How to recover a document saved to Office 2011 AutoRecovery

Recently I was writing an article for a client, and 20 minutes before deadline, I went to upload the file. And it was not there.

I looked in the recent documents file. Nothing.

I searched in Finder… nothing.

I obsessively looked through every folder I could see… still nothing. Yet I knew it was there because I saved it several times in order to avoid the very action I was taking now! And I could not find it anywhere. It was like it had never existed.

Half-writing the article in my head again while I fruitlessly looked through the entire contents of my computer, (I SO did not want to have to start from scratch again) I remembered that the folder option it had saved to was strange – an document recovery file of some sort. I only briefly glanced at it, unconcerned, figuring I would do a search for the filename when the time came.

Only if it is saved in the AutoRecovery folder, it does not appear in the search results. And I did not know that.

I searched for “document recovery” in my directory and found nothing. I Googled “searching for lost document saved in document recovery” and found a bunch of things that didn’t help. I was wasting time and beginning to worry.

I tried to look at the commands that directed where Word sent lost documents in order for them to be recovered again, and couldn’t find a thing. And then I remembered if I clicked ‘save’ on a new document, it would tell me the name of the file it was automatically sent to – and it was “Office 2011 AutoRecovery”.

How to recover a document saved to Office 2011 AutoRecovery

You bastard!

BINGO! I thought, and searched Finder for Office 2011 AutoRecovery and up it came! Only the FOLDER WAS EMPTY. As empty as my hopes and dreams at that moment.

How to recover a document saved to Office 2011 AutoRecovery

No Library. WTF.

Turning to trusty Google again, I typed in “saved to office 2011 autorecovery” and was sent (thankfully) to this page that described step-by-step instructions to find a document saved into that file that looks like it has vanished without a trace. Only I couldn’t get past step two – after clicking on Finder, and then Go, I couldn’t find the next option of Library. Little did I know that the Library option is hidden if you are using OS X Mountain Lion, which I only realised after reading one of the comments to the original post. Only they didn’t tell me how to unhide it.

Back to Google I went (what would I do without you!), I typed in “where is library in mountain lion?” and was directed to this page about how to reveal your Library folder. WHY IS THIS SO HARD?! Why is Library hidden? Gah.

Anyway, it turns out after you have clicked on “Go”, you need to hold down the Option button for Library to reveal itself. It will disappear again if you take your finger off. I followed the rest of the instructions and finally found my file. Sitting there in computer Siberia, hidden away from regular Joes like me just trying to write stuff. Holy Jebus.

So, TL;DR :

how to recover a document saved to Office 2011 AutoRecovery:

Click Finder > Go > Hold down the Option key and choose Library > Application Support > Microsoft > Office > Office 2011 AutoRecovery.


May this save you from a similar heart attack in the future.



  1. The Plumbette says

    Crap!! I would have been stressed and worried as all heck if this happened to me! At least you can pass this knowledge on now for others who find themselves in the same position.

  2. says

    Another thing we (using the Royal we here) learned the hard way was to never work on an assignment saving to your USB as you go … especially a 50-page Year 12 maths assignment … it can easily corrupt. Thank the Google Gods for finding how to fix that one too!

  3. Svetlana Abramenko says

    You are my hero!!! Got a few grey hair, but I found it! Nothing worked until I read this. I felt so desperate. Thank you

  4. Shain says

    I had the heart attack, but it sure did save me! I ran a disk recovery program and saw the file sitting in the auto recovery folder, just no idea how to access it.
    Thank you soo much!

  5. Steph says

    Thank you soooo much! I had read the article with the step by step recovery information, but I couldn’t find “Library” and I was freaking out! Then I found your website and it saved me!

  6. Phillip Dinis says

    Yup. Thank you very much!
    Some computer guru at Apple is laughing about how he/she hid Library under the option key.

  7. Susan Stewart says

    Thank you so much! This exact thing happened to me yesterday and I was so mad because I could not find it anywhere and thought I was going to have to re-write it. Thank you!!!!

  8. Jeffery McWhorter says

    This just happen to me and I was pulling out the hair that I do not have trying to find my file….Thank you sooooooooooooooo much!

  9. kseahox says

    Oh my gosh. Bless you. Why do they make this so difficult?? I found the same instructions, but the “option” step threw me off. I stayed up late last night working on a spreadsheet only to find it missing this morning. THANK YOU!!

  10. Mark says

    I really am thankful to you, thank you, I am a 3rd year law student, my computer crashed and half of my work of an 4000 words essay was gone, but you helped me recovered it! thank you <3

  11. Irfan Gul says

    SAME EXACT THING HAPPENED TO ME! I figured they were in this this folder but the files just wouldn’t show. Did all sorts of stuff including show/hide hidden files but no avail. Thanks a ton!

  12. Nab says

    THANK YOU! I have never gone from hopeless to ecstatic before in the matter of a couple of lines, but you are truly a lifesaver

  13. Mai says

    I was just about to re-write an entire brief I worked the whole day on. THANK YOU, you are the BEST.

  14. Anthony says

    I went to so many websites in a frantic state trying to find the file I KNEW I JUST saved. You were the only person who clearly explained the right answer. Normally, I don’t bother to leave comments like this…but THANK YOU, you saved me many hours of pain that I just can’t afford.

    • says

      Well that’s very kind of you to make the effort! I appreciate it. I always think clear language is the best (and I couldn’t find it anywhere for this situation!).

  15. Jennifer says

    you just saved me. Microsoft is evil, why would that be the default save folder?! Thank you thank you thank you

  16. Matt says

    Sweet Jesus, thank you. I’ve been working on an Excel file all week, and it’s due on my boss’ desk this morning. I go to open it, POOF, the file was gone. I cannot explain the rage that I felt, and the surprise at how much rage I am apparently capable of. (I work at a Christian university, and I was yelling some pretty terrible things at my computer while the rest of the building listened. Pretty sure you can’t just drop the eff-bomb at full volume at a Christian university and get away with it, but we’ll see.) Anyway, this has never happened to me before. I looked for an hour. No one explained it as precisely, as accurately, and as plainly as you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You saved me an ass-chewing.

    • says

      Oh man you made me laugh! you poor thing. It’s a horrible feeling, because you KNOW YOU SAVED IT! Worst thing ever. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall, though! I hope nobody heard you (or only someone with a sense of humour). So pleased to hear it all worked out and I was of some assistance.

  17. Margaret says

    YOU ARE A LIFE SAVER. Nothing else was working and I was freaking out. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. I was searching for an hour and then you finally saved me, you are wonderful

  18. Laura says

    i just don’t get it though… where is the logic in hiding autorecovered files?! their the ones you often need the most!!!
    honestly though… thank you….

  19. Nick Harsh says

    THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I literally spent 5 hours this morning working on an Astronomy Lab only to do the same thing you did. When I went to attach it so that I could turn it in I about started crying in the coffee shop I am at. I searched and searched this is the ONLY post that helped me find it. My day is no longer ruined! lol

  20. Carole says

    HOLY CRAP THANK YOU! This was STUPID hard and you SAVED MY LIFE! If only I’d thought to look for you and hour and a half earlier. ARGH!!!!!!!!! And thank you! Stupid Office 2011….

  21. Sydney says

    THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH! I was working on a science paper late into the night, and woke to find it NOWHERE in sight! This is the only article that helped. Thank you!!!

  22. Mary says

    Thank you so much!!! After crying for an hour and searching all over my computer, this is the only thing that worked!! You saved my life!

  23. LauraArdila says

    Gracias a Dios encontré esta página. Muchas gracias, en un momento tuve ganas de morirme!!! esto fue mi salvación

  24. luke quarto says

    First off, I’d like to note that never before have I read an article that SO EXACTLY EXPLAINS MY DILEMMA and SO THOROUGHLY SOLVES MY PROBLEM. I lost an article I put about seven or eight hours into, and ended up just laying on my back on the carpet for about five minutes, hating everything. But now that’s all over, because everything’s fixed. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • says

      You’re welcome, welcome, welcome! It’s so ridiculously frustrating and so GODDAMN USER UNFRIENDLY to have to go through this rigmarole. I’m so glad it helped, though – losing all that work is the worst feeling ever.

  25. Lisa G. says

    I know you wrote this a while ago now but there are no words to describe how thankful I am to you for this incredibly helpful article. I was about to have to tell my employer that I’d lost an entire day’s project work. Long live the internet and Google search!

    • says

      haha yes, thankyou Google! It’s so funny, I did write it ages ago, but I get comments so regularly from relieved people. I’m SO glad I wrote it – it’s saved a lot of asses! I’m glad you found it useful :)

  26. Pepijn says

    Omg, thank you! I almost gave up any hope of ever finding my file again. I decided to google some more and there I found this article. The problem actually was that not only my Library map was hidden, but also the recovery map. Finnaly found it! Thanks alot!

  27. Anj Mariner says

    You madam deserve a huge friendly just saved my ass type of hug! I just lost (well thought I did) a solid 2-3 hour document (Formal Agreement) and was wide eyed in a daze and feeling pretty defeated, and extremely unenthused with the whole idea of doing it all over again trying to recall each and every key stroke (we’ve all done it plenty of time before lol).

    I too looked in the usual places to find nothing but rapidly increasing agitation levels! I was prepared to bash myself up for not saving it (thought long and hard as to whether I did and if I did, how on earth I could forget lesson 101: Digital files for dummies. You have saved me from losing my shit today and I thank you. You are a kind soul :)

    • says

      Pleased I could help out! I was so annoyed because I knew I’d saved it – repeatedly! I couldn’t figure out why it was not anywhere to be found. So stupid. Glad you kept your shit!

  28. Mimi says

    OMG THIS IS A LIFE SAVER! I went to so many different forums and sites and they kept talking about the library and lo and behold I could not find it for the life of me and when I was searching for it and autorecovery using the little magnifying glass, NOTHING was showing up. I could click the folders but there was nothing inside UNTIL I found your post about it being hidden and clicking the option button.
    It’s so dumb that they hide that! I literally just spent 3 hours crying and freaking out because I thought I lost the paper that I had spent a WEEK on! I even started rewriting it cause I was convinced it was lost forever in a dark, hopeless, abyss. But you just saved the day for me! Thank you so much!

  29. Carol Hannah Glines says

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!! I literally did a shout of relief when this worked!!! Now I am going to go to the bathroom and wipe away my tears.

  30. Kara says

    You are the best!!! My husband gave up but I (once again) found the answer via Google. Followed your directions which seemed wacky but they worked!!!! Heart attack averted!!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

  31. gaddo says

    you shouldn’t be able to save anything on it if it’s invisible on every other place at the computer, thanks anyway

  32. Madeleine Stovel says

    Thanks, Veggiemama, for your generosity — you took the time to document this for the rest of who are (or were) tearing our hair.

  33. Courtney Calbert says

    You perfect person. I love you. You just saved my grade in Analytical Chemistry. I have been asking a computer engineer for about a month to no avail. You’re my hero.

  34. Eva says

    THE most important/helpful/mental breakdown-preventing article that I have read in 2015 !!!!!!!!! You’re the REAL MVP! Thank you!!

  35. Martin says

    I love you so much, you don’t understand how much you have helped me! Thanks to you I found my entire essay of 5000 words. Thank you so much angel.

  36. Jordan Clay says

    OMG I cannot thank you enough for this, literally just saved my life. I was in tears for half an hour until I found this x x x x

  37. Simone Clare Robertson says

    I don’t normally comment on posts as such but i’d like to say THANK YOU SO MUCH for this post. I had been saving my files into that stupid auto recover folder without realising and thought my document were magically disappearing until I realised. Life SAVER!

  38. Eda Yu says

    i never comment on anything but thank you jesus so much you have actually saved my life. it is so reassuring to know that somebody else’s hopes and dreams were as black as my soul when this occurred <3

  39. Derek Hibdon says

    i never comment on anything like this but my wife is in grad school and lost a huge file today, after digging through google for 30 minutes I found this. holy shit, what a life saver.

  40. Ale says

    OMG YOU SAVED MY LIFE!!!! ditto to everything that luke quarto said!!!! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!

  41. Scott says

    I actually love you. If I had come across this article 45 mins ago I wouldn’t have wasted as much time and frustration. My exact scenario described with a solution so simply stated that it took me all of 10 seconds to resolve after reading this. THANK YOU.

  42. Chris B says

    Thanks so much for this article! like Luke said, this was EXACTLY my issue, glancing at the file name, figuring OF COURSE I CAN SEARCH IT, then going back into word “save as” to investigate this damn ghost of a folder after I can’t find my doc. And I’ve come accross that hidden library issue before… it’s just so ridiculous that I forgot all about it again! Why do we need to have exactly 1 entry in the middle of the list hidden with an option toggle… seems like a conspiracy to me.

  43. Dallas J Richardson says

    Okay, i am trying to find my file, but you say click the finder, then click GO? But I do not see any go button anywhere and i am about to give up on life

  44. selma says


  45. Amber Catherine Kerr says

    Wow! Thank you SO much! And I’m so glad that this was the first Google hit that came up when I searched for “office 2011 autorecovery empty” (while in the midst of a similar heart attack). I don’t know why on earth this has to be so counterintuitive and difficult, but you just saved my skin. Thanks again!

    • says

      You’re welcome! I’m mystified by it, and it took me hours to figure out, but holy shit I’m glad I did. And this post has helped so many people, so all’s well that ends well I guess!

  46. Molly says

    Hi, I just want to let you know that you SAVED MY LIFE with this. Well, I guess that’s a bit of an exaggeration, much like my overreaction to losing my 500-word blog post. Yesterday, after an hour of panicking (read: crying and cursing) and scouring the internet for ways to recover my lost document, I had finally conceded to rewriting it. But this morning, before wracking my brain to conjure blurry mental images of what my document said (note: I have nothing close to photographic memory), I decided to give Google one final go. And, lucky for me, I found you. So, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!! Because this article not only saved me an hour and a half (at least), but also a lot of self-loathing for not using Google Docs instead of Microsoft Word.

    • says

      Ha these comments make my day! How horrible is that sinking feeling that it’s gone gone gone and you have to write the damn thing again?! Also how horrible is it that auto recovery is so frigging hard to find??? So glad it worked out well for you, gonna add “lifesaver” to my LinkedIn profile haha

  47. Tanya says

    YOU’RE A LIFE SAVER!!!!!!!! I think I spent a good hour looking for my document before I thought of searching google for a solution. I was about to go crazy. Thank you sooooooooooo much!!!

    • says

      You’re welcome! how annoying is it when you know it’s in there SOMEWHERE but you know not where? It’s so funny because I specifically saved it so I wouldn’t lose it unexpectedly and bam, it was gone.

  48. Kevin says

    This was a life saver! Simple solution after looking at so many other “paths” to recover a lost file. I am bookmarking this page. Thanks! Thanks!

  49. Joseph says

    I was seriously about to through my computer across my room and start crying. Thank you so much! You saved my computer and my tears haha

    • says

      AWESOME! Do you know what’s funny, I lost another file the other day and had the same panic – checked this post and followed MY OWN INSTRUCTIONS and there it was haha. I remember that horrible feeling allllllllll too well again now!

      • Kate says

        Thank you so much for this. I just spend an hour crying because I lost two days of work. (I had saved it-I know because my husband insisted I title it something he thought was important.) I tried all the other searches out there and then came across yours and you saved me!! Thank you sooooooooooo much.


Let's chat!