How to Recover Lost Files in Word 2003/2007

Have you ever lost a Microsoft Word file and tried to find it? You know it’s there but where is it?

Want to find where it is? Here’s how to do it.

How Microsoft Word saves files

When you write a Microsoft Word document it creates a temporary file (.tmp) that saves your file as you work. When Word crashes — even if you have NOT saved the file —the tmp file is still on your PC.

How to Recover a Lost File in Word 2007 or Word 2003

Before we started, I created a new Microsoft Word file, saved it (which creates a tmp file) and then did the following.  This worked on my PC (Windows XP and Word 2007). Fingers crossed that it works for you.

Have to find a lost Microsoft Word file

Follow these steps:

1. In Windows Explorer, click on Tools, and then select Folder Options.

2. Click the View tab.

How to recover lost MS Word files - Step 1 Show Hidden Files

3. Scroll down and check Show Hidden files and Folder.

This tells Windows to show you files that are generally hidden from view.

Now we’ll look for the *.tmp files and see if this works.

Here’s how to do it.

1. Go back to Windows Explorer.

2. Click on the Search icon on the menu bar. It looks like a magnifying glass.

How to recover lost MS Word files - Step 3

This opens the search pane in the left menu. We’re going to change the default settings here.

3. Click Don’t Remember for last time modified. This makes it search for every document!

Enter *.tmp for all or part of the document name.

How to recover lost MS Word files - Step 2 Search Hidden Files and Folders

4. In Look In, select the drive you want to search. The screenshots shows My Documents. Maybe you want to search your C or D drive.

5. Click More Advanced Options.

6. Select Hidden Files and Folders.

7. Select Search Subfolders.

8. Click Search. When I did this, I found hundreds of tmp files.

How to recover lost MS Word files - Step 3a How to open TMP files

9. From the Explorer toolbar, click View, select Details, sort the files by date and click a file to open it. You may have to do this a few times until you locate your lost file. Obviously, if you just lost it, then open today’s files.

Windows doesn’t know how to open these ~wrl file types so you’re going to have to help it.

10. Click Select the program from a list. We’re going to tell is to open the file in Microsoft Word.

How to recover lost MS Word files - Step 4

11. Click OK.

12. Select Microsoft Office Word and click OK.

How to recover lost MS Word files - Step 5

The file opens in Word. But remember the file is still a .tmp file. If you just save it, you’re only saving the tmp file.

How to Find Lost MS Word files - Step 6

13. Click Save As and save the file to .doc.


Just to recap, turn on the Explorer options to view the hidden files otherwise you won’t see the tmp files.

Remember to save the files back to a Word file otherwise they are still in tmp format and save them to somewhere on your PC. Right now, they are in the tmp folder. Put them in My Documents, for example.

Did you find the files?

I’d be interested to know if these steps work in XP. I don’t have it and so can’t replicate the steps.

If you can, please let us know if these steps work or how to find lost files in XP.