Top 3 Solutions to Recover Files From Trash on Mac

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Yevgeniy Tolkunov
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Recover Files From Trash on Mac

If you’re wondering whether it’s possible to recover deleted files from Trash on Mac, you’ve probably found yourself in a situation you wouldn’t wish on anyone else.

Perhaps you’ve deleted important files without even realizing it at first and without a backup that you could use for recovery. It’s also possible that your data disappeared after a software error or hardware failure caused your Mac to crash unexpectedly.

Regardless of why you need to recover Trash on Mac, full recovery is possible if you follow our instructions and act quickly. Let’s look at three possible ways to recover deleted Trash on Mac.

Solution #1: Check if the Deleted Files Are Still in the Trash

recover emptied trash on macYes, you’ve probably already done that, but still. By default, deleted files on Mac computers go to a special folder called Trash, where they stay until the folder is emptied, which can happen automatically after 30 days, depending on your configuration. Because you may have only a limited amount of time to act, Trash is the first place you need to check whenever you need to recover deleted files on Mac.

To restore files from Trash Bin:

  1. Open Trash by clicking on its icon, located on the right side or bottom of the Dock. If you don’t see the icon, you can also open Trash by entering the following command in a Terminal window: open .trashrecover emptied trash on macbook
  2. Go through Trash and look for the files you want to undelete. When you find them, select them by either pressing and holding the command key and then clicking the files or by holding the left mouse click and dragging the cursor around them. recover emptied trash on imac
  3. Click on any of the selected files, hold the click, and drag your mouse to another folder or your desktop. As soon as you release the mouse, the files will be moved to the destination. If you change your mind halfway through, you can simply move the files back to Trash. recover emptied trash on macos

Solution #2: Restore Deleted Files That Are No Longer in Trash via Backup

recover trash on macWhat if you can’t recover files from Trash on Mac because they’re no longer there? Does it mean the files are gone for good? Fortunately, it doesn’t. As long as you have a backup, you should be able to recover them in no time.

Don’t have a backup? Then stop everything you’re doing and read the third solution described in this article. There’s a good chance that you’ll be able to restore all deleted files even without a backup, but you need to hurry up and start the recovery before they become overwritten.

2.1: Using Time Machine Backup

Since Mac OS X Leopard, Mac users can backup and recover files using Time Machine. This innovative backup software application distributed as part of macOS, and its purpose is to automatically backup all files users have on their system.

Because Time Machine doesn’t back up the Trash folder, you can’t use it to recover deleted Trash on Mac. However, you can use it to recover deleted files from whichever location they were before.

To recover Trash Bin using Time Machine:

  1. Connect your Time Machine backup disk if it’s not already connected to your Mac.
  2. Open the folder that contained the deleted files. For example, if the files were in your Documents folder, open Finder and select Documents from the sidebar on the left.
  3. Click the Time Machine icon located in the Menu Bar and choose Enter Time Machine.recover trash on mac with time machine
  4. Locate the files you want to recover using the timeline on the right edge of the screen.
  5. Click Restore to restore the selected file. recover deleted trash on mac with time machine

2.1: Using Arq Backup

While most Mac users are content with using Time Machine as their only backup solution, some prefer various third-party backup solutions. One such solution is Arq. This simple but powerful backup application takes very little time to set up, and it features built-in compression and de-duplication to reduce back up times.

To recover trash bin using Arq backup:

  1. Launch Arq.
  2. Click the small triangle next to your backup destination under the section titled “RESTORE FILES.”
  3. Select the most recent backup that contains the deleted files.
  4. Locate the files you want to recover.
  5. Select any file you want to undelete and click the “Restore…” button in the bottom-right corner. Alternatively, you can simply drag the file from the Arq window and drop it anywhere on your desktop. recover deleted trash on mac with arq

Solution #3: Recover Emptied Trash Bin on Mac via Third-party Software

recover deleted trash on macA backup is useful only when you actually have one. But what if you haven’t been backing up your files? That’s where data recovery software applications like Disk Drill come in, allowing you to recover emptied Trash on Mac by analyzing the file system and looking for signs of deleted files.

Disk Drill provides a unique one-click approach to data recovery. It fully automates all the difficult steps so even less experienced Mac users can recover deleted data with confidence. In addition to its ability to effortlessly solve even the most complicated data recovery scenarios, Disk Drill offers multiple useful disk tools to protect your files against future data loss and keep your Mac in top condition.

To recover emptied trash via Disk Drill:

  1. Download, install, and launch Disk Drill.
  2. Click the Search for lost data button next to the drive on which your files were stored prior to deletion. recover files from trash on mac
  3. Wait until Disk Drill finishes analyzing the drive.
  4. Look inside the recovery folders and locate the deleted files using the preview feature. recover files from trash on mac with disk drill
  5. Select each file you want to recover and click the Recover button.
  6. Specify where you want Disk Drill to recover the deleted files and click Choose. You should always select a folder on a different drive than where the deleted files were originally located. recover deleted files from trash mac
  7. Click the OK button to complete the restore.
free data recovery software Disk Drill for Windows & macOS Free Download

See also: You can also check out the tips on Quora and MacRumors.

Related Article
(Solved) How to Recover Deleted Files on Mac
There are several ways to restore deleted files on a Mac computer. Learn more inside.

Common Reasons Why Mac Users Lose Data

recover deleted files from trash mac easily

Data loss can happen to anyone, no matter which operating system they use or how experienced they are, and it can happen for a number of different reasons. Here are three common reasons why Mac users lose data.

Software Bugs

Seasoned software developers know that there’s no such thing as bug-free software. It’s just that some software bugs are much less serious and visible than others. The most serious software bugs cause applications to crash, which can result in the loss of unsaved work and a lot of swearing. As a Mac user, you should avoid using unoptimized software and old versions that haven’t been tested with the most recent version of macOS.

Hard Disk Crashes

If hard disks were 100% reliable, there wouldn’t be any hard disk repair shops. Unfortunately, we know that the annual failure rate of modern hard disks is between 1 and 7 percent. Of course, the older your hard disk is, the higher the chance of it failing suddenly and catastrophically. We recommend you always keep an eye on your disk’s S.M.A.R.T. status and have a backup ready should it ever crash unexpectedly.

Deleting Files Accidentally

Not all data loss is caused by external factors. In fact, most data loss happens by accident. If you’ve ever had to write an important paper in one night, you know how easy it is to click the wrong button or press the wrong shortcut in a sleep-deprived state. Sometimes, users accidentally delete files but don’t notice their mistake for days or even weeks. By then, Trash has already been emptied, and the only solution is a reliable data recovery software application.

Prevent Data Loss with Regular Backups

Backups are by far the most reliable way to prevent data loss. As a Mac user, you already have a fantastic backup application present on your system: Time Machine.

All you need to create backups with Time Machine is an external storage device. If you have one, connect it to your Mac and open Time Machine from System Preferences. Select your external storage device and wait for Time Machine to automatically back up your Mac.

If you want to take your backup strategy to the next level, you can also consider storing important files in the cloud. Apple’s iCloud is a solid choice, but you can also use Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other reliable cloud storage service.

Did You Know?

You can configure Trash to automatically delete files after 30 days. To activate this feature, open Finder Preferences, click Advanced, and activate the “Remove items from the Trash after 30 days” option. Just keep in mind that any items emptied from the Trash are no longer available and can be recovered only with a data recovery application like Disk Drill.


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. Yevgeniy has a Master's Degree in Physics, Information Technology; 15+ years of experience.