How to Recover Deleted Files on a Mac

There’s nothing worse than that feeling you get when you realize you deleted a file that you wish you hadn’t. One minute it is there, the next it is gone. We’ve all been there.

Thankfully, the technology does exist to restore deleted files on a Mac. What once was an expensive trip to the computer repair shop is now a task that anyone can do at home.

Here’s how to recover deleted files and data on a Mac.

Option 1: Time Machine

Apple’s Time Machine is a built-in backup feature in macOS. It allows you to back up your entire Mac computer system, including files, applications, and system settings. If you are using Time Machine, it is a great option for recovering deleted files on a Mac.

Time Machine creates regular backups to an external storage device, such as an external hard drive, or network-attached storage. The purpose of Time Machine is to restore your Mac to a previous state, recover deleted files, or migrate data to a new Mac.

Usefully, Time Machine keeps hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for all previous months. This allows you to access and restore specific versions of files as needed.

If I needed to recover lost data, this is the first place I would start.

Option 2: Cloud Backups

A cloud backup system is a type of backup solution that stores data and backups on remote servers, typically managed by a third-party service provider. If you are using one of these instead of Time Machine, it is possible to restore lost files on a Mac.

Instead of relying on physical storage devices like hard drives or network-attached storage, cloud backup systems allow users to back up their data over the internet and store it securely in remote data centers.

Examples of cloud backup services include Backblaze, iDrive, and Arq. Typically, products like these run automatically on your Mac and will back up daily. Most store up to 30 days of file versions.

Restoring an individual file, versus an entire backup, may be more problematic with a cloud backup service, but that can vary from provider to provider, so read the small print.

Some people also like to store files in cloud storage services like Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive. Although these are not cloud backup apps, many of them also offer file and account version history. So, if you delete a file from one of these services accidentally, you can often retrieve it later.

Option 3: Data Recovery Apps

If neither of these are an option for you, a dedicated data recovery app is what you need. A data recovery app is software designed to help recover lost or deleted files from computer hard drives, external storage devices, or other digital storage media.

These apps use various techniques to scan storage devices and attempt to retrieve lost data that may have been accidentally deleted, formatted, or lost due to system crashes or hardware failures.

There are lots to choose from, but the one I use is called Disk Drill. It can scan and recover data from virtually any storage device — including internal hard drives, external disks, SSDs, cameras, iPhones, iPads, iPods, Android devices, USB flash drives, memory cards, and more.

Disk Drill supports over 400 file types, and you don’t need any data recovery experience to use it. All you do is run a scan, and take a look at the list of files that can be restored. You can restore single files, multiple files, or even entire partitions.

One of the best things about using Disk Drill is the user interface. It divides the files up into buckets like Photos, Videos, and Audio, so that you can quickly filter out the noise and find what you need.

The free version of Disk Drill will let you look at the files that the app can restore for you, but upgrading to Disk Drill Pro is necessary if you want to do the actual data recovery.

Thankfully, Disk Drill is included in my Setapp subscription, so I don’t need to pay the $89 for the Pro account, but if I had to, I would. Apps like these are worth their weight in gold.

➡️ Try Disk Drill Pro (free for 7 days)

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