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2 min read

Be an IT Hero! How I brought back a document that was never saved.

Saving the day for a user can make all the difference in the world, especially if you are the user and it saves four days of work! Here is a new recovery scenario that I didn’t consider until it happened to me, thankfully, I was able to recover from my own stupidity and bring back data that I never saved. Here is how it went down.


A few weeks ago I was working on a spreadsheet with eight different pages. I worked on the spreadsheet for about 4 days. Like most days, I was over-multi-tasking by doing email, updating sharepoint sites, reading specifications and checking out web sites for a research project. One morning I came into work and I had so many open applications that my PC was acting slow. I decided to quickly shut down all my applications to free up some memory. In my hurry to shut things down, I clicked the close window on Excel and when the “Do you want to save” dialog came up I mistakenly clicked “no” and continued closing other windows.


Suddenly It dawned on me that I never saved the document! I thought I was dead and was going to have to rebuild the entire thing from scratch. A sickening feeling was growing in my stomach and the possibility of having to recreate everything was eating me up. Then I thought about the auto-save feature in Excel. My document had to be somewhere on the computer!  I quickly opened Excel and tried to find the document, no luck. It didn’t pop up and ask me to recover a document, because Excel never crashed. I told it to close without saving and it was happy to oblige. I decided to go into the auto-recovery folder to see if any files were there. When I opened up the folder at  C:\Users\ScottJ\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Excel\ I saw nothing, so I toggled the folder settings to show hidden files. In Windows Vista the setting for showing hidden files is now in the “Organize > Folder and Search options” area.  There was a hidden file there, but when I opened it, it was just an auto-save file that was just created by Excel for a new doc I created 10 minutes ago. That’s when I thought about the new feature in Windows Vista called “Shadow copies” an implementation of the Volume Shadow Service (VSS). In the Excel folder, I opened the properties dialog box and selected the “Previous Versions” tab where I saw a set of shadow copies of the folder that get saved automatically.  


Eureka!  I restored the folder, set the properties of the folder to show hidden files and voila! There was a new file in there from last night. I opened the file in Excel and all my data was back! My pain and agony were quickly relieved. I immediately saved the document to my documents folder and promised to “Never do that again”.  Next time somebody tells you “I forgot to save the document I was working on” try this innovative solution and you will be the hero. If only every application used an auto-save or recovery feature then I would feel so much better knowing I could recover my own foolishness.  


Scott Johnson

Windows Storage Server PM