Help! I've lost my document in SharePoint!

It certainly happens from time to time, you swear that you added a document to SharePoint, but it no longer seems to be there. No problem; take a deep breath and let’s work through this together!

Note that for the purposes of this discussion, I’ll be using SharePoint online and Microsoft Word, the actual functionality available will depend on the actual versions of SharePoint and Office used, but we’ll cover most of the scenarios.

So whether you’ve misplaced it, someone deleted, or we have some kind of mystery on our hands, chances are you’ll be able to find it with one of the methods below.

Are you using Windows?

One thing you can try is simply typing in the name of the application, and if you’re on a recent version of Windows, it’ll list all of the recent documents that are associated from that application, regardless of they’re in SharePoint, OneDrive or your desk top:

Recent word documents

Was it an office document?

While most applications perform this, Office for sure does. For example, If it was an Microsoft Word document, and you’re running a relatively recent version of the software, then when trying to open an existing document, it will list the most recent documents that you’ve been working on regardless of location:

Your missing document might be listed in the client application as seen above.

Your missing document might be listed in the client application as seen above.

Is it in the recycling Bin?

When documents are deleted in SharePoint, they are stored in the Recycling Bin. There’s actually two recycling bin - one that end users have access to and one that your systems administrator has access too (even if they don’t admit it)

The one that you have access to is typically available on SharePoint - it’s contextual per site, so navigate to the site where the document should be and then check the recycling bin:

Navigating to the recycling bin in SharePoint - your link might be in a different location depending on the version of SharePoint.

Navigating to the recycling bin in SharePoint - your link might be in a different location depending on the version of SharePoint.

Depending on the screen it may also appear in the upper right hand corner:

Once you’re in the Recycling Bin, you’ll see all the recent documents that you have access to and that have been deleted. Simply highlight the document in question and click on the restore button as seen below and the document will be restored to the original location as noted in the very right most column:

Another location for the recycling bin link in SharePoint

Another location for the recycling bin link in SharePoint

Restoring a file from the recycling bin.

Restoring a file from the recycling bin.

Was the document missing metadata?

If a document library was set up to collect metadata AND the metadata was configured to be required, but no metadata value was provided, it may be in a state where the document is check-out exclusively to you regardless if check in and check-out is being enforced on the library. No one will be able to see it but you, so in the case where someone else added a document, and you’re looking for it this could be the root cause.

While you won’t see anything, the person who added the document would see something like the following:

An Item checked out as it’s missing a value in the owner feild

Now we’ll have two options, one we can have the end user log in, edit the metadata and ensure that the document gets checked in, or if said person is on vacation, and provided that you have the proper permissions you can go to the library settings:

Navigating to Library Settings - this may be in a different location depending on the version of SharePoint that you’re using.

Finding the files wit no checked-in version

Once on the management screen, you can select the desired document and take ownership of it as seen below:

Taking ownership of a document in SharePoint that’s missing metadata

Once completed, navigate back to the library and set the required metadata on it.

Is it being filtered out through a view?

SharePoint’s document libraries allow you to create views that filter out content. For example you could filter out all “paid“ invoices by default showing only invoices that have not been paid yet.

As a quick check, ensure that you’re looking at the all documents view - by convention we should be listing all documents here, but technically an administrator could have configured the view to filter out based on certain criteria.

Making sure you’re on the all documents view

Making sure you’re on the all documents view

Another quick check is to open the document library in Explorer view as this will down all documents in the library:

Explorer view will not hide documents via SharePoint views so you should see all documents in the library

If need be you can always go and check the view to double check any filters that is has employed.

Can you find it via Search?

Maybe you saved it into the wrong location? if so you can try to execute a SharePoint search and leverage Search Refiners. For example I can search for all word documents in SharePoint that were modified by me in the past 24 hours:

was it archived?

Both SharePoint and Collabware CLM may automate the movement of content from your collaboration site back to a record center - a special type of SharePoint site that is used to store documents for compliance, scalability or just to create a better user experience. If it’s possible that this has happened talk to your SharePoint Administrator or your Records Manager to see where the document could live.

Was it destroyed?

Both SharePoint and Collabware CLM offer the ability to run a document through a disposition process. For example - storing contracts for 10 years after the the contract end date. Typically when documents are run through a disposition they bypass the recycling bin and are deleted from SharePoint altogether. If you think this is a possibility that this has happened, talk to your SharePoint Administrator or your Records Manager to see if they have a disposition certificate or can otherwise validate that this has happened to your document.

Is it in the back-up?

If you’re still looking for it at this point, not all hope is lost, most SharePoint instances have a back-up that an administrator. In the case where a site collection was deleted or the document is otherwise not recoverable, this could be our last hope. In the case of an on-premises SharePoint environment, talk to your SharePoint Administrator to see if they can restore a copy of SharePoint from a time period where you know the document existed. if your in SharePoint Online, talk to your IT Department and they can, at current, request a restore of SharePoint site from Microsoft directly.

Is it in Collabspace?

If you’re on SharePoint Online and you have Deployed Collabspace, then you’re in luck! Collabspace actually caches a copy of each document and is fully searchable.


Now it’s time for an investigation!

If you haven’t been able to find it by now, not all hope is lost! SharePoint, Office 365 Collabware and Collabspace all have audit trails. Note that SharePoint needs to be turned on, and by default it’s off.

So perhaps Mary down in Accounting has deleted your document and then emptied the recycling bin in an effort to make you look bad just before your presentation. If you are able to, you can go and pull a report on one of the available audit trails and proceed to conduct an investigation into the missing document. Note if you have Collabware CLM on premises, then you can leverage our Collabware CLM reporting pack to get list of all documents that were create by you and that were either moved, deleted, archived or run through disposition.

Good luck and if you still need help feel free to reach out to us at