How To Use WordPress Autosave And Post Revisions

Learn how to use the WordPress autosave and post revisions feature to restore and recover content revisions in your posts and pages …

The WordPress Autosave Post Revisions Feature

Have you ever experienced this situation? After spending a great deal of time and effort editing an article, something goes wrong and you suddenly find that all of your hard work is now lost because you forgot to save it?

If this ever happens, then worry not! WordPress has a built-in autosave and content recovery feature that:

  • Helps you prevent losing your work if you forget to save,
  • Gets your page or post content back if your browser crashes while you’re working, and,
  • Lets you recover an earlier draft if you’re unhappy with the content in an article.

In this step-by-step tutorial, we explain how to use the built-in WordPress autosave and content recovery management system to recover and restore content in your posts and pages.

Content Recovery And Autosave Feature Of WordPress: Tutorial

Typically, after saving a post or page, a confirmation message like this will display …

Edit Post - Post updated successfully!

(Post updated successfully!)

Things can and do go wrong, however. For example:

  • The internet falls down,
  • Your internet browser crashes,
  • You experience a power outage,
  • etc.

When you try to save your work, you may end up seeing a ‘WordPress Failure Notice’ like this displayed on your screen instead …

WordPress Post Save Error Message

(Are you sure you want to do this?)

When you get a message that says Are you sure you want to do this? Please try again and click on the ‘Please try again’ link, you will normally be taken back to a page/post edit screen displaying an earlier version of your post, minus any changes that you recently made.

This is where WordPress ‘autosave’ can help prevent grief and frustration.

The Autosave Function

Autosaves are automatically enabled for all WordPress pages and posts and stored as a special kind of revision in the WordPress database so they will not overwrite the actual post you’re working on.

By default, posts are saved to your database every 60 seconds. This interval can be changed by adding code to your wp-config.php file.


Always make a full backup of your website before modifying website files.

If you feel hesitant about editing code, feel free to contact us for assistance.

If you were working on your edits for a while and something happens (e.g. your browser crashes), you may see a notice like this when you get back to editing your post …

Edit Post - Autosave notice

(Edit Post – Autosave notification)

Click on the ‘View the autosave’ link …

View the autosave

(Edit Post – Autosave notification)

The Compare Revisions screen displays, allowing you to recover an autosaved version of your article …

Revisions panel

(Revisions section)

WordPress offers one-click content recovery. Click ‘Restore This Autosave’ …

WordPress offers one-click restore of autosaved content

(WordPress offers one-click recovery of autosaved content)

The content you were previously working on will be recovered from autosave …

Autosave restores the content of your latest post revision

(Autosave restores the content of your latest post revision)

Autosave – Additional Notes

Content Recovery – Session Expired

Sometimes, you will get a ‘Session expired’ notification …

WordPress - session expired notice

(Session expired notice)

If your login session expires, WordPress remembers where you were. This allows you to log in again and continue working from where you left off …

Session expired notice

(Session expired notice – log in again to continue working)

WordPress also warns you if the backup of the post you are looking at is not the same as the version showing in the editor and gives you the opportunity to restore the saved version.

Restore post from browser backup

(Edit Post – Restore backup of post from browser)

Click Restore the backup

'The backup of this post in your browser is different from the version below. Restore the backup.' notice

(Browser backup)

WordPress restores the post from the browser backup. Click ‘Undo’ to revert to your previous post content …

Post restored successfully from browser backup

(Your post has been restored!)

Content Recovery – Loss Of Internet Connection

WordPress can also help you recover content if you lose your internet connection …

WordPress can help you recover content if you lose your internet connection

(WordPress can help you recover content if you lose your internet connection)

Another improvement made after v. 4.6 is content recovery from loss of connection. If you lose your internet connection while writing, your drafts are saved locally to your browser. When you return to edit, WordPress notifies you if there is a more recent draft, allowing you to restore the most recent version of your content …

Content recovery after losing internet connection

(Recover content after losing internet connection. Source: WordPress 4.6 updates)

What Are Post Revisions?

Post Revisions are a feature that was introduced to WordPress in version 2.6. Whenever a post or a page is saved, it automatically creates a revision of that post and stores it in your WordPress database.

Significant improvements were made to the revision management system interface after WP 3.6.

The new WordPress revision system now includes a new option to the Post/Page Publish box called Revisions, which automatically calculates how many revisions you have made to your content. and lets you bring up the ‘Compare Revisions’ screen by clicking the ‘Browse’ link …

Publish Box - Revisions

(Publish – Revisions)

The Revisions area comes up …

Compare Revisions section

(Revisions feature)

Practical Tip

Note: WordPress revision management works on Posts and Pages.

Comparing Revisions

A Revision Slider allows you to move through different revisions. The more revisions you have, the longer your slider will be …

The more revisions, the longer the slider

(The more revisions, the longer the slider)

Revisions created by editing content and updating your page or post display in the slider highlighted in black, with the save interval, time, and date of the revision …

Revision slider

(Revision marker)

When WordPress automatically saves posts or pages, your revisions show up in the slider highlighted in red, along with the save interval, time, and date of the revision …

Autosave marker

(Revision slider – autosave)

WordPress Revision Management – Navigation

You can navigate between revisions by moving the slider right (newer) or left (older) …

Move the button to the right or left of the revision slider

(Move the button to the left or right of the revision slider)

There are also buttons to assist with navigation.

Click ‘Previous’ to navigate through earlier revisions …

Click 'Previous' to view older post revisions

(Compare Revisions – ‘Previous’ button)

Click ‘Next’ to review newer versions …

Compare Revisions - 'Next' button

(Compare Revisions – ‘Next’ button)

You can also compare different revisions by ticking ‘Compare any two revisions’ …

Compare any two revisions

(’Compare any two revisions’ box)

You can adjust the sliders to compare any two post versions …

Compare different revisions

(Compare any 2 post revisions independently)

When you find the saved version you want to restore, click the ‘Restore This Revision’ button …

'Restore This Revision'

(‘Restore This Revision’ button)

To exit without making any changes, click on the title link …

Click on the post title to go back

(Click the post title link to go back)

You can also exit the Revisions feature without making any changes by clicking Return to editor

Compare Revisions - return to content editor

(Click to return to editor)

WordPress Post Revisions – Plugins

As mentioned earlier, there are some changes you can make to the WordPress revisions feature such as changing the autosave interval or even disabling the feature altogether, but these generally require making modifications to code. If you are concerned about editing files inside your server, then contact your web host or get professional assistance.

Let’s focus, then, on some additional aspects of WordPress post revisions that don’t require coding skills.

View The WordPress Revisions Box – Post Editor Section

As soon as you save your pages/posts, WordPress begins to store new revisions in its database. These appear in a Revisions list below your post or page …

View the post revisions list - Post Editor section

(The revisions box – Post Editor screen)

If the Revisions list isn’t visible, click the Screen Options  tab on the top right-hand corner of the screen …

Screen Options tab

(Post Editor – Screen Options tab)

Tick the check box for ‘Revisions’ in the Boxes section …

Post Editor: Screen Options tab - Revisions

(Post Editor: Screen Options tab – Revisions)

You should now see the Revisions box below your content. Click any of the links to bring up the Compare Revisions screen with related content for that selected item …

Post Editor Screen: Revisions Box

(Post Editor Screen: Revisions Box)

Managing Content Revisions Using Plugins

Having effective workflow functions like autosave and automatic revisions is undoubtedly a great thing. If you write extensively, however, the number of revisions can start building up. This can significantly grow the size of your WordPress database, so it’s important to also be able to manage your revisions.

As post revisions accumulate, your WordPress database could be storing lots of unnecessary data

(Post revisions can really add up after a while)

For example, if there are 300 posts published on your site with an average of 10 revisions each your WordPress database could be storing around 6,000 copies of old data. If your post is approximately 100KB data, then with 6,000 post revisions, the total space wasted is about 600MB.

The good news is that there are several plugins for WordPress available to help you control your revisions and reduce the size of your database.

To learn more about WordPress plugins that will help you manage your post revisions, go here:

Congratulations, now you know how to use the WordPress Revisions feature to restore earlier versions of your WordPress posts or pages.

The WordPress Post Revisions & Autosave Feature


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Originally published as How To Use WordPress Autosave And Post Revisions.