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How to Recover Deleted Files on Mac

by | Jan 7, 2024

If you’ve ever used a computer, chances are you’ve experienced the frustration of losing important data. And if you’re a Mac user, you know this all too well. Losing your files can happen for various reasons, and unless you know exactly how to recover deleted files on Mac, you may feel lost and unsure of what to do. But fear not! We’ve got you covered with this comprehensive guide that focuses specifically on helping you recover deleted files on macOS.

In this guide, we’ll answer all the burning questions you may have about retrieving your Mac files. Ever wondered where deleted files actually go? We’ll explain it. Curious about whether there are professional data recovery apps that can bring back files you thought were gone forever? We’ll dive into that too.

So sit back, relax, and read through this guide from start to finish. By the time you’re done, you’ll be armed with all the knowledge you need to confidently tackle the process of recovering deleted files on your Mac. No more feeling like a fish out of water – you’ll be in control and ready to rescue your precious data. Let’s get started!

How to Improve Your Chances of Successful File Recovery?

Unfortunately, not all attempts to recover deleted files end successfully. Sometimes, the files can’t be recovered because they’ve been overwritten. Other factors like data corruption, physical damage, or user mistakes can also make recovery difficult.

But there are things you can do to increase your chances of successful recovery:

  • Act quickly: The sooner you start recovering your files, the better. If you notice a missing file right after deleting it, you have a higher chance of retrieving it quickly. Waiting for a long time may make it impossible to recover the file, even with the best recovery software.
  • Minimize data transfers: Deleted files can only be recovered until they get overwritten. If you keep writing lots of new files to your storage device, the chances of overwriting the deleted files increase. To be safe, avoid unnecessary data transfers until you recover your files.
  • Address the cause of data loss: Sometimes, files go missing due to reasons like malware or hard drive issues. Before starting the recovery process, it’s important to address the root cause of data loss. Otherwise, you might lose your files again soon after recovering them.

By following these three simple tips, you can increase your chances of successfully recovering files from the Trash or any other folder without much trouble.

How to Recover Deleted Files on Mac

Method 1: Recover Deleted Files on Mac with Undo Command

– Simple and easy to use– Can only recover the most recently deleted file
– No need to learn anything new or complex– Must use it before closing the application from which the file was deleted
– Works in all applications on your Mac

If you accidentally delete a file on your Mac and realize your mistake right away, there’s a quick and easy way to recover it using the Undo command. This command does exactly what its name suggests—it undoes the last action you performed. There are a few different ways to use it.

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Recover Deleted Files on Mac with Undo Command

Here’s how:

Step 1. Find the application you were using when you deleted the file (like Finder).

Step 2. Go to the Edit menu at the top of your screen.

Step 3. Click on “Undo Move” followed by the name of the file you deleted.

Another way to use the Undo command is by pressing Command + Z on your keyboard. Just remember that you need to have the correct application selected for the Undo command to work as intended. Also read How to Clear Cache on Mac | 2024.

Method 2: Recover Files from Trash on Mac

– Takes less than a minute to recover files– Not all deleted files end up in the Trash folder, so it may not work for every file
– No need for additional software or tools– Mac automatically empties the Trash after 30 days, so files may be permanently deleted
– Easy to find and retrieve deleted files
– Files are restored back to their location

When you delete a file on your Mac, it usually goes into a special folder called Trash. It’s like a temporary holding place for deleted files. The file stays in the Trash until you decide to permanently remove it by emptying the Trash folder. But here’s the good news: while the file is still in the Trash, you have the power to bring it back to its original location with just a few simple steps. And the best part? The recovery process is super reliable!

Here’s how you can do it:

Recover Files from Trash on Mac

Step 1: Look for the Trash icon in your Dock (the row of icons at the bottom of your screen) and click on it.

Step 2: In the Trash folder, find the file you want to recover. If you remember the name of the file, you can use the search bar to locate it faster.

Step 3: Once you’ve found the file, right-click on it (or you can hold the Control key and click if you don’t have a right-click option) and choose the “Put Back” option.

That’s it! The file will be instantly restored to its original folder, just like it never went missing. If you prefer, you can also drag and drop the deleted files to any folder you want instead of putting them back to their original location.

Now, let’s talk about the pros and cons of this method:


  • It takes less than a minute to recover your files.
  • No need to use any additional software or tools.
  • It’s easy to find and retrieve your deleted files.
  • The files are restored back to their previous location.
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  • Not all deleted files end up in the Trash folder, so it may not work for every file.
  • Mac has a feature that automatically empties the Trash after 30 days, so if you wait too long, the files may be permanently deleted.

So, if you accidentally delete a file on your Mac, don’t panic! Just head over to the Trash folder, follow these steps, and you’ll have your file back in no time. It’s a simple and reliable way to recover deleted files without any hassle.

Method 3: Recover Deleted Files Using Terminal

– Alternative method to the regular Trash interface– Can be intimidating for some people, especially if not familiar with using Terminal
– Relatively quick way to recover files once you know how– Can only recover files one by one; no option for bulk recovery
– Requires knowing the exact name of the file you want to recover
– Unable to preview files before recovering them

On a Mac, there are different ways to do the same thing, and you can choose the method you like the best. If you’re a fan of Macintosh computers because of their Unix roots and powerful command-line interface, you might be interested in using Terminal to recover your files from the Trash.

Recover Deleted Files Using Terminal

Here’s how you can do it:

Step 1: Open Terminal by going to the “Applications” folder, then “Utilities,” or you can use the Spotlight search to find it.

Step 2: Type in “cd .Trash” in Terminal to go to the Trash folder.

Step 3: Type in “ls -al ~/.Trash” to see what’s inside the Trash folder.

Step 4: To recover a specific file, type in “mv filename ../” (replace “filename” with the name of the file you want to recover) to move it back to your home folder.

It’s important to note that using Terminal commands is an alternative to the regular Trash interface. However, it won’t help you recover files that you or your Mac have already emptied from the Trash.

If you’re comfortable with using Terminal and prefer a command-line approach, this method can be a potentially useful way to recover files from the Trash. Just keep in mind its limitations and be cautious when using Terminal commands.

Method 4: Recover Files from Backups

– Reliable way to recover deleted files– Backup tools only work if you have an up-to-date backup of your data
– Time Machine pre-installed on new Macs– Searching for files in a backup can take some time
– Backup tools can recover data after physical damage

There are different types of backup tools available that can help you recover deleted files on your Mac. One of the built-in backup tools for Macs is called Time Machine, which comes with macOS 10.5 or newer. Time Machine creates incremental backups and allows you to restore the entire operating system or specific files from a backup stored on a dedicated backup drive. Starting from macOS 11 Big Sur, Time Machine has improved with faster, more compact, and reliable backups. 

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Recover Files from Backups

Here’s how you can restore deleted files using Time Machine:

Step 1: Open the folder that originally contained the deleted files using Finder.

Step 2: Look for the Time Machine icon in the Menu Bar and click on it. Then select “Enter Time Machine.”

Step 3: Choose the files you want to recover. You can use the timeline on the right side of the screen to navigate to the most recent version of your files.

Step 4: Once you’ve selected the files, click on “Restore” to bring them back.

Some Mac users prefer using cloud backup solutions like:

Google Drive iCloud Dropbox

These services offer the convenience of accessing your files from anywhere.

It’s important to note that regardless of the backup tool you choose, you can only recover your lost files if you had previously created a backup. If you don’t have an up-to-date backup, you’ll need to explore other recovery methods.

In conclusion, backup tools like Time Machine can be a lifesaver when it comes to recovering deleted files on your Mac. They provide a reliable solution, but it’s crucial to have a backup in place before any data loss occurs.

Method 5: Use Mac Data Recovery Software

– Can recover permanently deleted files– Difficult to use
– Free options are available– No graphical user interface
– Can recover files from damaged partitions
– Supports commonly used storage devices and file types

You can also use special software to recover lost data on your Mac. These software applications are designed specifically for data recovery and come at different price ranges, from free to expensive. They are suitable for both casual users and professionals.

Unlike the methods we mentioned earlier, recovery software applications can retrieve files that have been permanently deleted or emptied from the Trash. Some of these applications, especially the paid ones, offer additional features like file protection and backup, which can help prevent data loss in the future.

Now, let’s take a closer look at how you can recover deleted files on Mac OS X and macOS using both a free recovery software application and a paid one.

Paid Solution: Disk Drill

Disk Drill

Disk Drill is a paid software solution for Mac data recovery. Here are the steps to recover deleted files using Disk Drill:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill on your Mac.
  2. Launch Disk Drill and select the drive where your files were stored.
  3. Click on “Search for lost data” and wait for the scan to finish.
  4. Use the scan results filters and preview feature to select the files you want to recover.
  5. Click the “Recover” button.
  6. Specify the recovery destination and start the recovery process.

Free Solution: PhotoRec


PhotoRec is a free data recovery tool for Mac. Here’s how you can use it:

  1. Install Homebrew by pasting the command in Terminal: 

/bin/bash -c “$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install.sh)”

  1. Type “brew install testdisk” in Terminal and hit Enter to install TestDisk (which includes PhotoRec).
  1. Type “sudo photorec” in Terminal and hit Enter to launch PhotoRec.
  1. Select your hard drive and partition (or scan the whole drive).
  1. Choose the appropriate file system and select a destination to save the recovered files.

Method 6: Use App-Specific Recovery Features

– Reliable recovery of files within 30 days– The files are only available for recovery within 30 days after deletion
– It’s a free solution– This method is only available in certain apps
– The recovery process is contained within the app

Certain apps on macOS, such as the Photo app, have a special folder called “Recently Deleted” where they keep items that were recently deleted. This makes it easier to recover them. Here are the simple steps to follow:

  1. Open the app where you deleted the file.
  2. Look for the “Recently Deleted” folder.
  3. Select the items you want to recover from that folder.
  4. Click on the “Recover” button.

Method 7: Apply to Data Recovery Services

– Reliable method to recover your data– Can be more expensive compared to other solutions
– Handled by professionals with advanced tools– The recovery process may take several days to complete
– May succeed even when other recovery options have failed

If you’ve tried other methods to recover lost data without success, you can consider using a data recovery service like CleverFiles data recovery center. They have professional experts who use advanced techniques to retrieve your files from damaged storage devices.

Here’s an overview of how to engage a data recovery service:

  1. Contact the service for an initial consultation and instructions on how to send your storage device to them.
  2. Ship your storage device to the recovery center.
  3. Once they receive it, the service will examine the device and provide you with a price for the recovery. Reputable services won’t charge you if they can’t recover your data.
  4. The data will be recovered and sent back to you on new storage media.


I hope this guide has been helpful in teaching you how to recover deleted files on Mac. If you have any further questions or need tutorials for iPhones, Androids, or more Mac-related topics, please leave a comment. We value your feedback as it helps us improve our future articles. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our daily newsletter to stay informed about the latest news and updates regarding social media, apps, and devices.

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