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How to Recover Unsaved/Deleted Excel Files on Mac

Home > HowTos > File Recovery Tips on Mac Updated by Nancy on May 17, 2024 | Approved by Daryl Baxter

Have your hours of meticulous work in Excel for Mac come to naught due to unexpected circumstances? Whether it's an unsaved spreadsheet that got closed accidentally or a deleted file you can't seem to find, the frustration is inevitable. In this guide, we'll walk you through various methods to recover Excel files on Mac, ensuring your data isn't lost for good.

Why Did My Workbook Disappear on Mac?

When we talk about Excel file loss on Mac, several common scenarios may cause it to disappear. Knowing these scenarios is essential to understand the importance of timely recovery. Here are some causes:

Although many other reasons exist for such accidents, proactive measures can reverse them.

How to Recover Unsaved Excel Files on Mac

Sometimes, an unexpected shutdown or accidental closure can result in unsaved changes to your Excel files. Before you resign yourself to redoing all that work, try these ways:

Utilize Prompt Dialog Boxes

Like many applications in the Microsoft Office suite, Excel for Mac features an AutoRecover function designed to save your work automatically at regular intervals. This feature is a lifesaver when you haven't manually saved your document.

Here are steps to unsaved Excel file recovery Mac:

  1. Double-click "Microsoft" in the application folder.

  2. After waiting a while, you will see a prompt box about "quit unexpectedly."
  3. Click "Open" to load the unsaved Excel file.

  4. Choose "File" > "Save/Save As" in the menu bar to re-save it.

If you don't see this prompt, please continue reading below.

2. Check AutoRecover Information

  1. Open your Excel in macOS.
  2. Below the toolbar, you will see an "Open recovered workbooks" prompt.
  3. Click "Yes" to check the Excel file and save it.

The above two methods of auto recovery Excel Mac are actively triggered by the app. They are also suitable for unsaved Word document recovery on Mac. If not, check out the passive ways below.

Tip: To ensure AutoRecover is set up on your Mac, go to "Excel" > "Preferences" > "Save," and check that the "Save AutoRecover info every:" option is checked and set to your preferred time interval.

3. From Recent Option

This option in Excel is a convenient feature that allows users to quickly access and open recently used documents, including unsaved Excel, without navigating through folders manually. Here's how you can utilize it in Excel:

  1. Navigate to "File" > "Open Recent."

  2. Look for and select the Excel file that failed to save.
  3. Once opened, save the document immediately.

4. Manual Recovery Attempt

In Excel on Mac, the AutoRecover feature is designed to automatically save temporary copies of your work regularly, helping you recover unsaved changes during a crash or unexpected application closure. Here's how you can Excel for Mac recover unsaved file:

  1. Open Finder, click "Go" In the menu bar, and press and hold the "Option."
  2. Click on "Library" to access this folder.
  3. Navigate to "~/Containers/ Support/Microsoft."
  4. In this folder, you should see temporary files with names like "*.xlsb." These files contain the auto-saved data that Excel periodically captures.

  5. Open it with Excel and save.

5. Check Temporary Files

Sometimes, your work might not appear in AutoRecovered files. When this happens, you can look in the Temporary folder for unsaved Excel documents.

  1. Open "Finder" on your Mac.
  2. Select "Go" from the top menu, then "Go to Folder."
  3. Type "/var/folders" and hit "Go."

  4. Use the search bar in the Finder window, type "Excel," and ensure the search is set to "TemporaryItems" to narrow down your search.

  5. Open the suspected files individually using Excel to check their contents, as the items here do not have recognizable names.

6. From OneDrive/SharePoint

If you're a subscriber to Microsoft 365, you have access to another fantastic feature—AutoSave. This automatically saves your file to OneDrive or SharePoint in real-time. If AutoSave was enabled, you might find recovered Excel files from there.

  1. Open Excel and click on "File" > "Open."
  2. Choose "OneDrive" or "SharePoint," depending on where your file was being saved.
  3. Select the recently opened Excel and click "Download."

Note: AutoSave works only if you were working on a file saved in OneDrive or SharePoint, not on local files.

7. Use Professional Recovery Tool

If the above method of utilizing the built-in feature to find unsaved Excel files on Mac does not work, data recovery software for Mac will be helpful. To do this, you can try iBeesoft Data Recovery for Mac.

Here is the step-by-step guide to recover unsaved Excel on Mac:

  1. Download and install iBeesoft Data Recovery for your system.
  2. Select the hard drive where the Excel document is stored and click "Scan."
  3. After completing the scan, select "Type" on the left and click "Unsaved Documents."

  4. Click the filter icon at the top and select "xls/xlsx."
  5. Find your unsaved Excel and click "Recover."

How to Recover a Deleted/Lost Excel File on Mac

Whether it's a complex financial model, a personal budget spreadsheet, or critical business data, the disappear can be both frustrating and costly. Fortunately, this chapter will help you regain it.

1. Leverage macOS Search

Has your workbook disappeared from its original location for no reason? It's possible that you accidentally moved it to a different location while managing it. For such situations, you can try the following methods to get back lost Excel Files on Mac:

  1. Open "Finder" and switch to "This Mac."
  2. Type ".xls" in the search box and select "Excel Document."

  3. After completing the retrieval, check whether there is any workbook that you have disappeared.

2. Check the Trash Bin

This is the easiest way to recover Excel files on Mac after accidentally deleting them. All you need to do is:

  1. Open the "Trash Bin" by clicking on its icon in the Dock.
  2. Browse through the contents to locate your deleted workbooks.
  3. Right-click on the file and select "Put Back" to return to its original location.

3. Use Time Machine Backup

It is a built-in backup feature of MacOS, and if you set it up before the workbooks were lost, you can quickly recover deleted Excel files on Mac:

  1. Connect the external drive that you use for Time Machine backups.
  2. Open the Time Machine.
  3. Navigate through the backups to find the Excel file.
  4. Select the file and press "Restore" to resave it.

4. Try File Recovery Software

Many third-party applications are explicitly designed to recover deleted files on Mac. They can be particularly useful if the above methods don't yield results. To save time, you can still use iBeesoft Data Recovery for Mac and follow the above steps to retrieve unsaved Excel files on Mac to complete the process.

Extended: How to Restore Saved Over Excel Files on Mac

Have you accidentally saved important Excel data, formulas, or pivot tables only to find they were the best before? Don't worry; you can use the following methods to roll back to the version you need.

1. From Previous Versions

  1. Click "File > Browse Version History" in the top menu.

  2. Select the version you need and open it.

2. Use Cloud Storage

If you use OneDrive or SharePoint to store your Excel files, you can recover an Excel file on Mac that is saved over with these platforms.

Steps for OneDrive:

  1. Go to the OneDrive website and log in with your credentials.
  2. Find the Excel file you need.
  3. Right-click the file and select "Version history."
  4. Choose an older version and click "Restore."

Steps for SharePoint:

  1. Go to the SharePoint site where your file is stored.
  2. Find the workbook in your document library.
  3. Click the ellipsis (...) next to it and select Version History.
  4. Choose the one you need and click "Restore."

How Can I Prevent Excel File Loss on Mac in the Future?

Although you can usually recover Excel files on Mac using the above methods, the best strategy is prevention. Here are a few tips:

By following these precautions, your workbooks should be safe.


Losing an Excel file on your Mac can disrupt your workflow and cause unnecessary stress. Thankfully, with this post's help, you can recover unsaved or deleted Excel files on Mac. Whether it's through Excel's built-in feature, leveraging temp files, restoring from backups, or utilizing third-party tools, there's a good chance you can salvage your data. Finally, remember that prevention is critical, so take proactive steps to minimize the possibility of future file loss.


  • AutoRecover files are typically stored in the following location: '/Users/<username>/Library/Containers/ Support/Microsoft'. To access this folder, open Finder, press 'Cmd + Shift + G,' and paste the path.

  • If you accidentally remove it, you can check the Trash. If not, you can use Mac data recovery software or check backups from Time Machine or cloud storage services.

  • Although this may be challenging, you can try using Time Machine to recover previous versions of the file or check for temporary files that might contain parts of the original data.

  • It can be challenging but not impossible. If you have a Time Machine or cloud storage backup, you can easily retrieve them. If not, you can also rely on professional tools like iBeesoft Data Recovery for Mac, Disk Drill, or TestDisk to scan your disk and reproduce them.

  • Several software options, such as iBeesoft Data Recovery for Mac, Recoverit, or Prosoft Data Rescue, are highly recommended for recovering deleted or lost Excel files on Mac due to their reliability, performance, and user-friendly interfaces.