Where Does Excel Store Temp Files? Location & Recovery

by | Excel

Understanding Excel’s filing systems initially seems daunting. A common inquiry that emerges is, “How can I start recovering Excel temp files?”

Microsoft Excel stores temporary files in specific locations on your computer, which can vary based on the operating system you are using.

Excel temp files are usually stored in the following directories:

  • Windows: C:Users<username>AppDataLocalMicrosoftExcelXLSTART.

  • macOS:/Users/<username>/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Preferences/

These temporary files, often with a “.tmp” extension, are crucial for data recovery and autosave features, helping to preserve your work in case of unexpected interruptions.

This article aims to demystify the various locations where Excel saves its temporary files, equipping you with the necessary knowledge to locate and manage them effectively.

Let’s go!

Understanding Excel Temporary Files

Where does Excel store temp files

Think of temporary files like note cards. They keep track of small pieces of information so that when something unexpected happens like your computer crashing, you can still pick up where you left off.

Furthermore, they also support real-time collaboration and help Excel optimize its performance for better results.

These files serve various purposes:

  1. Data Recovery: Sometimes accidents happen – like accidentally closing a spreadsheet or experiencing a system crash. In such cases, Excel’s temporary files act as a safety net, allowing you to recover your unsaved progress.

  2. Concurrent Editing: When multiple people collaborate on a single spreadsheet, temporary files enable real-time updates and prevent conflicts that may arise due to simultaneous changes made by different users.

  3. Maintaining Document Integrity: As you work on an Excel file, it goes through several modifications. Temporary files help maintain the integrity of your document by keeping track of these changes.

  4. Performance Optimization: Excel uses temporary files to optimize its performance. For instance, autosave files are created periodically to reduce the time required for saving large files.

So remember, even though we usually don’t see them or think about them much, these temporary files play a big part in making sure our spreadsheets stay safe and work smoothly!

Now let’s dive into where Excel stores these default temporary files.

How to Find the Default Storage Locations

detective trying to fin the default storage locations

Understanding where Microsoft Excel stores its temporary files might seem like a complex topic at first, but don’t worry! It’s quite simple once you know where to look.

The default storage spots may vary, depending on the operating system in use.

For Windows, temporary files are stored in the following location:

  • C:Users<username>AppDataLocalMicrosoftExcelXLSTART

Here, the “<username>” placeholder represents your user account name, and the path may slightly deviate based on the Excel version and operating system.

For macOS, Excel reserves its temporary files in the following directory:

  • /Users/<username>/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Preferences/

Again, the “<username>” placeholder signifies your user account name.

These Excel temp files typically have a “.tmp” file extension and are stored in the temp folder until they are needed or deleted, with the exact path potentially varying depending on the Excel version and macOS version in use.

Next, let’s check out how to find user-specific storage locations.

How to Find User-Specific Storage Locations

a illustration to represent safety and personal settings and information

Beyond storing temporary files in default locations, Microsoft Excel may also nestle them in user-centric folders such as AppData or Local Settings. These folders house personal data and settings for individual users.

On Windows systems, unearth user-specific storage locations by navigating to the following directories:

  • `C:Users<username>AppDataRoamingMicrosoftExcel`

  • `C:Users<username>AppDataLocalMicrosoftOfficeUninstall`

For macOS users, locating user-specific folders entails navigating through the following directories:

  • `/Users/<username>/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/`

  • `/Users/<username>/Library/Preferences/`

Here again, the “<username>” placeholder embodies your user account name, with the exact path potentially differing based on the Excel version and operating system in use. Recover Unsaved Workbooks

Alright, let’s see how to enable autosave features in Excel.

Enable the Autosave Feature of Excel

an illustration showing a floppy disk with an excel theme to represent autosaving

Enabling the autosave feature in Excel can reduce the risk of losing data, providing a safety net for any new file creations and ongoing work, and a lifesaver for any Excel user.

Here’s a simple guide to enable autosave in a temp Excel file:

  1. Launch Microsoft Excel.

  2. Click on “File” situated at the top-left corner of the window.

  3. Select “Options” from the menu that unfolds.

  4. Within the “Excel Options” dialog box, click on “Save.”

  5. Tick the box adjacent to “Save auto recovery information” and set a suitable interval (e.g., every 10 minutes).

  6. Click “OK” to save your alterations and exit the dialog box.

By enabling autosave, you can rest easy, knowing that your progress will be automatically conserved at regular intervals.

Also, this feature drastically curtails the likelihood of losing unsaved work owing to unforeseen power outages or system crashes.

Next, let’s see how to recover these temp files when deleted.

Recovery Deleted Temporary Files

recover files

In certain situations, temporary files may be mistakenly deleted or overwritten. When this happens, you might need to resort to using data recovery software to retrieve your lost Excel files.

There are several popular data recovery tools:

  1. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

  2. Disk Drill

  3. Recuva

  4. Stellar Data Recovery

  5. PhotoRec

Before trying any data recovery software, it’s important to exercise caution to avert further data loss. Stop using the storage device where your deleted Excel files were being stored and avoid installing new programs or saving new files to the device.

Final Thoughts

Throughout this exposition, we’ve navigated through the various locations where Microsoft Excel stores its temporary files on both Windows and macOS systems.

We’ve also unveiled tips and tricks for locating and recovering unsaved workbooks, besides emphasizing the significance of enabling autosave features to avert data loss.

Moreover, we brushed upon the topic of utilizing data recovery software to retrieve deleted Excel files, ensuring a streamlined recovery process.

By understanding where Excel saves its temporary files, you can better manage your system and shield your invaluable data from being lost or overwritten.

Most importantly, always back up your significant work regularly to ensure that your data remains safe and secure, effectively managing workbooks and safeguarding your Excel spreadsheets from unforeseen mishaps.

Are you looking to take your Excel and data analysis skills to the next level? Check out the clip below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where does Excel save temp files?

Excel typically saves tmp files in the directory: C:Users<username>AppDataLocalMicrosoftOfficeUnsavedFiles on Windows, and /Users/<username>/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/Library/Preferences/ on macOS.

How can I recover Excel temporary files?

To recover temporary Excel files stored elsewhere, you can navigate to the temporary file location mentioned above, or use Excel’s built-in recovery features by going to the File tab, selecting ‘Open’, and then clicking on ‘Recover Unsaved Workbooks’.

What is the difference between temporary Excel files and Autosave files?

Temporary Excel files act as a backup during a session, while Autosave files are periodically saved versions of the current workbook that can be used for recovery.

How can I locate Excel temp files on my computer?

To find the Excel temp file files, navigate to the temp file location specified in your system or use the recovery options within Excel to access temporary files.

How do I enable Autosave in Excel?

To enable Autosave in a temporary Excel file, open Microsoft Excel, click on “File” in the top-left corner, select “Options”, in the “Excel Options” dialog box, click on “Save”, check the box next to “Save auto recovery information” and set an appropriate interval, then click “OK”.

How can I change the location where Excel saves temp files?

Changing the temp file location in the Excel file may require advanced system configuration and is not straightforward. It’s advisable to consult with a tech-savvy individual or refer to Microsoft’s official guidelines.

What should I do if I cannot find my temporary Excel files?

If you can’t find temporary Excel files, check the Recycle Bin, use the search function in File Explorer, or consider using data recovery software to recover lost Excel workbooks missing Excel files.

How can I prevent loss of data in Excel?

To prevent data loss, enable the Autosave feature, regularly save your work, and consider keeping backups of your Excel files in a secure location.

author avatar
Sam McKay, CFA
Sam is Enterprise DNA's CEO & Founder. He helps individuals and organizations develop data driven cultures and create enterprise value by delivering business intelligence training and education.

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