How to Use Microsoft Word’s Version History to Recover Lost Work

21863 How to Use Microsoft Word's Version History to Recover Lost Work

Losing work on an important Word document can be incredibly frustrating. Whether your computer crashed or you accidentally closed the file without saving, Word’s version history feature allows you to easily recover previous versions of your documents.

In this step-by-step guide, I’ll show you exactly how to use version history to salvage your lost work and get your document back.

Enable AutoSave and Back Up to OneDrive

The first step is making sure AutoSave and AutoRecover are enabled in Word. This automatically saves different versions of your document as you work.

To enable:

  1. Click File > Options > Save.
  2. Check the boxes for Save AutoRecover information every: 10 minutes and Keep the last autosaved versions: Forever.

You’ll also need to back up your Word documents to OneDrive. Version history only works for files stored in OneDrive or SharePoint.

Here’s how to save a document to OneDrive:

  1. Open the document and click File > Save As.
  2. Choose OneDrive or SharePoint as the save location.
  3. Give your file a name and click Save.

Once enabled, AutoSave will quietly back up your work every 10 minutes. If you ever need to access an older version, the full history is stored in OneDrive.

Access Version History

With AutoSave enabled and your files backed up to OneDrive, you can now view a document’s full version history:

  1. Open the Word document.
  2. Click the document name at the top and select Version History.

This opens a right-side panel with the document’s version history listed chronologically. Each entry shows who made the changes and when.

Word document version history

Compare or Restore Versions

From the version history, you have two options:

  • Compare – View the differences between two versions of the document.
  • Restore – Revert back to an older version.

To compare versions:

  1. Hover over a version entry and click the Compare icon.
  2. Select another version to compare it to.
  3. Use the comparison slider to toggle changes on and off.

To restore an older version:

  1. Hover over the version you want and click Restore.
  2. Confirm by clicking Yes to override the current version.

Restoring a previous version is a quick way to undo changes or recover lost work. Just find the last good version before your document was corrupted.

Recover Unsaved Documents

If you forgot to save your Word document before closing, there’s still a good chance you can recover your lost work.

Word’s Recover Unsaved Documents tool scans for temporary versions created by AutoRecover. To use it:

  1. Reopen Word and click File > Info > Manage Document > Recover Unsaved Documents.
  2. Find your document in the list and click Open.
  3. Click Save As to save the recovered file.

This tool should retrieve your most recent edits, minus the last 10 minutes of work since the last AutoSave.

Set Up Regular Backups

While version history and AutoRecover provide a safety net for accidental changes or unsaved work, it’s still smart practice to schedule regular Word document backups.

Here are two easy ways to automate Word backups in Windows 10:

Use File History

  1. Go to Settings > Update & Security > Backup > Add a drive.
  2. Select an external drive to store your backups.
  3. Turn on Automatically back up my files in File History.

This automatically saves multiple versions of your Word documents to external storage.

Use OneDrive PC Folder Backup

  1. Make sure the OneDrive app is installed and set up on your PC.
  2. Right-click the OneDrive icon in your system tray and select Settings > Backup.
  3. Turn on Automatically save photos and documents from my PC to OneDrive

OneDrive will continually sync and back up your important Word files behind the scenes.

Avoid Losing Work Again

Losing a Word document right before a big deadline is stressful. Hopefully learning how to leverage version history and AutoRecover to salvage your work helps recover from this situation in the future.

But it’s still smart to implement proactive solutions like OneDrive backups and File History to ensure your writing is continually saved and protected.

Following best practices for Word document backups takes a bit more diligence up front. But saving yourself from ever having to painfully reconstruct lost work makes it more than worthwhile!

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