Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Specifying a Location To Save Automatic Backup Files.

Specifying a Location To Save Automatic Backup Files

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 8, 2015)


Word allows you to always create a backup copy of documents, if desired (Tools | Options | Save | Always Create Backup Copy). This backup copy is nothing more than the old version of the document, renamed with a WBK extension. In other words, Word does a quick rename of the document, thereby creating the backup, and then saves the new document under the regular file name.

Since Word only does a rename to create the backup file, it is not possible to specify a different location for that file—both the document and its backup are stored in the same directory. When you again save the document, the existing WBK file is deleted, the existing DOC file is renamed to WBK, and the document is saved again. The result is that no matter how many times you save, there will only be two files, and they will always be in the same directory.

This behavior of Word in regards to backup documents naturally brings up another point. If you save documents regularly, there may not be a need for automatic backups. Why? Consider my writing scenario: When working on a document, I typically save every five to seven minutes; I have just trained myself to do that. If I have automatic backups turned on, that means I am deleting the old backup file and creating a new one every five to seven minutes. This makes the backup file of minimal worth to me, since it only represents a version of my document that is five to seven minutes old. For me, it just makes sense to turn off the feature.

If you want to use automatic backups and your file storage resources won't allow you to have up to two copies of a document (the document and its backup) in the same folder, then there are two possible solutions: Turn off automatic backups or write a macro that moves the backups to different folder whenever you choose to save the document.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1577) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Specifying a Location To Save Automatic Backup Files.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is five less than 8?

2015-11-04 14:44:48

Geo. Costanza

I agree with Mr Hawkins (except the need to quibble about five-minute auto-backups vs. three- or four-minute auto-backups, srsly?!) and would add that this is a completely worthless tip drawn straight from the following template:

Hey, here's a tip about what cannot be done and why; but I don't need it myself, so maybe you don't either; but if you do this, then you can, but I'm not going to tell you how to "do this" just because.

IOW, if someone knows how to write a macro, s/he most likely has no need to come here. You could write a million posts from that form. And they'd all be junk like this article.

Note to self: be wary next time pops up in Google results.

2015-08-08 22:31:37

Robert Hawkins

Well..... How about an example of the macro? And what would really help is if WORD would automatically save a copy of the working document every three or four minutes, like AutoCAD does. Then if I forgot to save manually for 10-20 minutes and my computer had a seizure and shut down, I would have a copy not later than 3-4 minutes old.

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