That sinking feeling when you realize you saved over a version of a file you need or unwittingly lost some vital information in a recent document revision is all too familiar to many. In the past, your best bet was a reconstruction from memory, but the rise of cloud services and automatic backups has made it easier than ever to recover an earlier version of the files you need.
Here's how to restore earlier document versions from some of the top apps and services. We also explain how to recover files from backups on different operating systems. If you don’t have a backup routine in place already, it's high time you read our guide on how to back up your digital life.
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Restore Files from Microsoft OneDrive, Office, or Windows
Before we run through your options here, you should know that to recover previous versions of files from Microsoft’s Windows or Office suite, you need a backup to draw them from. If you haven’t set up a backup in Windows or with OneDrive, then you are likely out of luck.
If you use Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage service to save your files online, then it’s easy to recover previous versions. Here’s how:
Open OneDrive in your browser.Find the file you want and right-click on it.Choose Version history from the drop-down list.Click the ellipses (…) or arrow next to the version you want and choose Restore.
You can also check version history and restore Microsoft Office files in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Here’s how:
Open the file in question and click File, Info, and Version History.All the available versions will be listed, along with time stamps and who edited the file. You can click Open version to take a closer look.To check what has changed, click Compare at the top.If you want to switch to this version, then click Restore.
Finally, if you have a Windows backup on an external or network drive you can restore files like this:
Right-click on the file or folder you want.Select Restore previous versions from the drop-down menu.Pick the one you want from the list. You can click Open to check it is the version you want.If you click Restore it will replace the current file, but you can click Restore to and save the old version in a different location.
If you don't have a backup, you can set one up by clicking Start, Settings, Update & Security, Backup, and selecting Add a drive under Back up using File History.
Restore Files from Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, or Slides
Google services live in the cloud where file versions are saved by default, making them easy to restore.
For Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides files, you can find previous versions with the following steps:
Open the file you want and click File, then hover over Version history and select See version history. You can also use the shortcut Ctrl+Alt+Shift+H.Previous versions are listed in the right pane with a time stamp and editor, and you can click on them to review.When you find the version you want, click the Restore this version button at the top left.If you click the three vertical dots next to the version you want in the Version history pane, you can choose Restore this version or Make a copy. You also have the option to Name this version, which can be handy for organizing and filtering previous drafts. A toggle at the top of the pane allows you to Only show named versions.
You can also restore other file types saved in Google Drive, but there are some default limitations. Old versions of some files are deleted after 30 days or after 100 versions are already stored. Here’s how to check what has been saved:
Right-click on the file you want.Click on Manage versions.Click the three vertical dots next to the version you want and choose Download.To ensure files are not deleted, click the three vertical dots next to the version you want to keep and choose Keep forever.Restore Files from Apple Pages, Numbers, Keynote, or macOS
Apple saves versions of files in some of its apps, like Pages, automatically. But to restore files in macOS, you will need a Time Machine backup.
You can find previous versions of files in Pages, Numbers, or Keynote with these steps:
Open the file you want and click File, Revert To, and choose Browse All Versions.You get a view of the current document on the left, with previous versions on the right. Cycle through them with the arrows or use the timeline on the far right to select the version you need.You can click the Restore button to bring a version back, but you can also copy and paste content from a previous version to the current version without restoring it. If you hold down the Option key, you get the option to Restore a copy, so you can edit and save it with a new name.Click Done when you’re ready to return to the regular view.
If you have a Time Machine backup, you can restore a file or folder from it. Here’s how:
Tap the Apple icon at the top left to open the menu and choose System Preferences.Click on Time Machine, which has a clock icon.Check the box that says Show Time Machine in menu bar.Click on the Time Machine icon in the menu bar and select Enter Time Machine.Find the file or folder you want and click Restore. Remember that the restored version will overwrite the current file, assuming it still has the same name and location.
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