Excel Temporary Files 101 & Recover MS Excel Content from “Temp Files”

Last Updated on February 10, 2022 by Ian McEwan

If MS Excel screws you up and messes with your excel spreadsheet, you will need to fix it. But first, you need to know that Excel temp files can’t help you recover lost files or keep your data safe. If you were told to recover Excel with temp file, you will learn the hard way what those misleading guides can do. But you can learn how to recover Excel in different situations here, even without Excel Temp file.

Excel Temporary Files

So, what are Excel temporary (.tmp) files? What is Excel creating .tmp file for?

Excel temp file is a file that is created when you do a file save. From creating, editing to saving excel file, temp file acts as a safety net to prevent Excel data loss. Because it stores the whole contents and all the changes of your workbook temporarily until you save and exit Excel.

Aside from Data integrity, it also helps to free more memory for storage of the parts of the workbook that are being actively edited, or file manipulation.

Generally, an Excel temporary file will disappear when you close Excel. The program will rename the temp file with the original file’s name and replace the original one with the .tmp file.


Note: Sometimes, Excel temp file will not disappear because of Excel Crash or Antivirus software conflict, which would disrupt the saving process and has the .tmp file open when Excel tries to rename it.

To fix excel temp file appearing? Or Deleting Excel temp files to protect your confidential data? You can click here to learn more.


Why can’t you Recover your Excel Workbook with Excel Temp Files?

If there are temp files, why are people still losing their excel files? Probably that is what people ask. Frankly, Excel file recovery is a complex and tedious process.

Even though you got a temporary file left behind, you are unable to convert temporary files to Excel files with .xls extension.

Just because these .tmp files are not intended for anything else except program internal operating purposes. Excel Temporary files are not saved in a usable and readable format, so you cannot open them as such to recover your excel workbook.


What some posts call Excel Temporary Files are actually Excel AutoRecover file

Many sites make you believe that you can recover Excel spreadsheet data from temp file. However, they are actually talking about recovering from AutoRecover file (AKA Autosaved file).

About Excel AutoRecover: MS Office has a unique feature known as AutoRecover feature that saves an exact copy of the file you are working on. All unsaved Excel, PowerPoint and word files are saved as AutoRecover files every few minutes without user’s knowledge. This background task is important since it can help someone to recover unsaved file when a problem is encountered.


Excel Recovery: The Right way to Recover Excel

Excel files can get lost due to mistaken deletion, corruption, improper file closure, electrical power outage or system failure. Most people will encounter one or more data loss problems when working with Excel.

So, here are a few methods to recover your excel workbooks in different situations. No matter is unsaved (crash, power off), overwritten, or accidentally deleted.


1) Recover Unsaved Excel Files Using Excel Autorecover Feature

The easiest way to recover excel files is to take advantage of excel AutoRecover feature. This built-in feature makes automatic data backup on the background if activated. It makes a copy of the new file and the moment data is entered in the worksheet, it updates the backup file.

When Excel file goes missing or becomes inaccessible, the user can simply locate the AutoRecover file and change the extension to .xls or .xlsx and get the Excel data back.

The location of Autorecover file: C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Excel\

However, this method is only effective if the workbook was not saved and the disk is working perfectly. If the disk is inaccessible or corrupted, this inbuilt feature becomes useless. The only reliable solution to recover lost Excel file is using a data recovery software.


Note: This AutoRecover feature can be activated by opening the workbook then clicking on File menu then Options and clicking Save, then you can tick the “Save AutoRecover information every _ minutes”, “Keep the last autosaved version if I close without saving” and Click OK to activate the feature.


2)  Restore Previous Versions for Overwritten files (Apply to Excel for Office 365, Excel 2019, Excel 2016)

If you want to restore a new file which has not been saved yet:

  1. GO to FileInfoManage Workbook >Recover Unsaved Workbooks.
  2. Select your file and click the Open button. Then click Save As to save the workbook.

If the Excel file has been saved before:

  1. Open the Excel spreadsheet you are editing.
  2. Go to FileInfoManage Workbook and click the “when I closed without saving” file. Then click Restore to recover an earlier version of an overwritten Excel file.

However, these steps may not always work. If you did not have the AutoRecover Option turned on before, you will get nothing with the aforementioned steps. And what you recover is totally depend on when Excel Autosave (AutoRecover interval).


3)How to Recover Lost Excel Files with Aiseesoft Data Recovery Software

Aiseesoft Data Recovery is one of the top data recovery tools on the market. It can be used to perform a complex Excel file restoration in just a few steps. The tool is able to detect all files that exist on your hard disk, including temporary files, deleted or overwritten files. It is easy to use and anyone can use it to recover any file in a few steps.

Win Download Mac Download Win Download Mac Download

Step 1: Selecting the Disk

Open the software and select the disk that has missing excel files and hit the “scan” button. Aiseesoft Data Recovery will start reading the disk.

Data Recovery - Choose Document to Scan

Step 2: Scanning Files

After reading the disk, it displays a list of files that can be recovered including the deleted ones. It displays the name, size, time modified, file type and other metadata. Files that were accidentally deleted are available on the “deleted” section.

Data Recovery - Quick Scan

Step 3: Excel File Recovery

A user who knows the name of the lost file, can easily type the name on the search box to filter the documents. The user can also browse all the files and locate the ones that are supposed to be recovered, according to the time/date stamp matches your lost changes. The user can copy the recovered file and paste it on the desktop or another location.


The major advantage of using this software is its effectiveness. It can retrieve Corrupted, overwritten, unsaved and deleted excel files on from a disk. You might use it to recover your business data, banking data or student assignments. It recovers data from various types of storage mediums such as hard disks and memory sticks.

Apart from Excel files, Aiseesoft Data Recovery can also recover, Word, Powerpoint, PDF and other types of documents.


There are many data recovery applications on the internet. In fact, if someone tries to search on Google, A long list of applications will appear on the screen. Every developer claims that his stuff is the best and this confuses many users especially those without programming knowledge.

When it comes to choosing a data recovery software, users should be careful. Some are bogus products with attractive user interfaces while others have malicious codes which can steal sensitive information from a computer without user’s knowledge.


One last thing…

File corruption, deletion, and file overwriting are major causes of Excel data loss. Some computer users try to prevent this problem by performing data backup on multiple disks. However, most users fail to back up their information due to storage memory constraint.

The backup feature in excel can be used to recover excel files. However, the perfect way to get back missing files is to use a data recovery software, like Aiseesoft Data Recovery software, which enables you to recover missing files in a few steps.


Related Article

Fix Excel Document Not Saved Error and Recover Unsaved Excel Files


*Bonus – FAQ about Excel Temporary Files

Q1. Where Microsoft Excel Creates Temporary Files/ The Default Location of Excel Temporary Files

A: Temp files are created in the same folder as the Source file. That means the .tmp file is located in the Directory /folder that you specified in the Save As dialog box.


Q2. How Excel Name Temporary File

A: Excel creates temporary file with a random name with no file name extension.


Q3. Can Excel Temporary file be deleted?

A: You’d better not. Although you can delete theses file manually, it’s advisable to keep them unless you are very sure you don’t need them.

Maybe you can just hide the .tmp file.

Simply right-click one of these temp files, then select properties. Check the Hidden option from the bottom.

Then these invisible temp file will not border you anymore.


Q4. How to Fix Excel Temp File Appearing? Or Deleting Excel Temp Files To Protect Your Confidential Data?

A: Since the Excel temp file contains all the contents and changes of your workbook, if these files are being left behind, you may confuse and need to find a way to delete them.

Especially when you use Excel to work on confidential data and want to make sure the .tmp files are securely deleted at the end of the project.

Method 1. Locate and deleted manually.

Open the Run window by Pressing Win + R keyboard shortcut and type %temp%, then hit OK.

Or you can go to C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Excel.

Find your Excel Temp file and delete it manually.

Method 2. Check in Application Safe Mode

  1. Launch Run Window and input excel /safe, then click OK.
  2. Create and save an existing excel file to another location.
  3. If it still has temp file there, move to Method 3. Otherwise, the Excel Temp File Appearing problem is caused by Add-Ins. You can disable Add-Ins from Excel from here: View, manage, and install add-ins in Office programs

Method 3. Check in Clean Boot

Restart your pc in Clean Boot and try to save the Excel sheet again. If there is no more temp file, then the issue may be due to a virus detector program.