Lost: A Dozen Ways To Find Files

By Robert Delwood, STC Houston Member

Among Microsoft Word’s more frustrating aspects is its ability to lose files. Perhaps we’re to blame some, not paying attention to where or when we save files, but Word does its share too. This can be through either a crash, a power off, or sometimes it just does lose files. If that’s the bad news, the good news is that often the file is not completely gone. The files are usually out there, you just have to know how to find them. The following is a dozen ways to find files when they’re not where you think they’re supposed to be.

These are the obvious places to look first:

1) Windows. Look at Windows’s used documents list. Click Start->Documents. This lists the 15 most recently opened files, although not necessarily only Word files.

2) Word itself. See Word’s Most Recently Used file list. Open Word and in the File menu, a list of the last few opened documents is at the bottom. Although the number displayed can be changed, often seeing the last four or ten files may not be enough if you open dozens a day.

3) Retrace your steps. From within Word, start a Save As on any file. The Save dialog displays the last place you saved a file. This only works for the last Save As.

Searching. Time to roll up your sleeves and do some work.

4) Use search (Start->Search) and enter the document name, or to be sure, just “*.doc”. Don’t fool around; select Search Hidden Files and Folders, Search Subfolders, and Search System Folders from the More Advanced Options.

5) Check the Trash. Open the Recycle Bin and manually look through the listings. If you find it, drag it out or right click and select Restore. That option recovers it to where it was deleted but you may not recall where it was deleted from.

6) Automatic Autorecover. If the file was lost by something Word or Windows did, open Word and see if the Autorecover pane displays. If it does, double-click the document and save it.

Those are your first best options. The following are long shots but still worth the effort.

7) Manual Autorecover. If you don’t trust the Autorecover panel, manually search the Autorecover folder by searching for *.asd files. The Autorecover folder can be found by opening Word and from the Tools->Options->File Locations tab, double-clicking Autorecover files.

8) If the auto save feature was set (and it is by default), look in the folder you were working with for *.wbk files. These are the incremental auto save files Word uses for its internal use. Normally these are deleted by Word but if something goes wrong, they are retained. And yes, they can gunk up your system but that’s another issue.

9) Search for *.tmp. These are temporary files, for Word’s internal use. You may want to limit the search to within the last few days or a week.

10) Search for “~*.*”. These are temporary files, again for Word’s internal use. You may want to limit the search to within the last few days or a week. You also get the idea that Word makes a lot of extra files in the background.

11) Open C:Documents and Settings*USERNAME*Local SettingsTemp. This folder could be on any drive, not just the start up one; check the D drive next. This is a hidden folder so either set your Folder View to see hidden folders or use Windows Explorer. Username is your Windows name, usually your network ID or log in name. The file names won’t be recognizable but you can look at file sizes or dates. You may be able to double-click a document to open it.

12) Finally, if the file is not there, you can use a commercial application to recover it. Remember that the documents, if they were ever saved as files, are not completely erased when deleted. Their space on the disk is just marked as being available for other files. That means, if you don’t use your computer much after you lose the file, there is good chance of recovering a specific file.

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