Have you ever had a troublesome .doc or .docx file Word that you can’t seem to open? Or even lost a document completely, with all your hard work gone with it?

RELATED: What's the Best Way to Back Up My Computer?

We’ve all been there before, and if you don’t already, this is a hard lesson that you should keep your computer backed up. There are plenty of free and cheap programs that will ensure this doesn’t happen in the future, so once you’re done with your work, do yourself a favor and set that up.

For the time being, here are a few ways to recover that lost or damaged file.

Recover Text from a Corrupted Word Document

If your document is corrupted, you may encounter an error that says:

“Word experienced an error trying to open the file.
Try these suggestions.
* Check the file permissions for the document or drive.
* Make sure there is sufficient free memory and disk space.
* Open the file with the Text Recovery converter.”

If you’ve checked the file permissions and you know that you should be able to access it, and you’ve checked your current CPU and Memory usage and found it not overly high, you can use Word’s built-in recovery to try and get some of your text back. (And if you can’t even find the file, skip down to the third section of this article.)

Open Word, then click File > Open.

Next, click Browse.

From here, you’ll need to navigate to the file you’re trying to open. When you get to the file, select the “Recover Text from Any File (*.*)” file type from the dropdown menu.

Click Open, and with a little luck, Word will recover your text.

That being said, your mileage may vary. Sometimes the file may be corrupted beyond repair, and even if the text can be repaired, you may lose formatting.

Force Word to Repair a Damaged File

If the above option doesn’t work, Microsoft has another way to try to force Word to try to repair a file. In Word, click File on the Ribbon, and then click Open.

In the Open dialog box, click to highlight your Word document.

Click the arrow on the Open button, and then click Open and Repair.

Recover a Lost Word Document

If you can’t even find the file, you may be able to find backup files that Word has saved. Here’s a demonstration of how to search for Word’s backup files in Microsoft Word 2016. Instructions for older versions of Word can be found in Microsoft’s documentation.

After you’ve started Word 2016, first click File > Open.

Next, click Browse.

Then navigate to the folder where you last saved the missing file. In the Files of type list (All Word documents), click All Files. The backup file usually has the name “Backup of” followed by the name of the missing file. Click the backup file, and then click Open.

If you don’t find the backup file listed that way, alternatively search for *.wbk Word Backup files.

The name of the file may be unfamiliar, since it’s automatically generated by Word. So, if you see any .wbk files, open them one at a time until you find the one you’re looking for, and save it right away.

Find and Recover Temporary Autosave Files

If you don’t find any backups in the document’s folder, you might have autosaved files from the last 10 minutes you worked on any Word document. They can appear in a number of locations, including:

  • “C:\ Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\Microsoft\Word”.
  • “C:\ Documents and Settings\<username>\Local Settings\Temp”

On Windows 7 and Vista, the locations will be

  • “C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Word”
  • “C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Temp”

I found mine stored in C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Word.

Look for the following types of files, where “xxxx” is a number:

  • A word document file will look like ~wrdxxxx.tmp
  • A temp document file will look like ~wrfxxxx.tmp
  • An auto recovery file will look like ~wraxxxx.tmp or will be named “AutoRecovery save of . . .” with a .asd extension
  • An auto recovery file that is complete will have the extension of .wbk.

If you’re having trouble finding your Autosave storage or Temp files folder, a fast and easy way to find your autosave files is to use the Search Everything utility to search for filetypes like “.asd” or prefixes like “wra”. You’ll need to wait for it to index your computer’s storage, but after it’s done, it’s lightning quick. Hopefully, one of these options will help recover your lost work.

Jessica Coccimiglio
Jessica Coccimiglio is a content strategist and tech journalist with experience at Techmeme and MakeUseOf. She's an amateur maker with a passion for design.
Read Full Bio »