Did you accidentally delete some photos and/or documents that you had saved on your Mac? Did you also empty the macOS trash? Bad situation, but don’t give in to despair, at least not yet! With a bit of luck, you might still be able to recover your files. How? I’ll tell you right now.
You should know that, commonly, when we delete a file from our computer (or even from our smartphone or tablet), it doesn’t vanish into thin air. Much more simply, the portion of the disk on which it was hosted is marked as “free” and thus is soon occupied by new data. This means that as long as the portion of disk in question is not occupied by other data, there is a chance to recover the old files.
To recover files from the portions of the disk marked as free you need to use ad hoc software, and that’s exactly why I’m here today! If you want to find out how to recover deleted Mac files, take five minutes of your free time and try using the applications I’m about to recommend. If you act in time, you may be able to recover all your data from internal and external hard drives, SSDs, USB sticks and memory cards without the help of specialized technicians. Good luck!
Before we get into the heart of the tutorial and see how to recover deleted Mac files, let me give you some advice on the merits.
Minimize the use of disks from which you intend to recover data. This is because the more you use a disk, the more likely it is that its free space will be occupied by other data, thus making it impossible to recover old deleted files.
For the same reason as above, if you can, install the software I’m going to recommend on a different disk from the one you intend to operate on.
Before installing data recovery software, check if your files are not already recoverable in other (more convenient) ways. For example, if you’ve deleted photos or videos from the macOS Photos app, they should still be available in the Recently Deleted album, which keeps deleted photos and videos from the macOS and iOS Photos app for 40 days before permanently deleting them.
The same applies to deleted files from cloud storage services, such as iCloud Drive. By connecting to this page of iCloud.com, logging in with your Apple ID and clicking on the Restore Files option in the bottom left corner, you can recover files you recently deleted from folders and apps you synchronized with the Apple cloud storage service. If, instead, you have Dropbox, all you have to do is connect to this page of Dropbox.com, log in with your account details and select the files to restore. Easier than that!
Disk Drill (paid)
Disk Drill is one of the best data recovery software for macOS (and Windows). It allows you to recover all kinds of deleted files from hard drives, SSD drives, USB sticks, memory cards and other FAT, NTFS or HFS+ formatted drives. It also supports data recovery from Android smartphones and tablets (if rooted) and from iPhones and iPads.
It is available in a free version that allows you to find out which files can be recovered (showing a preview and allowing you to export files up to 500MB), create backups, monitor the health of disks, discover duplicate files, create recovery drives and protect data against accidental deletion (Recovery Vault and Guaranteed Recovery features). To also get the ability to export files available for unlimited recovery, you need to purchase a license with prices starting from 94 euros.
To download the free version of Disk Drill, go to the official website of the software and click on the Free Download button. Once the download is complete, open the .dmg package, copy the Disk Drill icon to the Applications folder of your macOS and run the program.
Now go back to Disk Drill, locate the drive from which you want to recover files (which can also be a smartphone or a tablet connected to the computer via USB cable), select the partition you’re interested in, expand the drop-down menu on the right and choose a recovery method from All recovery methods (recommended, to get the most results), Fast analysis, Deep analysis, Find lost partitions, Allocate existing file system data or Protected undeleted data, then press the Find lost data button.
A screen will open with the list of images, videos, audios, documents, archives or other files found by Disk Drill with the count updated in real time.
Without necessarily stopping the scan (which you can pause and resume at any time using the pause and resume buttons in the top left corner of the screen or by selecting the most recent session from the left sidebar of the main window), select the type of files you want to recover. This will open a list of the items found by Disk Drill so far, divided into paths.
If you want, you can use the View menu (above) to choose how the recoverable files are displayed and the Filters menu (also above) to choose how to filter the scan results (e.g. size or deletion date).
Once you’ve found the files you want to recover (you can preview them by clicking on their eye icons), stop the scan (if it’s still running), select them by checking the appropriate boxes, click the Recover button and specify the destination path where you want to save them. Finally, press the OK button and you’re done.
Besides, as mentioned earlier, you should know that Disk Drill also includes a lot of extra features than those for deleted file recovery.
For example, to enable data protection against accidental deletion, go to Disk Drill’s initial window, press the Data Protection item in the left sidebar, then the OK button, select the drive of your interest, press the Enable Data Protection button and select the paths to be protected using the add button.
Want to create a backup copy of a drive or partition? Go to the Disk Drill home screen, select the Backup byte-by-byte item from the left sidebar, click first on the OK, Let’s do it button and then on the Create Backup button for the drive you are interested in.
Finally, I’ll point out that you can find duplicate files in a folder by selecting the Find Duplicates item from the side menu, clicking the OK, Let’s Do It button and selecting the folders to check. Easy and effective!
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac (free/paid)
Another solution for recovering deleted files from Mac that I recommend you to try is EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac: in case you haven’t heard of it, it is a great software for macOS that allows you to recover deleted files from hard drives, SSDs and external storage drives in three easy steps.
It’s available in three versions: the Free one that lets you recover up to 2GB of data at no cost (including from Time Machine backups and lost partitions); the Pro edition that, for €103.64, lets you recover data without limits, create USB boot drives to recover data, save data to the Cloud and includes free technical support. Finally, there is the Technician edition that, with prices starting at £279, offers all the features of EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac Pro plus free lifetime updates and the ability to offer technical support to customers. More info here.
To download EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac on your computer, go to the official website of the program and click the Free Download button if you want to get the Free version of the program or the Free Trial button if you want to get a free trial of EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac Professional or Technician. If you want to purchase a license for the full version of the software directly, click the Buy Now button for the edition you prefer and follow the on-screen instructions.
After the download is complete, open the .dmg file, drag the EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac icon to the Applications folder of your computer and launch the program. In the window that opens, click the Open button (which is required only when starting the program for the first time), enter the Mac administration password, press Enter and agree to any subsequent requests (e.g. for access to removable drives).
Next, select the drive from which you want to recover deleted files and press the Scan button in the upper right corner to start scanning. As EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac finds potentially recoverable files, it will list them in the window you now see on the screen.
You can view the results in two different ways: by source folder, by selecting Path in the left-hand sidebar, or by type, by selecting Type in the left-hand sidebar and then checking the option for the type of files to be recovered: Graphics for graphic files; Document for documents; Audio for audio files and music tracks; Video for movies; Email for emails; Archive for compressed archives and Other for others.
Once you have identified the files you want to recover, tick the boxes corresponding to them and start exporting them by clicking the Recover Now button (top right) and selecting the destination folder for the data to be recovered.
You can also use the buttons and the search bar in the top right corner to change the way you view the files you want to recover, filter them by various criteria and search for specific ones. Convenient, isn’t it?
Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery (free)
Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery is a free macOS application that allows you to recover deleted data from your Mac drive and external drives. It is very easy to use and is extremely effective.
If you want to find out how to recover deleted Mac files with Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery, the first step you need to take is to connect to its official website and click first on the Download button and then on the Free Download Now! button to download the program to your computer.
After the download is complete, double-click on the downloaded file (lazesoftmacdatarecovery.dmg) and drag the Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery icon to the Applications folder of macOS to install the software on your Mac.
Now go to the Applications folder of your macOS and launch Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery by right-clicking on its icon and selecting Open from the menu that appears. You will be asked to enter the macOS administration password.
In the window that opens, click the Fast Scan button and select the entry for the disk from which you want to recover deleted files. Then click the Start search button and wait for the disk scan to start. The duration of the scan depends on the size of the drive to be scanned and the performance of your computer.
When the scan is complete, select the File Type tab from the left sidebar and select the type of files you want to restore (e.g. doc or docx for Word documents, jpg for photos, xls for spreadsheets, and so on). Next, place a check mark next to the names of the objects to be recovered, click the Save Files button in the top right corner and choose the folder where the files are to be copied.
Alternatively, if you prefer, you can select the Path tab from the sidebar of Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery and “browse” the files available for recovery according to the folder where they were originally located.
Be careful, though: not all files are intact and not all of them can be opened correctly after recovery. To make your work easier and immediately see which files are healthy, use the preview included in Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery (it appears automatically when you select an item within the program) and do not try to recover files that weigh less than they should (e.g. a video that weighed 100MB and only a few KB of it are recoverable).
If the standard scan does not yield the desired results, try restarting the file search process by selecting the Deep Scan option from the Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery home screen (this way, however, the scan will take longer).
Right now I want to tell you about PhotoRec: a free and open source data recovery software that allows you to recover deleted files from hard drives, SD cards, USB sticks and SSD drives formatted with all popular file systems: FAT32, exFAT, NTFS, EXT3, EXT4, HFS+ etc. It comes bundled with another software, TestDisk, which allows you to recover lost partitions and makes disks that are no longer bootable again, but we don’t care about that at the moment. What we do care about, however, is that the software is very effective but only works from the command line. This means that it requires a bit more effort to be used successfully than the solutions we mentioned above.
Having made these necessary clarifications, I would say that we can move on to action. To download PhotoRec (and TestDisk) to your Mac, go to the program’s website and click on Mac OS X Intel. Then open the tar.bz2 archive downloaded on your computer, extract the content into a folder of your choice and run the executable photorec by right-clicking on its icon and selecting Open from the menu that opens.
At this point, use the right arrow on the keyboard to select the Sudo option, press Enter and type in the macOS admin password to start the application as an administrator (without this step you cannot recover data from external drives).
After restarting photorec as administrator, select the drive from which you want to recover data, indicate the partition you want to act on, choose the file system it is formatted with (e.g. Other, for partitions formatted in NTFS, FAT and HFS+) and choose whether you want to scan only the space marked as free (Free) or check the whole drive thoroughly. I recommend that you choose the first option.
Finally, select the destination folder where the recovered files are to be copied to, press the C key to confirm and wait for the data recovery to be completed.
The file copying process may take a long time. When it’s over, you’ll find all files recovered from photorec in the folder you selected earlier.
Note: In some circumstances, when the data recovery is finished, photorec does not close properly and tends to slow down the system. To fix the problem, open macOS Task Monitor and force the photorec process to close.