how can I recover an overwritten excel file?

Posted on 2009-04-27
Last Modified: 2012-05-06
Question by:DARIO
    LVL 80

    Accepted Solution

    I am sorry to say that you probably need to begin retyping.

    The rest of the discussion in this Comment would best be categorized in the "grasping at straws" or "what to do next time" department.

    If you had AutoRecover enabled (using the Tools...Options...Save menu item), there would be a backup copy in C:\Documents and Settings\your Windows log-in name\Application Data\Microsoft\Excel\ until you close Excel. As part of closing, Excel deletes these backup copies. As a result, AutoRecover is mostly useful for saving your butt if Excel XP or 2003 crashes. But if you had the presence of mind to use Task Manager to force quit Excel (or pulled the plug on your computer), then the backup copy will still be there the next time Excel launches. It is worth noting that the Application Settings folder is hidden by default--so you won't be able to see it unless you choose the option to "Show hidden files and folders" in Windows Explorer's Tools...Folder Options...View menu item

    FWIW, Word also has an AutoRecover feature that saves in a location you specify in the Tools...Options menu item (see the File locations tab). You'll need to select AutoRecover and then click the Modify button to get the full path. Word may also save back-up files in the same folder as the original file, only with a short name starting with the tilde character (e.g. ~Test.doc). These files are also deleted when Word closes, but may be findable using an undelete utility. Microsoft discusses the file recovery techniques availble for Word 2003 & 2007 in "How to recover a lost file in Word 2007 or in Word 2003"

    A file undelete utility like Norton Utilities, might be able to recover your data--assuming that you haven't used Excel since wiping your spreadsheet and that you had AutoRecover enabled. Don't install a file recovery utility for this purpose (might wipe out your file)--but rather run the program from the CD-ROM. The AutoRecover filename is randomly generated with a .xar suffix; it looks like: ~ar1D78.xar       If you find any, recover them all and change the suffix to .xls. You can then open them one at a time to see if you can recover your work. Note that you won't see these files in a directory listing unless you use a file undelete utility!

    If you saved your file on top of another file, you may be able to recover it by double-clicking your Recycle bin. Your file may be there.

    When you saved the file, you didn't actually wipe out the old file. Rather, you erased its entry in the file allocation table. What happens is that Word or Excel saves the file with a random file name in an unused part of your hard drive. If the save is successful, it renames the saved copy with your desired file name--and erases any other mention of that file name in the same folder in the file allocation table. So if you can recover the file contents before those file clusters get rewritten, then the day will be saved.

    The above free program, called Restoration, is small enough to run from a USB flash drive, floppy disk or a CD. It doesn't need to be installed on your hard drive and possibly damage the free space where your deleted files might reside. Restoration can undelete files that were removed from the recycle bin or directly deleted from within Windows. You can scan for all recoverable files, or you can focus on a particular file by entering part of a file name, an extension or a search term. Restoration works with FAT and NTFS as well as digital cameras cards.

    WinUndelete $50. Free trial version available.
    Free Undelete (freeware).

    LVL 4

    Expert Comment

    We may also use shadow copy on server 2003.

    You need a shared folder to do that but it works perfect.I recovered some excel/word files a couple of times with this.


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