#amwriting: MS Office 365 Crash and Document Loss Workaround

windows-10-blue screen of deathThose of us who use Microsoft Office are familiar with both its versatility and its problems. In many ways, it is a great package of programs, but it has several major flaws.

The very annoying issue I never had with Office 2010, but now have with Office 365 (2016) is the program crashing right as I go to “save” a new document or spreadsheet. The program shuts down and the file vanishes, never to be found again, when the program reopens itself a minute later.

I will have the file library open, and the correct Master file open, and have correctly named the sub-file and then…just as I am about to click “save”…

Word (or Excel) shuts itself down. Any work that was done on that particular document or spreadsheet is GONE.

And no, kind sir, that document is not recoverable in my unsaved files as “Document 1.docx” nor is it listed anywhere as some gobbledygook file name with a .tmp extension. Even when you search the hard drive files by date, which should bring up anything you have done that day, the file is gone.

I’m actually quite Microsoft-savvy. When this first happened to me, I did the research and tried all the measures and remedies posted on the internet for recovering these lost files. Those remedies don’t work because the techs assume the machine’s default autosave function is working. The glitch is actually in that particular function, so it does not, and the file is not even stored in a temp file.

The program crashed, dumped the file into the ether and then said, “Oops! My bad.”

The tech support out there on the Microsoft boards seem as mystified as anyone else, and gives the same stock, canned answers. I feel bad for them–they want to help, but don’t know how.

Microsoft Office 365 Logo 1280px PNGI have an idea as to why these documents that were lost at the moment you tried to save them are unrecoverable.

The document is lost because the Windows autosave function does not always work properly, and it is the autosave glitch that causes the program to hang and then crash. Something about the  process of relabeling from the generic “Document 1” title that Word names all new documents, to whatever you need it to be,  seems to short circuit the program, causing it to shut down. 

And, the moment the unsaved document vanishes, it is as if it never existed. It was never autosaved to begin with, so there is no autosaved version to retrieve. I am sorry my friend, but that document is gone.

I have a simple workaround. It is old-school and dates back to the early days of Windows when everyone knew Word and Excel could crash at any moment. But unless you could afford Corel WordPerfect, which was horrifically expensive in those days, most businesses were stuck with Microsoft. We knew and used several workarounds which we have not had to do for many years. However, it’s time to pull them out and dust them off:

  • For every new document you create, I recommend that while the page or spreadsheet is still blank, before you do any work whatsoever on that document, you give the file a working name and save it to whatever folder you normally work out of. Do that immediately.

I work out of Dropbox, so my files look like this:

  1. Main Folder: Dropbox
  • Subfolder > cjjasperson
  • Subfolder> LIRFblogposts
    • >post_May_15_2016_microsoft_rant

However, it is when we get to the  subfolder folder and attempt to give our work a file name that Word/Excel crashes.

This is the problem scenario: I went to save the blank page on which I intended to write a post for this blog this morning and Word crashed. But, unlike several times previously, I had lost nothing as I hadn’t done any work at that point. The level of frustration is much lower when you’ve lost no work.

As long as I name my file first, before I do any work in the body of the document, I will never lose the beginnings of an entire project even if the program crashes, as it does periodically.

And once the file is renamed, autosave seems to work more efficiently.

This issue is not just with users of Dropbox.

I mentioned above that I have researched this extensively. The internet is rife with complaints that Office 365 crashes just as frequently when people are trying to save to the Documents file on their computer’s hard drive, and also occurs when saving to Microsoft’s own One Drive, and also Google Drive, and any other way people can save their files.

This means it is an issue inherent in the program itself, and not a compatibility issue. This is a problem with the software, and it needs to be addressed.

So, if you are using Office 365, name that file the minute you open a new document or spreadsheet. Once you have successfully saved your blank document/spreadsheet the first time, you will never completely lose it if Word or Excel crashes again while you are trying to save or are just working as sometimes happen.

However, if autosave hangs and fails, you will lose work you didn’t manually save prior to the crash.

But there is an old-school workaround to help with that too:

  • On the ribbon, open the File tab again and this time, scroll down to Options:
  • Click to open the Options menu and a large menu will open
  • In the left-hand menu underneath Word Options, scroll down and click on Save
  • This will open the menu to where you will reset your autosave options.
  • The default option for autosave is 10 minutes, and yours will likely say that.
  • I reset mine to 2 minutes.
  • When you are satisfied with your choices, click ‘OK.’


You can always change the working name of your document later, but once it has an official name and a place in your file directory, a temporary file will be saved should it crash again and all you will lose is what you did in the two minutes prior to the crash, assuming autosave worked at all.

Save manually and save regularly, because you never know when autosave will fail. Here we are, back to the mid 1990s, when the dreaded Blue Screen of Death owned you.

Some people use Open Office, or Google Documents quite successfully. They are free to the user and are ideal for some people. Google Docs even saves as you go, which is a really nice function. But while those two products are basically useful for simple projects, they are quite limited and don’t have the range of tools I need for my word-processing and spreadsheet programs.

I owned a Mac in the mid 1990s, and it was okay, and I’ve held jobs where my machine was a Mac, but I never really been a Mac devotee. I’m a PC person through and through. I need a program with all the features of Microsoft Office 365. All I ask is that it work reliably, the way Office 2010 did.

I confess, I’ve been checking into dumping this hinky, already-paid-for program and switching to Corel WordPerfect Office. I have used earlier versions in various work environments and absolutely loved the the program and what it offered. However, the reason I haven’t gone with it in my home office was cost–it was an extremely expensive program.

corel wordperfect office 8

Switching to Corel products is a real option for me now, as in recent years they have become competitively priced. Documents can be saved in .doc and .docx format which most publishers want, so the program will work just fine for my needs. It may be time to reconsider my loyalties.

Making the switch at the end of my subscription would require retraining myself, as there is a learning curve when you get a new program. Also, Office 365 is useful across all three of my electronic devices, which is the main reason I went with it.

But I can work out of Google docs when I am on the road, if I must.

This fall when my subscription is nearing the end, I will be weighing what my time spent learning how to use a new program is worth against how high my level of frustration with Microsoft’s lack of accountability is.

I will be watching the tech boards as always. The way Microsoft addresses this problem will determine if it is worth the time and effort for me to make that switch.


Filed under Technology and Software, writer, writing

10 responses to “#amwriting: MS Office 365 Crash and Document Loss Workaround

  1. Stephen Swartz

    I set autosave for 28 minutes. Sure, I could lose a lot of typing in 28 minutes but having it stop more frequently to save annoys me. I click Ctl S at the end of every paragraph or so, thereby achieving the same effect but on my own timescale.
    However, I’ve noticed there is a certain key combination I’ve hit accidentally while in a fury of typing that commands everything to close and shut down and not save. When I open the file again, the text written since my last official was gone!
    I must face the fact that as I enter my cretin years my typing worsens. Otherwise, my obsession with total control over everything in my corner of the Microsoft world is constantly threatened!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. David P. Cantrell

    Thank you for sharing. I think I’ll stick with Office 2010 as long as I can.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a good choice! I wish I had, but I want to be able to use word from my little Android device, which is much easier for me to carry to coffee-shops or write-ins, and have access to all the features. That feature does work as it was designed.


  3. Thanks for the tip about changing autosave – I had absolutely no idea how to do that, despite having used Word for years.
    In fact, you’ve opened up all sorts of options I never knew existed – I may now go and root around behind the scenes, and learn more about the programme. I’m still using an older version, and I think I’ll stick with it, at least for now. Faced with your issue I would undoubtedly forget to name files before use, even though I do that on occasion already.
    No doubt I would do it with a critical piece of work, so I’m not going there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Deborah–I have lost some work, but none that was longer than 1000 words or so, because I had gotten out of the habit of saving the document the moment I begin it. I am back in the habit now, and I am also back in the habit of saving manually often, so that if the autosave fails, I’ll still have some of my work.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Highfly

    any updates on this story? the MS save-as bug seems still to be there…


    • Sorry, not to my knowledge. I’ve had several word crashes, usually on my underpowered Dell laptop, so lack of brain-power may be a factor. I just save regularly to avoid anger-management issues, lol!