, you should be able to get your Word document back in less than a minute: 

This is how to recover a Word document from the Trash folder

Step 1. Click the Trash icon on the Dock to open the Trash folder

Trash icon on the Dock

Step 2. Find the Word document you want to recover.

Step 3. Right-click on it and select the Put Back option to restore it to its original location. Alternatively, you can drag the document to your desktop or any folder.

Put Back option

Help! I can’t find the Trash icon

If the Trash icon is missing from the Dock, you can reset the Dock by running the following command in Terminal:

rm ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.dock.plist

Method 2: Use Time Machine to Recover a Word File 

Time Machine is an incremental backup tool that makes it possible to restore a specific folder or the whole computer to an earlier date. All modern Macs come with it, and you can easily use it to restore a specific file from a backup if you had activated Time Machine before the data loss incident and configured it to back up the drive on which the file was stored. 

This is how to recover a lost Word document on Mac using Time Machine:

Step 1. Check that your Time Machine backup drive is connected to your Mac.

Step 2. Open the folder that contained the deleted Word file. 

Step 3. Choose the Enter Time Machine option from the Time Machine menu.

Enter Time Machine

Step 4. Find the Word file you want to restore and click Restore. 

Restore the Word file

How do I find my Word document in Time Machine? 

To find a file in your Time Machine backup, you need to first open Time Machine in the correct folder (for example, if your Word document was in the Documents folder, open Time Machine in that folder) and then go back in time until you find a previous version of the folder that still contains the deleted file. To do that, use the timeline on the edge of the screen. 

Method 3: Get Back Microsoft Word Documents with Third-Party Software

Whenever you need to recover deleted Word documents on a Mac, it’s always best to start with solutions that don’t require any additional software to be installed on your computer, but such solutions can usually get you only so far. 

If you need to get back permanently deleted Microsoft Word documents (in other words, documents that are no longer present in the Trash folder) and you don’t have a Time Machine backup, you need to use a third-party data recovery tool capable of performing an in-depth scan of your file system to discover all recoverable files your operating system can no longer see.  

As a Mac user, you can choose from many different third-party data recovery software solutions. To save you time, here are three popular options that cover a variety of budgets.  

1. Disk Drill for Mac 

The first third-party data recovery software we want to recommend is Disk Drill. This professional-grade yet easy-to-use application is perfect for all Mac users who just want to get back their lost Word documents as quickly and painlessly as possible without worrying about the technical aspects of data recovery. 

Disk Drill can recover both .DOC and .DOCX files, as well as over 400 other file formats, including all commonly used document, image, video, audio, and archive file formats. Regardless of if your Word documents were stored in the Documents folder or on a USB flash drive, it always takes just a single click to start a scan so you can recover them. 

To recover Microsoft Word documents with Disk Drill

Step 1. Download and install Disk Drill for Mac. 

Install Disk Drill for Mac

Step 2. Click the Recover button next to the storage device on which your Word files were stored.

Click the Recover button

Step 3. Select the files you want to recover. 

Step 4. Click the Recover button. 

Recover chosen files

Step 5. Specify the recovery destination. 

Specify the recovery destination

2. Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery

With Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery, you can recover permanently deleted Word documents without spending a single dollar from HFS/HFS+, FAT, FAT32, NTFS, and exFAT. Unfortunately, Apple’s current file system, called APFS, isn’t supported yet. In terms of usability, Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery is no match for freemium data recovery applications like Disk Drill, but it’s also not too complicated to use that the average Mac user wouldn’t be able to figure it out. 

To recover Word files with Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery: 

Step 1. Download and install Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery.

Step 2. Launch the tool and select the Undelete option.

Undelete option in Lazesoft

Step 3. Select a drive to recover the deleted Word files and click Start Search.

Select a drive to recover the deleted Word files

Step 4. Wait for the scan process to finish and select the deleted files.

Step 5. Click Save Files to restore your Word files.

Save Word Files

3. PhotoRec

Your Mac has a powerful command-line interface, and you can use it to recover permanently deleted Word documents with the help of an open-source data recovery software application called PhotoRec. While its name suggests that PhotoRec can recover only image file formats, it actually supports about 300 file families, and you can find their list here

To restore your Word documents with PhotoRec

Step 1. Install TestDisk using the Homebrew package manager. (PhotoRec is included in the TestDisk package).

Step 2. Open Terminal and type sudo photorec to launch PhotoRec.

Launch PhotoRec

Step 3. Select the storage device on which your Word files were located.

Select the storage device with Your Wird Files

Step 4. Select your partition. Choose the No partition option to scan the whole device.

Select your partition

Step 5. Select the right file system and press Enter. 

Select the file system

Step 6. Select a destination to save the recovered Word files to and press C on your keyboard when done.

Destination to save the recovered Word files

Bonus Tip: Restore a Previous Version of a Mac Document

Have you ever accidentally overwritten an important Microsoft Word document instead of using the Save As option? Many Word users have, which is why Microsoft introduced the ability to recover a previous version of a Word document on Mac. 

This feature, called Version History, works only when the file is stored on OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint Online and the AutoSave option is enabled. If the file is not saved in the cloud, it’s not possible to use it. Since the AutoSave option keeps track of all changes automatically, you can follow the steps below even if you need to recover a Word document that was not saved on a Mac manually. 

Here’s how to recover a Word document on Mac using Version History

Step 1. Open the Word document you want to restore to a previous version.

Step 2. Select File and click Browse Version History.

Browse Version History

Step 3. Select the version you want to recover and click save it to your computer or click the Restore button.

Click the Restore button