How to Recover Unsaved or Deleted Adobe Illustrator (AI) File

AI (Adobe Illustrator File) is one of the most used graphics formats developed by Adobe, nearly every business favors this graphics format primarily for designing logos, icons, signages, and various other forms of print media. However, like other types of files, you may have a frustrating and disconcerting experience leaving an AI file unsaved or accidentally deleting it since a system or software crash. Fortunately, it is possible to recover AI files on the computer. In this article, we will provide a complete solution on how to recover deleted and unsaved AI files effortlessly and successfully, you can try them in turn.

What Causes Unsaved and Deleted Adobe Illustrator (AI) Files? 

Before explaining how to recover deleted and unsaved AI files, let’s try to explore and understand what might have caused these issues. Here are the most common causes and you can check them.

  • Accidental deletion: Users may accidentally press the delete button while reading or moving the file or move important files to the Recycle Bin unintentionally.
  • System crash or sudden app crash while backing up large files: It can cause your unsaved work to be lost or damaged.
  • Software corruption: File corruption may occur when editing large tasks using an AI editor on the network, which may result in files not being saved or updated. 
  • Outdated software and incompatible version.
  • Computer Virus Infection: A virus attack is a serious threat to computers and can cause massive data loss. These viruses can multiply or delete all files on your computer, including AI files.

What Types of Files Does Illustrator Create?

Illustrator can save its files in multiple formats, which include: 

  • AI Illustrator (.ai) – Native file format of Adobe Illustrator, which supports all the features provided by the illustrator.
  • Illustrator EPS (.eps)– Used to place the graphic elements on a page. 
  • Illustrator PDF (.pdf) – The most common available format used nowadays.  PDF file format supports many functions like annotations, notes, search options, etc.
  • Illustrator SVG (.svg) – Scalable Vector Graphics files are generally used on the World Wide Web(WWW), which allows you to save part or the entire font.

How to Recover Unsaved AI Files on Mac and Windows?

Sometimes, we do not save the AI file in time due to program crashes, sudden power failures, and other reasons. Fortunately, there are some available ways for you to recover, let’s get started! 

Recover Unsaved Illustrator Files from an Autosave

Same as Office applications, Adobe Illustrator has an AutoSave feature to recover accidentally unsaved AI files. When the Autosave feature is enabled, the illustrator will save your file automatically every few minutes. 

Here are the steps to recover from Autosave:

Step 1: Launch Adobe Illustrator. If your Illustrator is not responding, force close it so that you can launch it again.

Step 2: Wait for the dialogue box to appear and click “OK”.

Step 3: Illustrator will open a recovered version of the lost file with the label ‘[Recovered] (File Name).’

Step 4: Go to the “File” menu and select “Save As” to save the recovered file.

Step 5:  Choose a location to save the recovered file and click “Save”.

Recover Unsaved Illustrator Files from an Illustrator Backup

Illustrator also has a backup feature to help you backup the files in the event of a crash, and save it in a  specified location, however, you should activate it before using it since in some instances of Illustrator, the feature is not enabled by default.

Here are the steps to activate the backup feature in Illustrator:

Step 1:  Launch Adobe Illustrator. Go to Edit > Preferences > File Handling & Clipboard.

Step 2: Confirm that “Automatically Save Recovery Data Every” is activated.

Step 3: If the backup stored location you want to change, click on Choose.

Note: the default backup locations are below:

Windows: C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe  Illustrator <version number> Settings\en_US*\x64\Adobe  Illustrator Prefs/\DataRecovery

Mac: Macintosh  hard disk/Users/<username>/Library/Preferences/Adobe Illustrator  <version number> Settings/en_US*/Adobe Illustrator Prefs/  DataRecovery

Here are the steps to recover a backup file: 

Step 1: Go to the location that was chosen in Illustrator’s preferences for backup files.

Step 2: Find and open the files with the name recovery or recovered.

Step 3: Go to the “File” menu and select “Save As” to save the recovered file.

Step 4: Choose a location to save the recovered file and click “Save”.

Recover Unsaved AI Files from Temporary Folder

The Mac and Windows operating systems have a Temporary folder feature, if you still cannot find your AI file, please try the methods below.

Here are the steps to recover from Temporary Folder: 

1.  For Mac users:

Step 1: Go to Finder>Applications>Utilities.

Step 2: Input “open $TMPDIR” into Terminal, then press “Enter”.

Step 3: Discover the unsaved AI files with Adobe Illustrator and save it with a new file name on the Mac.

2.  For Windows users:

Step 1: Go to C:\Users\*Your User Name*\AppData\Local\Temp.

Step 2: Discover the unsaved AI files and open it with Adobe Illustrator and save it with a new file name on Windows.

How to Recover Deleted or Lost AI Files on Mac and Windows?

AI file mistakenly deleted how to restore it? This section will give you a complete guide for you. You can read it first, and then choose the method that suits you.

Recover Deleted or Lost AI Files from the Recycle Bin/Trash

When you delete an Illustrator file on your Windows PC or Mac, it will be moved to the Recycle Bin, if you want to restore it you can find it in the Trash folder (for macOS) or Recycle Bin (for Windows).

Here are the steps to recover from the Recycle Bin/Trash:

1.  For Mac users: 

Step 1: Click the Trash Bin on Mac.

Step 2: Find and locate the deleted files.

Step 3: Right-click on the selected files you want to restore and select the “Put Back” command to put them back original location. 

2.  For Windows users: 

Step 1: Double-click the Recycle Bin on the desktop and find your AI file.

Step 2: Then right-click on each AI file and choose “Restore” to put them back to the original location. 

Tip: This method only works for recently deleted files that are still in the Recycle Bin/Trash, however, when you permanently delete files by pressing Shift+Delete from the keyboard, you will need to use another method to recover the deleted files.

Recover Deleted or Lost AI File from Backup 

If you advance backed-up AI files on Mac or Windows using system utilities, you also can restore deleted AI files directly.

Here are the steps to recover from Backup: 

1.  For Mac users:

All Macs come pre-installed with Time Machine software, a powerful macOS native backup and recovery tool. Time Machine automatically backs up all the files on your Mac’s internal hard drive. 

Step 1: Launch “Time Machine” on your Mac computer. 

Step 2: Use Time Machine’s arrows and timeline to browse an earlier version of the file. 

Step 3: Select the lost PDF files and click the “Restore” button to recover them to their original location.

2.  For Windows users: 

Windows 10 and Windows 11 have a built-in File History function that provides a good solution to recover files/folders from previous versions. For example, when you accidentally update or delete a file/folder, you can use this feature to view and restore the previous version.

Step 1: Open the File Explorer on your Windows PC. You can do that by pressing “Win + E” to open the File Explorer.

Step 2: Find the folder you want to retrieve, then right-click on your selected folder, and click “Properties”.

Step 3: Select the “Restore previous versions” option in the drop-down menu, and you can choose a folder version from the list. Then click the “Restore” button.

Step 4: Click “OK” to complete the process.

Tip: File History is not enabled by default when you install Windows. So, you need to manually turn on File History in advance if you want to use this feature.

Recover Deleted or Lost AI File Using Recent Files

If you accidentally save your Illustrator file but you’re unable to find it. You can try to use Illustrator’s record of recently opened files to access it.

Here are the steps to recover from the Recent Files: 

Step 1: Launch Illustrator, go to File > Open Recent. Then you can find a list of the files you’ve recently used within Illustrator where you can open them up again.

Step 2: Right-click the selected files you want to restore and save it with a new file name on PC.

Recover Deleted or Lost AI Files from Third-Party Data Recovery Software 

ONERECOVERY is an efficient and professional software to get back your valuable files in data loss scenes. This tool is compatible with Windows and Mac, without any complicated steps, making you experience the satisfaction of regaining. More importantly, it’s a free-to-download data recovery software, you can use it to scan and preview photos deleted from your smartphone for free. With the click of a button, you can restore lost and deleted images, videos, and audio files easily.

Steps to Recover Files in ONERECOVERY:                                                     

Step 1: Download, install, and launch ONERECOVERY software on your system.

Step 2: Select the hard disk where you lost PDF files. The ONERECOVERY will start scanning the disk to search for your lost data and files.

Step 3: After the scanning process is completed, you can check all recovered files. Preview and select your recovered files by clicking the “Recover” button.

Step 4: Finally, save the recovered files on a safe hard disk or other devices. 

How to Recover Overwritten AI Files on Mac and Windows?

Both Windows and Mac operating systems provide a accessible method to restore a previous version of your files. The first method that you can try as mentioned above “Recover Deleted or Lost AI File from Backup, “ for Windows, you can use File History while Mac users can use Time Machine

How to Recover Corrupted AI Files on Mac and Windows?

If your *.ai files are damaged, you can still try to repair them after recovery. The common reasons like power surge or computer crash, improper editing, converting, or formatting, virus attack, etc. 

Here are the steps to recover your *.ai file using the PDF version: 

If you create an AI Illustrator File with the Create PDF Compatible File option, you can convert the .ai file to a .pdf file and it’s retrievable.

Step 1: Open the damaged .ai file in Adobe Illustrator or Acrobat Reader.

Step 2: Click File > Save as and select .pdf as the file type. Then, click Save.

Step 3: Open the converted .pdf file in Illustrator and save it with the .ai file type.

Step 4: Re-open the file using the Illustrator.

How to Avoid Unsaved or Deleted Illustrator Files?

Here we recommend some useful tips to help you avoid unsaved/lost/deleted files, you can take it as a reference.

Tips to Avoid Unsaved AI Files

Since the unsaved AI file is commonly caused by a system crash or program no response, we should take some coming work to avoid this.

Always update to the latest versions.

  • Check AutoSave feature is enabled or disabled. Here are the steps to enable the AutoSave feature.
  • Free up system memory for Adobe Illustrator tasks.
  • Antivirus scans your device regularly.

Tips to Avoid Lost/Deleted AI Files

Since the unsaved AI file is commonly caused by mistake operation, we should carefully use it when we access the files.

  • Check the files before emptying the Trash bin.
  • Always do a backup for important files.
  • Use iCloud to store important files for future use.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Where are Illustrator recovery files? 

A1: By default, Illustrator will store your autosaved files in the below locations:

Windows: C:\>\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe  Illustrator <version number> Settings\en_US*\x64\Adobe  Illustrator Prefs/\DataRecovery

Mac: Macintosh hard disk/Users/<username>/Library/Preferences/Adobe Illustrator <version number> Settings/en_US*/Adobe Illustrator Prefs/[数学公式]DataRecovery

Also, the autosave location can be changed in Edit > Preferences > File Handling & Clipboard.

Q2: Why I don’t find unsaved Illustrator files from its backup location?

A2: The autosave feature is not enabled or you have changed and set a new location to save the Illustrator files.

Q3: Why are my Illustrator files disappearing even after saving?

A1: This may be caused by a technical problem in the Illustrator app. You can try the below method to fix the issue. 

Step 1: Shut down all the applications and restart your computer. 

Step 2: Reopen Illustrator. And make sure Illustrator ‘Autosave’ is enabled to avoid data loss.

Step 3: You can find disappearing files.


After reading this article, you might know several ways to recover deleted and unsaved AI files on Windows and Mac. However, it is important to notice that it is easy to restore items that are not deleted in the Recycle Bin if you have a backup beforehand. Additionally, the fastest and most efficient way that we recommend is to use professional data recovery software such as ONERECOVERY. All of your lost or corrupted data can be easily recovered from a computer’s hard drive, a flash drive, an SD card, or any other external storage device with the help of ONERECOVERY’s comprehensive and expert solutions.