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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
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