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Recovery of MS Office Files

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Recovery of MS Office Files from Temp Files

Microsoft Office has extensive AutoSave and Auto Recovery options that allow you to rescue your work in the event that it is lost due to a power failure, system crash or plain human error.

However many people don't know how to use these features or that they even exist.

Even if you don't have these features enabled, you can sometimes recover data from the various temporary files that are created by Office while you are working on the document.

Microsoft has changed the way AutoSave and Auto Recover works in different versions of Office.
Therefore you may want to experiment before you rely on this information.

Finding the Temporary Files

When a new file is started a temporary file is created.

This file can be located either in the windows temp directory or right beside the Actual File.

This temporary file will have a few different letters after the tilde (or squiggly line “ ~”).

These are good ones to look for to find some lost info:


If you are looking for files used by word, then the following file types should be searched for, where "xxxx" is a number.

  • A word document file will look like ~wrdxxxx.tmp
  • A temp document file will look like ~wrfxxxx.tmp
  • An auto recovery file will look like ~wraxxxx.tmp
  • An auto recovery file that is complete will have the extension of .wbk.

The temp file for PowerPoint looks like pptxxx.tmp


The temp file for excel looks like ~dfxxxx.tmp

There are others, but these are the ones most likely to contain data that can be recovered.

Finding and using the temporary and auto save files


The default auto save time for word documents is 10 minutes. You can control this time in Options under the "Save" tab. The auto save files are placed in one of the following two locations, which is where you should look to recover the data.

1. "C:\ Documents and Settings\\Application Data\Microsoft\Word".
2. "C:\ Documents and Settings\\Local Settings\Temp"

When you have found a file that looks like it might contain data, you may want to open it in notepad instead of trying to get Word to reassemble it.

The easiest way to do this is to open Notepad from the start menu then drag and drop the file in to it. The file will then be opened so that you can view the contents.

If the document was open when the system failed (power failure or crash) then you could try just opening Word again (not the document, just Word itself from the start menu). Word will then try to recover the lost document.


Excel doesn't have the AutoSave feature enabled as default, you have to add it.

This is because it isn't always practical to have this functionality enabled.

If you have it enabled and wants to experiment with a spreadsheet, you should create a copy then open that so that the AutoSave doesn't overwrite the original.

To enable the AutoSave feature, you have to use an Add In.
Go to "Tools" "Add Ins" and choose "AutoSave".

With Office XP, AutoSave has been moved out from Add Ins to Options, in a similar way to Word.

You will find the settings under "Save" where you can also disable the Auto Recover feature for that particular workbook.

Excel automatically saves every 10 minutes to the default location of "C:\ Documents and Settings\\Local Settings\Temp"

The files are identifiable as they are saved as a number .tmp e.g. "28.tmp".

This means that they look different from word or any other temporary files that are being saved there by other applications.


PowerPoint Auto save feature is enabled as default and will save every 10 minutes.

It will prompt you for a file name the first time the auto save runs.

If you are looking for the temp files for PowerPoint then the naming convention is pptxxx.tmp (where xxxx is a number) and they are saved by default in "C :\ Documents and Settings\\Local Settings\Temp".

Other Useful Information

If you have been working on a file for hours and the document was created via copying and pasting or at one point had cut the entire page or document to paste some place and then placed something else on the clip board, the data may not have been lost.

This is because when any info is copied it is sent to a temp file with the name ~wrlxxxx.tmp.

Therefore you could search your system for files of this name and then use the same "Drag and Drop" technique to view the data in Notepad to recover the data.

Another interesting thing to note is that when a change is made to a document that requires a temp file to be created, when you press the save button all the temp files are merged together into one file and the file is renamed to what you called it.

The original document that you created is then deleted.

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