Recover Data from a MacBook Pro Hard Drive in a Few Simple Steps

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Is it possible to recover data from a fully formatted or crashed MacBook Pro hard drive?

Yes, you can recover data from a MacBook Pro hard drive, and the process is easier than you might think. The results will, however, depend on several factors, and one of them is your ability to get it right the first time. With each unsuccessful attempt at recovering data from a MacBook hard drive, you risk losing valuable information, which is why you should start with the instructions provided in this article and get it right on the first try.

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How to Recover Files from a MacBook Pro Hard Drive?

Step 1: Learn How to Repair a Failed Hard Drive on MacBook Pro

Sometimes, a failed hard drive can be repaired with the help of the Disk Utility app, whose purpose is to check hard drives for errors and fix them if necessary. Because you already have the Disk Utility app on your Mac, we recommend you give it a try before you learn how to get data from a MacBook hard drive with a data recovery tool.  

  1. Launch the Disk Utility app.
  2. Select the failed hard drive from the list of devices on the left.
  3. Click the First Aid button.
  4. Confirm your decision to run First Aid on the hard drive by clicking on the Run button.
  5. Wait for the Disk Utility app to finish repairing the hard drive.

Step 2: Download & Install Disk Drill for Mac

Disk Drill for Mac is an easy-to-use data recovery application intended, among other things, for people who desperately need to recover data from a MacBook hard drive. You can download it directly from its website.

Don’t save and install it on the same hard drive from which you want to retrieve data. You could overwrite the very same data you’re trying to retrieve and lose them permanently.

A disk image with Disk Drill for Mac should automatically download to your MacBook Pro. Open it and drag the Disk Drill app to the Applications folder like you see on the screenshot below.

recover data from macbook hard drive

Wait for the Disk Drill app to copy. This shouldn’t take more than a couple of seconds.

Step 3: Run Disk Drill & Start Scanning for Deleted Files

You can now launch Disk Drill from the Applications folder in Finder or using Spotlight (Command-Space bar). You may be asked to confirm your decision to open Disk Drill. If so, click Open.

If your MacBook Pro hard drive is in a working condition, you will see it listed among hardware disks. Simply click the Recover button next to it and wait for Disk Drill to find all deleted or lost files. This process tends to be relatively fast on modern SSDs, but it can take several hours on traditional spinning hard drives, especially larger ones, so be patient and don’t interrupt it.

how to recover hard drive data from macbook pro

Because Disk Drill is designed to make data recovery as simple as possible, you don’t need to know how to recover hard drive data from MacBook Pro beyond clicking on the Recover button.

Step 4: Preview the Recoverable Data

Disk Drill for Mac has a handy preview feature that allows you to preview all the file formats your Mac natively supports, allowing you to recover only the files you actually need. To use this feature, click the View icon next to the file you want to preview.

recovering data from macbook hard drive

The macOS Quick Look window will appear, allowing you to open the file with the Preview app.

Step 5: Recover Your Data

Once you’ve decided which files you want to recover from your MacBook hard drive, you need to click on the small checkbox next to each file.

Alternatively, you can highlight the files you want to recover, right-click on them, and choose the Mark selected items for recovery option from the context menu. If you want to recover all files, select Mark all items for recovery from the same menu.

The only thing left to do is click the Recover button in the upper-right corner of the Disk Drill window. Just like learning how to recover files from a MacBook Pro hard drive, the actual recovery doesn’t take much time at all.

Warning: It’s never a good idea to save the recovered files to the same hard drive from which you’re recovering them.  

recover files from macbook pro hard drive

Wrapping Up

Disk Drill for Mac makes recovering data from MacBook hard drives a matter of a few simple clicks. Without any expert knowledge, you can restore your data and save the day. Here’s a short version of the steps above:

How to retrieve files from a MacBook hard drive with Disk Drill:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill.
  2. Run Disk Drill and start scanning for deleted files.
  3. Preview the recoverable data.
  4. Select which files you want to recover.
  5. Click the Recover button to perform the recovery.
free data recovery software Disk Drill for Windows & macOS Free Download

How to Recover Data from a MacBook Pro Hard Drive Without Software?

Retrieve Data from MacBook Hard Drive from a Backup

Included in all recent versions of macOS is an excellent backup tool called Time Machine. With Time Machine, you can create incremental backups of files and restore them at a later date. If you’ve created a Time Machine backup disk of your MacBook hard drive, you can recover any lost or accidentally delete data from it using Migration Assistant.

  1. Connect your Time Machine backup disk to your MacBook Pro.
  2. Open Migration Assistant.
  3. Select the option to transfer from a Mac, Time Machine backup, or startup disk.
  4. Click Continue.
  5. Select the data you want to recover and click Continue again to start the recovery process.

You can also use macOS Recovery to restore from your Time Machine backup disk, which will not only restore your data but also macOS itself. To do that:

  1. Connect your Time Machine backup disk to your MacBook Pro.
  2. Press and hold Command-R right after you turn on your MacBook Pro to start up from macOS Recovery.
  3. Choose the option to restore from a Time Machine backup and click to get data from macbook hard drive
  4. Select your Time Machine backup disk and click Continue to recover files from macbook pro hard drive
  5. Select the destination hard drive and click to retrieve data from macbook hard drive

Reasons Why MacBook Hard Drive Can Suddenly Get Crashed

Not all hard drive failures are created equal. Even though hard drives have come a long way in the last 50 years—after all, it no longer takes several people to transport them, and even consumer-grade hard drives can store millions of books and thousands of images—they still fail for a number of different reasons.

Common causes of hard drive failure:

  • Logical failure: In terms of recovering data from MacBook hard drives, logical failures are relatively easy to deal with. They include everything from accidental file deletion and hard drive format to corruption caused by software bugs and malware.
  • Bad sectors: Hard drives are sub-divided into sectors, which are the smallest physical units of storage. Sectors can be anywhere from 512 bytes to 4096 bytes large, and they sometimes become inaccessible due to wear and tear or manufacturing defects. Depending on how many sectors are damaged, the recovery can be painless or impossible.
  • Mechanical failure: Not as much of a problem with newer solid-state drives (SSDs), mechanical failure is caused by mechanical damage to internal components. Sometimes, it occurs after a hard drop on the floor, but it can also happen randomly as a result of a manufacturing error.
  • Electrical failure: Inside each hard drive is a small brainbox that coordinates all read and write operations. This brainbox is very sensitive to power surges and power spikes, and any damage to it can render the hard drive useless. Electrical failure often makes data recovery impossible.
  • Complex failure: A hard drive can fail for more than one reason. For example, a fairly insignificant mechanical failure can, over time, lead to extended logical failure.

Regardless of which type of hard drive failure you encounter, you should always retrieve data from MacBook hard drive as soon as possible because using it in the failing state can only make the problem worse and data recovery more difficult.


David Morelo is a professional content writer in the technology niche, covering everything from consumer products to emerging technologies and their cross-industry application.
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This article has been approved by Yevgeniy Tolkunov, Hardware Engineer at ACE Data Recovery. Brett has a Master's Degree in Physics, Information Technology; 15+ years of experience.