The Best Way to Recover Deleted Files on Mac OS X

Accidental data loss is an unavoidable fact of life for most computer users. At some point in your digital life, odds are good that you will inadvertently delete some important files from your hard drive, perhaps leading to panic and despair. We’re going to show you how to recover deleted files on your Mac machine using the powerful data recovery software application Disk Drill.
Recover deleted files on Mac

Steps on How to Recover Deleted Files on a Mac:

1. Download and Install Disk Drill for Mac



Download Disk Drill to your computer. If you are attempting to recover files from your machine’s system drive, perform the download and install in another disk partition or on another computer if possible. This will protect against accidentally overwriting your deleted files during installation of Disk Drill.

You will be prompted for your Administrator’s password during installation. Disk Drill needs that level of access to perform its data recovery tasks. For more information on how data recovery works, you can read tutorials such as How to Install Disk Drill and What is a Full Disk Access in our Knowledge Base.
  • 1Download Disk Drill
  • 2Install the app
  • 3Open Disk Drill for Mac

2. Attach any External Devices

If you are going to recover data from a peripheral device such as an external hard drive or smartphone, now is the time to attach it to your Mac.

3. Launch Disk Drill Data Recovery Software for the Mac

Start Disk Drill. You will be presented with its main window and a display of the hard drives, partitions, and storage devices that are currently accessible by the tool. Select the drive that you want to use for the restore. How to recover deleted files on Mac

4. Scan Your Storage Device

Click the “Recover” button after selecting the drive you are using for the recovery. This initiates Disk Drill’s Quick Scan, which is the most rapid way to determine which files can be recovered. Files available for recovery will be displayed in Disk Drill’s window.
If you only have downloaded the freeware version of this file recovery software for the Mac, this is as far as you can go regarding an actual recovery of deleted data. The preview shows you what the Pro versions of Disk Drill can recover for you. If you want to recover those files, you should upgrade to the Pro version as soon as possible and continue with the next steps in the recovery.

Quick Scan recovers files on your Mac OS X

5. Select the Files for Recovery

When scanning is complete, or when you pause it, you can select the files that you wish to recover. You should also select a location where the tiles will be stored. It should be on a different disk or partition than the deleted files to avoid potential overwrites or corrupt files.

Once you are finished selecting the files, click the “Recover” button again. This time it will perform the recovery of the selected files and restore them to your selected location.

Restore deleted files on Mac

6. Preview Your Files

When Disk Drill is finished recovering your files it’s a good idea to navigate to the folder where the new files are stored. Check them out and make sure they are complete before proceeding with using their original disk again. You just want to verify that no further file recovery procedures may be necessary.

That’s it! A simple and straightforward way to restore deleted files using this file recovery software for Mac OS X.

Preview Your Files

Advanced Features of Disk Drill

Deep Scanning Technology

While Quick Scan will often be enough to recover your recently deleted files, if the deletion occurred further in the past you may need to employ more powerful scanning techniques. Disk Drill offers a Deep Scan option that goes through your disk sector-by-sector and scavenges for file fragments.

Possessing knowledge of over 350 file formats, Disk Drill’s Deep Scan can reconstruct files that you may have thought were long gone.

Deep Scan will basically rebuild the deleted files according to their digital footprint:

  • Photos like JPG, PNG and TIFF
  • Videos like AVI, DV and MP4
  • RAW camera images like CR2, NEF and DNG
  • Graphics files like AI, PSD, and INDD
  • Music files like AIF, MP3 and WAV
  • Documents like DOCX, PPTX and XLSX

Learn more about our scanning methods...

Advanced Data Protection Options

Disk Drill for Mac offers two options that work to further protect your data before there is a chance for accidental deletion. Recovery Vault and Guaranteed Recovery are these two data protection features. In the case of Recovery Vault, a map of deleted files meta-data is created to allow for quick recovery.
Guaranteed Recovery creates invisible copies of files moved to your trash to guard against inadvertent permanent deletion.

Free Extra Tools to Help Manage Storage

Disk Drill comes with more than just cutting edge, powerful file recovery for Mac OS X. It also includes powerful extra Mac OS X tools for free which are compatible with most modern macOS versions. With all the data you store on your Mac, Disk Drill’s extra tools will give you the peace of mind to know that your files will always be safe.
Clean Up visualizes the space your files take up so you can manage or delete them as needed.

Duplicate Finder provides insight on how your disks' metadata so you can free up space and delete unnecessary duplicate files.

Bootable Recovery is an alternative Mac file recovery solution if your computer does not start or you cannot scan your system without overwriting the data.

Disk Backup backs up your important media, files, and documents into a byte-to-byte disk image (DMG) for later recovery if needed.

Disk Health Monitor offers S.M.A.R.T. monitoring and other disk health tools to check your internal and external disk drives free for hardware problems.

Duplicate Finde - delete unnecessary duplicate files

How Does Data Recovery Work?

When a file is deleted under Mac OS X it is not permanently removed from its storage media. It is simply logically marked as deleted and its space made available for future use by the operating system. The Trash Bin is where recently deleted files are logically stored when first deleted.

Deleted files remain in the Trash until the bin is emptied. At the point that the bin is emptied the OS can use it for other purposes. Until the actual sectors of the physical disk that held a logically deleted file are used to store a new file, it can be recovered. Disk Drill uses cutting-edge scanning technology to take advantage of this feature of the macOS.

How Did This Happen?

There are a number of ways that you can wind up looking for deleted files. A common way is to inadvertently delete an important file and then empty your Trash Bin while cleaning up your computer. Sometimes, a system or application update can be the culprit. A virus or malware attack can be responsible for logically deleting files from your machine.

Whatever the reason your files are lost, Disk Drill is the right tool for recovering deleted files on your Mac. Download it for free and see what files it can recover for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated on by Disk Drill Team

When files are first deleted in the macOS they are kept in the Trash Bin. Recently deleted files can easily be recovered from the Trash until it is either manually or automatically emptied. After the Trash has been emptied, you will need to employ alternate methods to recover the files.

Yes. Files that have been deleted from your Mac can be recovered even after the Trash has been emptied. Data recovery software scans your disk for deleted files and restores them for use by the system and applications. You can also recover your files from a previously taken backup.

To recover deleted files on your Mac for free:

  1. Check the Trash Bin for the files and simply restore them to your machine.
  2. Use a backup previously made with Time Machine to restore your files.
  3. Recover from an iCloud backup.

To recover permanently deleted files without software:

  1. Connect the backup device that contains your Time Machine backups and use Time Machine to locate and restore the deleted files.
  2. Restore your files from the cloud by copying them from your iCloud Drive to your computer.

To recover a deleted folder on your Mac:

  1. Download, install and launch Disk Drill.
  2. Select the disk that contained the deleted folder.
  3. Click Recover to scan the disk for recoverable data.
  4. Select the files to be restored and click Recover again.

The best file recovery software applications that offer the user a free trial during which they can explore the program’s features are:

  1. Disk Drill Data Recovery Software;
  2. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard;
  3. TestDisk/PhotoRec;
  4. Wondershare RecoverIt;
  5. MiniTools Data Recovery.
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    Twitter user @greatwhitehat
    My brain does not work without coffee. Let’s just say Disk Drill saved me several hours of work. A big thank you to the guys at @cleverfiles
  • You know the drill to keep your files safe: backup, backup and backup. But we all know that accidents can happen and even your backup hard disk can crash. Disk Drill is a disk protection and recovery tool that aims to protect your Mac from losing data in the event that it crashed. Damien
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