Excel autorecovery location finally found!

Are you one of the many people who have gotten frustrated with finding out that autorecovery with Excel doesn't work? And as a result lost precious work? Well, these days are finally over!

When you use Office products on a Mac like Word and Powerpoint, the location of the autorecovery files are known:

/Users/<username>/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Word/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery and

Many sites make you believe that Excel works the same way. Even Microsoft believes the com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Preferences/AutoRecovery path exists and contains your valuable recovery files. But after reading hundreds of comments on dozens of forums I saw that I was not alone. The tip to enter open $TMPDIR in Terminal (look in com.Microsoft.Excel) does not work either. Not even for Word files. I work in the the latest version of Excel (16.21.1), so that cannot be the problem.

So, what I did is the following: I added Terminal to the apps that have full Disk Access (System Preferences/Security&Privacy). Then I set autorecovery to 2 minutes in Excel, created the Excel file Test2xxx.xlsx in the Documents directory and waited 3 minutes. Then I opened Terminal and typed sudo find / -type f -iname "*test2xxx*"

There they were: 3 other files besides my original file!
The file ~$test2xxx.xls (very small) in the same directory as my original folder and
/Users/<username>/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/<your filename><some number>
containing 2 files: test2xxx.xlsx.alias (very small) and test2xxx((Autorecovered-<some number>)).xlsb. I duplicated, renamed and moved the latter to another directory and opened the file. It turned out to be the recovery file!

To be able to see and recover this recovery file:
Open Terminal
In Terminal, paste the following: defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles YES.
Press return
Hold the 'Option/alt' key, then right click on the Finder icon in the dock and click Relaunch
Then search for the recovery file!

The last test was to open finder with the "Autorecovered" file visible. Then Force Quit Excel and see that the "Autorecovered" file was still there. I got the message that I could reopen Excel and recover my file. I clicked OK and there was my file again!

Please note 1: when you save your file and quit Excel, the "Autorecovered" file(s) will disappear

Please note 2: autorecovery only works AFTER you save a new file (the file has to have a name)

Good luck, Lucien D.


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Last updated September 30, 2021 Views 9,787 Applies to: