How To Restore Previous Versions of Office Documents

If the AutoRecover option is enabled, you can automatically save the versions of your file while working on it.

In addition to customizing productivity features, Microsoft Office also offers the ability to track changes you make to a document and automatically save them as versions. With this version history, you can go back in time and restore an earlier version of a document created with Word, Excel or PowerPoint that was created with the Windows 10 or Web version of the application.

You can also use the version history to view and compare different versions to better understand the document’s progress.

After hours of working on a report, close Word and notice that you forgot to save the file. You may have opened a document that you want to use as a template; you have made some changes and then saved the file by overwriting your template. Before you spend time recreating a Word document from scratch, you can try to restore the previous version of the file.

Use Windows tool for previous versions

Windows has a tool that automatically backs up old versions of your data files… if and when it works.

To access this function, go to the folder that contains the file. Right-click on the file and select Restore Previous Version. You can also select Properties and click on the Previous Versions tab.

Unfortunately, at least in my experience, in most cases it is meaningless. On the one hand, Windows only saves these changes when a restore point is created, and it’s amazing how rarely this can happen. But there are other tricky configuration issues that can prevent Windows from backing up older versions.

In other words, if you haven’t taken other precautions, it might work, so it’s worth a try.

Enable version control

If you have not already done so, learn how to enable version control for each document library here. Follow these steps:

  1. Access your shared document library.
  2. On the ribbon, click on Library.
  3. Click on Library Settings.
  4. Under General Settings, click Versioning Settings to display all the options available on the Versioning Settings page.
  5. In the Document Version History group, choose Create major versions.
  6. Click OK to complete the version control process.


To restore an earlier version of a document, you can use OneDrive.

In a web browser, go to OneDrive for Business or launch OneDrive from the Office365 application.

Right-click on the document for which you want to restore a previous version, then click Version History.

In Office 365 Business, version history appears in the details pane. Select the ellipses (…) next to the version of the document you want to restore, then click Restore.

In the Version History dialog box in the Classic View or before April 2017, select the arrow next to the version of the document you want to restore and click Restore.

Click OK in the confirmation message.

The version of the selected document becomes the current version. The previous current version becomes the previous version in the list.


If all the above methods fail, there is one last option you can try. There are several good free and retail versions of file recovery software on the market. Although these tools are normally used to recover files that have been accidentally deleted or formatted, I have had some success with these tools in recovering old and temporary autosave files, so it is certainly worth a try.