How to Retrieve Deleted Word Documents

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Microsoft Word document file deletions occur for a wide variety of reasons. Sometimes a person deletes a file by accident or purposefully deletes a file only to discover afterward that the file is needed for a project or in communications (email, fax or other form). Sometimes system or software failure occurs or an uncontrollable incident (power outage or surge) deletes the file or corrupts a device that stores the file. Whatever the deletion or retrieval reason, Microsoft provides Microsoft Word users with several methods of retrieving deleted Word documents.

  • Retrieve your deleted Word document from your computer's Recycle Bin. In the bin, go to “View” and “Details”

    In the list, search for the file name and click it once to highlight it. Go to "File" and "Restore" to send the file back to its originally stored location. If you can't locate the deleted file, click "Date Deleted" at the top of the middle column to sort the files by deletion date. If the file isn’t in the bin, go to Step 2.

  • Check any secondary storage device(s) that you use to back up your files. Click "Open" (Word prior to 2007) or the "Office Button" (Word 2007) and in the window select a storage device. Search by file name or the last save date in the "Date Modified" column.

  • Look for a Word-created backup copy, if you have the "Always create backup copy" feature turned on in your version of Microsoft Word. Word-created backup copies have a WBK or file extension. To search:

    1) Use Word's "Open" file window. Refer to Step 2 to open the window. In the "Open" window choose "All Files ." from the "Files of type" drop-down menu (Word prior to 2007) or "All Files" (Word 2007). Locate your file and click the "Open" button.

    2) Use the Windows "Search" feature. Click the "Start" button (Windows XP) or logo (Vista/Windows 7).

    For Windows XP: Click "Search" and select "Click here to use Search Companion" from the bottom of the sidebar. Select "All files and folders" and type ".WBK" in the "All or part of the file name: " field. Confirm that you have "My Computer" or "Local Hard Drives (C:;D:) selected in the "Look in" drop-down menu and then click the "Search" button to locate the file.

    For Windows Vista/7: Type ".wbk" in the "Search" box. Push the "Enter" key (Vista) to begin the search. If you're using Windows 7, the search automatically begins once you type the file extension.

  • Close Word and then reopen it to check if Word's "AutoRecover" feature saved a previously edited copy of the file. If Word recovered the file, double-click the file name in the sidebar—the file name should have "[Original]" or "[Recovered]" to the right of it—and immediately save the document(s) as a DOC (Word prior to 2007) or DOCX (Word 2007) file.

Tips & Warnings

  • Also, use the "Open" and/or "Search" features to search by a DOC or DOCX file extension or the file name to locate deleted documents.
  • If you can't locate/retrieve your document(s), retain the services of a professional computer technician—especially if dealing with a damaged storage device.
  • Always save your Word documents to an external hard drive—as you work and before closing any open document—in case of software/system failure and/or uncontrollable incidents that can cause the deletion of an open document or a saved file.

References

  • Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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