You’ve finally finished that report, the 200-paged one that’s due tomorrow. You’ve been working on it for awhile. You're right on the last letter of the last word and just as you go to hit save, your computer just restarts. In the words of the State Farm commercial, “Now what"?
All in all, there are 6 methods to retrieve lost documents. The first one is obvious and that is to search for the original document. To do this, you want to try searching for it using Windows Desktop Search or the search in the Start menu. Make sure to check off the “All Files and Folders" option and type the name (or partial name) of the document in the search panel. While it’s searching, check your Recent Documents and Recycle Bin. Your Recent Documents is on the Start Menu.
If you haven’t found it, don’t despair. This second method is searching for Word backup files. They have saved my life when my laptop shut off while typing up a document. They should appear as soon as you start up Word. If not, check to see if backups are enabled on the computer. To do this for Word 2003, go to Tools>Options. Under the Save tab, you should see the “Always create backup copy" setting enabled. In Word 2007, go to Office Button>Word Options>Advanced. Under the Save tab, you should see the “Always create backup copy" setting enabled. If it is on in either version, Word actually made a backup. If not, skip to the next step.
If you still haven't found the lost or deleted document, then try this method. This will make Word automatically recover your lost document. In the last step, you've established that you haven't activated the "Always Create Backup copy" option. If you're using Word 2003, go to File then Open. Navigate to the document and before you just open it, go to the down arrow on the right side of Open and you should see an option called "Open and Repair". In Windows Vista, go to the Microsoft Office Button, then click Open. Like before, navigate to the document but don't open it. Instead, click the button next to the Open option and go to Open and Repair. On the chance that you don't have a saved copy of the document, skip to the next step.
It may sound like trying to beat a dead horse, but your document might still be out there somewhere, saved in a funny location, but still recoverable. We just have to find it. From the Start Menu, click Search. You do want to use the Search companion, so if you see that option, click it. In the search companion, click All Files and Folders. In the All or Part of the filename box, type in *.asd. The * is a wildcard meaning anything, and .asd is the extension for an autosaved document. You want the Computer to look in My Computer, so that's what you choose in the Look In box. If anything pops up, open the .asd file in Word, restart your computer, and restart Word. If it has found the document, it will pop up in the Autorecovery pane on the side. You want to save the document as either a .doc file (Word 2003) or a .docx file (Word 2007).
Okay, you're wearing quite thin on your options now, but it only takes one option to work. This method is looking for temporary files. If you're at this point, your document hasn't been recovered by Word, but every time you edit a document, a temporary file is created. That's what we're looking for and hoping is still there. Go back to the Search companion and click All Files and Folders. This time, instead of typing in *.asd, you type in *.tmp, which is the file extension for a temporary file. Like above, you want to look in My Computer. Make sure to specify the dates when you were modifying the document. After you click search, you want to go to view, then Details. From there, go to view, then Arrange Icons By, then Date Modified. Once you've found the temporary file with the time matching when you were editing, Open and Repair it in the manner described above in Method 3.
This is the 4th-quarter-5-seconds-to-go-1-touchdown-to-win-the-Super-Bowl-Hail-Mary method. If you're at this method, you didn't find the temporary file you were looking for. This method hopes that it was missed because it started with a tilde sign (~). Therefore, you want to go back to the Search Companion and change the .tmp to ~*.*, which will search for any temporary file starting with ~. Again, you want to organize the results by Date Modified. Once you've found the temporary file with the time matching when you were editing, Open and Repair it as described in Method 3.
If you didn't find your document using any of the above steps, you might have some luck with a third-party document recovery tool that you can Google for. Otherwise, there's probably little else you can do.