Most users of Microsoft Word make good use of Word’s autosave functionality and have appreciated the ability to retrieve documents that fell victim to sudden power failures, mysterious operating system or application crashes, or even the cases of overly helpful children or pets. At least you are able to get back the work up until the last autosave so (assuming you don’t have the period between saves set to a huge number, will often give you enough to get you back on track pretty quickly.

But how many users have had some sort of situation where they have to quickly close their document (or have had someone else close it for them)? Have you ever carefully poured work into your document and then clicked to close it and responded “Don’t Save” when prompted whether you wanted to save the changes? This is usually followed by open-mouthed disbelief, curse words and sometimes tears. How long was it since you saved your document?

In prior versions of Word, you were hosed. As soon as you clicked on the “Don’t Save” button, your autosave files were deleted and you were back to your last saved work.  If this was a brand new document, you were entirely hosed because there would be no last saved work to return to.

Word 2010 has added a new feature to autorecover that will help you retain your sanity and your editor’s good graces. There is now an option to save the last autosaved version if you close a document without saving. (Sorry, Mac people or those on prior versions of Word, this is a Word 2010 for Windows only feature at the moment though I will bet it will show up in the next Mac Office version.)

First, you need to turn on the feature:

  1. Open any document in Word 2010.
  2. Select File -> Options.
  3. In the left-hand pane, select Save.
  4. In the right-hand pane, ensure Save AutoRecover information is checked and you have a reasonable time period set (I generally advise 5-10 minutes.)
  5. Check the box for Keep the last autosaved version if I close without saving.
  6. Choose OK to save your changes.

Now if you close a document without saving your changes, you can do the following to get your last autosaved version back:

  1. Open the document you need to recover in Word 2010.
  2. Select the File -> Info.
  3. Under Manage Versions, you’ll see any number of entries but one will say (when I closed without saving) after the date and time. That is your last autosaved version. Select that version.
  4. Select Restore in the yellow banner at the top of the recovered document.

If you want to see the differences between the saved document and the last one autosaved, you can select Compare and Word 2010 will open a somewhat confusing screen to show you the differences between the two documents.