7 Methods to Recover a Deleted Word Document on Mac

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Recover a Word Document on Mac

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 seven methods described in this article.

Method When It’s Most Useful
Trash Folder When it’s less than 30 days since you deleted the Word document
Time Machine When you have a backup of folder with deleted Word document
Autorecovery Feature When you’re recovering a Word document that was not saved
Temporary Folder When a previously saved file was opened for editing
Recover Damaged Word File When you can’t open a Word document because it’s corrupted or damaged
Data Recovery Software When Word document was deleted and you don’t have a backup
Previous Version When your Word file was overwritten

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: Use the Word AutoRecovery Feature

Is it possible to recover a Word document that was not saved on Mac? If you’re looking for an answer, then you’re in luck since there is a quick solution.

A special built-in feature called AutoRecovery Word on Mac can help in this situation. It is turned on by default and helps users to avoid losing files by regularly creating a copy of the document that they’re working on. This tool usually does it every 10 minutes, but you can use the Word settings to change how frequently you want it to make a copy of your document.

The Word AutoRecovery feature is a quick and easy way to recover unsaved Word documents on Mac. So if either Word or your Mac unexpectedly shut down while you were working on a Word file, this feature should be able to restore it.

Keep in mind: If the issue occurred before AutoRecovery made a copy of the document and you’ve already made lots of changes in that 10-minute window, those changes will be lost since the file will be recovered from the last copy made by this feature.

Typically, Word automatically opens the recovered document the next time you launch the app. But if this didn’t happen, you can manually find the recovered document.

Here are the steps that you should take to succeed in recovering an unsaved Word document on Mac:

Step 1.Launch Finder on your Mac.

Step 2.From the menu on the top of the screen, click Go > Go To Folder.

go to folder

Step 3.Instead of username, type in your own username. Then copy and paste this folder path in the window:

/Users/username/Library/Containers/com.Microsoft/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery

autorecovery-folder

Step 4.Double-click the needed file to open it.

Step 5.Head to File > Save As, enter a new name for the recovered document and choose where you want to store it. Click Save.

save as word file

Method 4: Check the Mac Temporary Folder

Temporary folders are created automatically by your Mac’s operating system and apps. In such a folder, you can find both cache files and temporary files.

There is a chance that Word has created a temporary file with your lost document, and it’s still stored in that folder.

Important: You should be extremely careful when accessing the Temporary folder on your Mac. Since making changes to such files can lead to serious issues with your macOS, you shouldn’t take any actions unless you’re certain of what you’re doing.

Here’s how to access the Temporary folder on your Mac and recover a Word file:

Step 1.Go to Launchpad and open Terminal.

Step 2.Type in echo $TMPDIR and hit Return. The app should provide a directory path.

temporary folder location

Step 3.Type in open $TMPDIR and hit Return to access the Temporary folder. Your lost document should be located in the TemporaryItems folder.

Step 4.Look through the files to find the needed one. Once you’ve located it, save a copy of the file into a different folder or just drag and drop it into a different location.

temporary folder on mac

Method 5: Recover Text From a Damaged File in Word

Even though this doesn’t happen very often, there is still a chance that you can’t open a Word document because it’s corrupted or damaged.

If the damaged Word file can be opened on your computer, you can try copy-pasting everything from the document to a new one. The trick here is that you should copy the whole text except for the last paragraph mark.

So, first, you should create a new document File > New > Blank document > Create. Then open the damaged document and change it’s view to draft view (View > Draft), copy the text, and paste it into the new document.

If the corrupted Word file does not open, the best solution in such a case is to use the Recover Text feature to restore your document. However, you must be aware that this method will recover only the text from your document. The formatting along with all non-text items (graphics, drawing object, etc.) won’t be restored.

Here’s how to recover text from a damaged file in Word on your Mac:

Step 1.Launch Word and head to File > Open.

Step 2.Click Original near Open to reveal a drop-down menu. Click Recover Text.

recover original text

Step 3.Choose the file that you wish to recover and click Open.

open file for recovery

If these solutions were helpful, the next option that you can try is to use data recovery software to restore your Word file.

Method 6: Get Back Microsoft Word Documents with Data Recovery Software

disk drill logoWhenever 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.
Disk Drill 4 for Mac Install

Step 2. Click the Recover button next to the storage device on which your Word files were stored.
start scan storage with doc file

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

Method 7: 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

The Bottom Line

Nobody likes to lose essential Word documents, but it still happens. Luckily, there are effective file recovery methods for every unique situation. It’s even possible to restore a Word document that was not saved on Mac, recover a damaged Word file, or retrieve a deleted Word document on Mac from Trash.

So don’t panic, choose a suitable solution, and follow the step-by-step instructions to restore the lost Word file on your Mac.