How To Recover Lost Or Deleted Excel Files On Mac?


Excel is an advanced spreadsheet application that is packaged with Microsoft Office for Mac. This application is used as an alternative to Numbers the native spreadsheet app on Mac that comes bundled with iWork Suite. In case an Excel file gets lost or deleted on Mac, users can restore their lost files through the variety of means provided in macOS as well as in the Microsoft Excel software. Read on to know. But before that, let’s look into the following query.

How you can lose your Excel file on Mac permanently?

  • Trashing Excel file and then emptying Trash
  • Using Option + Shift + Command + Delete keys to delete an Excel file
  • Accidentally erasing the storage drive or volume that contains your Excel files
  • Upgrading your macOS without backing up the Mac startup disk
  • Using a disk cleaner utility to remove junk or unwanted files
  • Presence of bad sectors/blocks on the Mac storage drive

Techniques to Recover Deleted or Lost Excel File on Mac

A. Restore from Trash

If you’ve trashed your Excel file, then perform the following steps to restore it:

  1. Open Trash, then look for the deleted Excel file.
  2. Secondary click the Excel file, then from the popup menu, choose Restore.

The file restores to their original location. You can even drag and drop the file to the Desktop or anywhere in Finder.

Note: This method is applicable if you haven’t emptied the Trash (Bin) or used permanent delete command.

B. Restore from Time Machine backup drive

macOS Catalina has Time Machine the inbuilt backup utility that allows Mac users to restore their lost data from an external Time Machine backup drive. Steps are as follows:

  1. Launch the Time Machine app on your Mac.
  2. To navigate backup snapshots, click the forward or backward arrows.
  3. Select the desired Excel file. Press Spacebar to Preview.
  4. To restore the Excel file to its original location, secondary-click the file and click Restore.

C. Restore from Excel

Microsoft Excel App for Mac has a recovery feature that allows users to directly open a recent workbook that was trashed. Steps are as follows:

  1. Launch Excel app. From the left pane, click Recent.
  2. From the right pane, look for the recently deleted file (Trash).
  3. Select the Excel file, then click the Open button present in the bottom right corner.
  4. Go to File > Save As. Specify save location then click Save. Or Else, go to File > Restore.
  5. If the trashed file is deleted using “Delete Immediately” or “Empty Trash” command, then Excel can’t open such a workbook. Click “Remove from Recent List” to remove the file.

Excel also has an AutoRecover feature that saves AutoRecover info in every specified minute. To activate the auto-recovery feature do the following:

  1. Launch Excel. From the top menu bar, go to Excel > Preferences > Save.
  2. Select “Save AutoRecover…” checkbox, then reduce the save minute to 1 from the default 10 minutes.

Now, Excel will automatically save the workbook automatically after every 1 minute. So if your system shuts down due to power failure or Excel app crashes, you can get back the data that was saved 1 minute before the mishap. Now, if you open the Excel app, it will prompt you to save the recoverable file.

Restore from Temporary Folder

If you have an unsaved Excel file, perform the following steps to get it back from the Temporary folder by using Terminal. Steps are as follows:

  1. Go to Applications > Utilities > Terminal.
  2. Enter open $TMPDIR and press Return.
  3. Select the folder name TemporaryItems.
  4. Look for the unsaved Excel file inside the folder.
  5. Restore the file. Change the extension from .tmp to .xlsx.

D. Recover by using a Mac data recovery utility

When none of the above Excel file recovery methods worked in your Mac, use a data recovery software as a last resort. Follow the next steps to recover your lost or deleted Excel file.

  1. Download and install a third-party data recovery app on your Mac.
  2. Launch the application and scan the Mac volume wherein the Excel file got lost.
  3. Preview the scanned items. Select the lost or deleted Excel file.
  4. Recover the Excel file and save it to a different volume.


Mac users who love working with Microsoft Excel applications have the benefit of recovering their lost or deleted Excel files through the various means provided in macOS. Users can make good use of Trash to restore their accidentally deleted data. And utilize Time Machine to their advantage in case Trash is empty or the volume is erased unintentionally. Even Excel has built-in recovery functionalities for the benefit of users.

However, for other data loss scenarios such as no Time Machine backup or data loss from an external storage drive, etc. keeping a Mac data recovery software preinstalled on their computer is the need of the time.

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