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It’s destined to happen.  You’re writing something important and you’re in the flow, when BAM! the power goes out.  When did you last remember to save what you were working on?  Where will you find the document when the lights go back on?

Microsoft Office products (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) have a built in feature that automatically saves files at regular intervals.  If you’ve ever had an unexpected crash due to a power failure or other event and you’ve restarted the program later with an offer to “recover” the file you were working on, you know how nice this feature is. As nice as it is, however, remember this should not been seen as a substitute for regularly saving your files using Ctrl+S (Windows)/Cmd+S (Mac).

While the default settings for autosave are useful, it’s also possible to customize them for even more security to make sure you don’t lose important work.  The following examples focus on Word, but the process is similar for other Office programs.

Change the frequency of AutoRecover

The default interval for AutoRecover to save a file is 10 minutes, but you can change that to as frequently as once a minute.

Word 2010/2013 for Windows

  1. Click File > Options > Save.
  2. Make sure the Save AutoRecover information every x minutes box is selected and enter how frequently you want Word to save documents.
  3. Make sure the Keep the last autosaved version if I close without saving box is selected.

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Word for Mac 2011

  1. On the Word menu, click Preferences.
  2. Under Output and Sharing, click Save .
  3. In the Save AutoRecover info every box, enter how frequently you want Word to save documents.

Find autosaved files

By default, automatically saved files go into an AutoRecovery folder:

Windows 7:  C:UsersusernameAppDataRoamingMicrosoftWord

Mac OS X: /Users/username/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Office 2011 AutoRecovery

Typically, when you restart Word (or other Office program) after a crash, you’ll be prompted to open the autosaved version of the file.  If for some reason you don’t get the prompt, you can use Explorer (Windows) or Spotlight (Mac OS X) to search for a filename starting with Autorecovery.   If you still have trouble locating an autosaved file, try these tips for Windows.

Once you have recovered an autosaved file and have it open in Word, you should save it immediately.

Change the location of autosaved files

What if the cause of the crash means you won’t have access to your computer for awhile and you’re on a tight deadline?  In times like these, having AutoRecover save to an external location, such as a networked drive or a cloud-based storage service (eg Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive), can be a real life saver.

To change the default location of autosaved files:

Word 2010/2013 for Windows

  1. Click File > Options > Save.
  2. Under AutoRecover file location, specify the folder to which you wish to have files automatically saved.

autosave_changelocation_word_win7 (1).PNG

Word for Mac 2011

  1. On the Word menu, click Preferences.
  2. Under Personal Settings, click File Locations.
  3. Under File locations, click AutoRecover files, and then click Modify.
  4. Find the location where you want to automatically save files, and then click Choose.

With AutoRecover saved to an external location, you can now continue to work on your file using a different computer.  Please note, to use a cloud-based drive as the place where files are autosaved, you will need to have the corresponding desktop application installed on your computer, which you can download from the homepage of the provider.