Accidentally saved over a Word document or other file?

I had a client in yesterday with a very common problem. She had accidentally saved over an important 10 page Word document and was in a panic. While there is no guarantee that the following tips will always work, they are, at the very least, worth a try.

For Microsoft Word 2003 and 2007, specifically, you can attempt to recover a previous file version by following these steps:

Method #1:

  1. Click on “File” and select “Open.” Click on the drop-down menu “Files of Type:” and select “All Files (*.*)”
  2. Search for a document with a “.wbk” extension. This is your backup copy. Click to open the original contents of the file.

Method #2:

  1. Perform a ¬†search for “*.asd” files. These are your Word autosave files.

Microsoft Word 2010 stores previous versions of documents and allow for easy retrieval:

  1. Open your file (the one that has been overwritten).
  2. Click on the “File” tab at the top of the Microsoft Word tool bar.
  3. Click “Info” > “Versions” and select your desired version.
  4. Click the “Restore” button at the top of the document.
  5. Select “OK” to overwrite your document.

If these methods don’t work or if the file you are trying to restore to a previous version were made in a software other than Word or Excel but are running Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8, you may be in luck. These versions of Windows have a little known feature built in that is a subset of the System Restore tool. Every day, Windows creates a restore point on your system and also saves version information for your files.

  1. Navigate to your file using Windows Explorer and right-click the file you wish to restore to a previous version.
  2. From the context menu, select “Restore Previous Versions“.
  3. This will list previous stored version by date which you can then open and recover.
  4. It’s important to note that Windows only stores the most recent versions so it is unlikely you can recover a version that is several months old.

If all of the above methods fail, there is one final recourse you can attempt. There are several good free and retail versions of file recovery software on the market. While these are typically used to recover files which were accidentally deleted or formatted, I have had some success with these tools in recovering old autosave and temp files so it’s definitely worth a try.

I own and use a copy of RecoverMyFiles which is extremely good but if you need a free tool, I would recommend Recuva from Piriform.

I hope you find my suggestions useful and good luck!