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How to manage auto-save for Office apps on Windows 10

Losing work you've done on a document because of crashes, or if you accidentally close the file without saving, can be very frustrating. Thankfully, to reduce the chances of losing your work, the suite of Office applications provides two options (AutoRecover and AutoSave) to save Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other documents at various intervals automatically.

In this Windows 10 guide, we walk you through the steps to configure when Office applications should save the contents of a document automatically.

How to enable AutoRecover in Office for documents you store on your PC

AutoRecover is a legacy feature that allows you to control the time when you want to auto-save a document. When enabled, it saves a copy of the document (every 10 minutes by default) to ensure that most of the content is available in the event that the app or your device crashes, or if you close a document without saving.

To enable AutoRecover for documents that you store locally on your computer, do the following:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Word (or any Office app), click the top result to open the experience.
  3. Click on the File menu.

  1. Click on Options.

  1. Click on Save.
  2. Under the "Save documents" section, check the Save AutoRecover information every (X) minutes option.Quick Tip: It's also a good idea to check the Keep the last AutoRecovered version if I close without saving option to add an extra layer of protection.

Once you completed these steps, moving forward, documents that you create on any Office application (such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) will save automatically every 10 minutes.

If you must disable this feature, you can use the same instructions, but on step No. 6, make sure to clear the Save AutoRecover information every (X) minutes option.

How to enable AutoSave in Office for documents you store in OneDrive

AutoSave is a similar feature that saves document changes automatically, but only if you're saving files in the OneDrive folder or SharePoint online. (This feature is only available for Office 365 subscribers. If you're not a subscriber, you can start with the Office 365 Personal plan (opens in new tab), which is usually priced at $69.99 per year. )

To enable AutoSave for documents that you store in the OneDrive folder, do the following:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Word (or any Office app), click the top result to open the experience.
  3. Click on the File menu.

  1. Click on Options.

  1. Click on Save.
  2. Under the "Save documents" section, check the AutoSave OneDrive and SharePoint Online files by default on Word option.

After completing these steps, when you save an Office document in the OneDrive folder future changes will save automatically.

Using this feature, you won't find an option to control the AutoSave timer because the changes are saved in real-time while you're working in the document.

If you want to disable this AutoSave feature, you can use the same instructions, but on step No. 6, make sure to clear the AutoSave OneDrive and SharePoint Online files by default on Word option.

If the AutoSave toggle switch is grayed out above the ribbon menu, it means you haven't saved the document for the first time, or the document is not in the OneDrive folder. Also, remember that this feature is independent of the legacy auto-save built into Office, which means that disabling this option won't affect auto-save for files you store locally on your device.

How to change AutoRecover frequency in Office apps

If you want to adjust the time to save documents automatically in Office, do the following:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Word (or any Office app), click the top result to open the experience.
  3. Click on the File menu.

  1. Click on Options.

  1. Click on Save.
  2. Under the "Save documents" section, check the Save AutoRecover information every (X) minutes option.
  3. Set the time (in minutes) when the app should automatically save the contents of a document.Quick Tip: To minimize the chances of losing your work during an unexpected situation, it's best to set the AutoRecover feature to save your content every 1 minute.

  1. Click the OK button.

Once you complete these steps, Office documents that you store locally on your device will save automatically at the intervals you specified.

More Windows 10 resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10, visit the following resources:

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.

12 Comments
  • Stupid question but aren't these options on by default? Aside from that, these 2 made a lot of people happy when things go wrong 👍
  • Looking at you, auto-update and auto-restart :D
    Lost data to you on XP and W7 before changing update settings, now we can't even prevent you... Autosave works for Office, but other apps are vulnerable. Maybe autorestart could wait until there are no more open (user) files, or (I read this idea from somewhere) save state (hibernate without powering off) and resume to that after auto-restart...
  • The auto-save feature is actually on by default which is really stupid, as it over-writes the original document. For business users, particularly in sectors where it is vital not to overwrite previous documents this has caused data loss rather than prevent it. Businesses will frequently open a previous letter to the same client to write a new one, drafts of statements and reports need to be saved in their various stages of composition etc.. but this feature, until disabled means you can lose important documents. For an increasingly business-oriented company, this seems a monumentally stupid thing to do. There are already thousands of complaints from businesses that have lost data and the feature is not even that widely available yet as most businesses are on the annual update cycle. In spite of this MS still seem intent on rolling it out with it enabled by default - really stupid and will come back to bite them on the backside.
  • Companies that need to keep previous versions would either be careful to duplicate files (like I do) or would use the version history feature. If file history was that important, they would be more careful with or without auto save. Also, what idiot uses old files as templates for new ones and doesn't back up the old ones?
  • I think the question is what business wants to waste their valuable time time restoring from back ups (and yes, all my company's files are backed up) when a feature that fundamentally changes the way they need to work is implemented by default. Yes, there may be lots of businesses that don't, as is evidenced by the literally thousands of complaints Microsoft have received. What idiot imposes a change upon their customers that will be unwanted by many of them, despite the problem being drawn to their attention over and over again for many months??
  • I mean technology can't correct for every user error or even users ineffectively managing their own files. At some point you have to teach better practices. I can guarantee even if they didn't have it on by default, there would be thousands of complaints in the other direction that autosave needs to be on and that it's ridiculous that it's not which cause loss of data. It's quite simple to go in the history of previous of a file even if you do accidentally delete or write over something.
  • Technology can also create errors itself. Not wanting files overwritten by default is not a user error, that's an i.plementayion that doesn't take into account how people work, and just assumes they will accept your alternative as best practice within the confines of their workflow. That's a developer issue, not a user issue. Same people who defend this complain about Apple telling their users how they should do things. Rife with hypocrisy.
  • I understand your point, but I'm saying sometimes the way people are already working/managing files is not a good practice. So I don't think technology should always just adapt to how people are already working and that sometimes people need to develop better practices.
  • I don't mean really backing up - I just mean making a copy of the original. I mean, seriously, that's extremely basic. People working in offices have been dealing with such simple file management issues for, what, 30+ years now? How could you blame auto-save for a f-up of that magnitude? Your company is sophisticated enough to have a formal backup system, but the employees don't understand how to keep old copies of their valuable files? They just overwrite everything? Really? Is this 1985?
  • The majority wants this feature is my guess. I know I do. Hence the default setting. And it's easy and common sense to do a save as as soon as you open the file being used as a template if you are the least bit computer savvy
    .
  • This was helpful, thanks. I was confused about old and new auto save. And sometimes when I have a really complex equation that I'm working with in Word or PowerPoint, or if I input a really complicated formula in Excel, it's prone to crash. So autorecover has been a lifesaver, and it's gotten better and easier to understand in the last few years, especially since Office 2016.
  • I admit to only skimming the article, but I didn't notice one of my favorite features I discovered by accident. If you close a file without saving it all is not lost. I tend to do it when in a hurry and multitasking! Turns out Word (and presumably other office apps) saves it for you for a few days. Open Word again and scroll the list of recent files... At the bottom of the list you'll find the unsaved file... Open it and save it and you're back in business.