How to Restore and Recover Recently Deleted Files on a Mac

557332 - How to Restore and Recover Recently Deleted Files on a Mac 3

Losing important files on your Mac can be stressful. Fortunately, there are several methods you can use to restore or recover deleted files, even if you’ve emptied the Trash. As someone who has used Macs for over 10 years, here is my guide on the various options to rescue your files.

Check the Trash Bin

When you delete files on a Mac, they are moved to the Trash bin. As long as you don’t empty the Trash, you can easily restore deleted files:

  1. Click on the Trash icon in your Dock
  2. Locate the file(s) you want to restore
  3. Right-click on the file(s) and select “Put Back”

Files will be returned to their original location on your Mac. This is the fastest way to recover deleted files on a Mac.

Use Time Machine

If you have Time Machine backups enabled, you can restore deleted files from a backup:

  1. Open Finder and click on Enter Time Machine in the menu bar
  2. Browse through your backups and snapshots to find your deleted files
  3. Select the files you want to restore and click on the Restore button

This allows you to rescue deleted files if you’ve already emptied the Trash. Time Machine makes the process easy and fast.

Check Recently Deleted Folder

Some apps like Photos have a Recently Deleted folder. You may find your deleted files here before they are permanently erased.

  1. Open the Photos app and go to Folder > Recently Deleted
  2. Select the photos/videos you want to recover
  3. Click on the Recover button to restore them

This folder only stores files temporarily (around 30 days) before deletion. But it’s worth a try if you use these apps.

Use Terminal to Recover Deleted Files

You can use the Terminal app to scan your hard drive and find deleted files that may still be recoverable:

  1. Open Terminal (located in Applications > Utilities)
  2. Type sudo find / -xdev -inode [inode number] (use inode number of deleted file if known)
  3. Press Enter and search the output for your deleted files
  4. Copy any found files back to another location on your Mac

This method requires some command line skills but can rescue files deleted even after emptying the Trash.

Download Data Recovery Software

If previous methods don’t work, use data recovery software like Disk Drill to scan your hard drive and restore deleted data. Follow these steps:

  1. Download and install the data recovery app
  2. Select the drive partition to scan for lost files
  3. Preview found files after the scan completes
  4. Select the files to recover and save them to your Mac

This is the most reliable way to recover deleted files from emptied Trash on a Mac. The deep scan algorithms used by software like Disk Drill can rescue data even after it is deleted or overwritten.

Restore from a Backup

If you have another backup of your deleted files (like on an external hard drive or cloud storage), you can simply restore the files from the backup to your Mac.

Connect the external hard drive or access the cloud backup account and copy the files back to your Mac. Make sure you have backups as it offers the simplest file recovery option.

Contact a Data Recovery Service

For difficult cases like water damage or hardware failure, you may need a professional Mac data recovery service. They have advanced tools in cleanroom facilities to extract data from failed drives.

This is an expensive option but may be your last resort to recover irreplaceable files from a dead Mac. Search for reputable Mac data recovery companies in your area.

Tips to Avoid File Loss

Follow these best practices to prevent file deletion mishaps on your Mac:

  • Enable Time Machine backups on an external hard drive
  • Manually backup important files to another device
  • Don’t empty Trash without reviewing deleted items
  • Handle Mac with care to prevent physical damage
  • Use antivirus software and practice safe web browsing
  • Be careful of force quitting apps or disconnecting devices


As a Mac user for many years, I’ve had to recover deleted files several times. By following the step-by-step guides outlined in this article, you should be able to get back lost files on your Mac. Restore from Time Machine or use data recovery software if you’ve emptied the Trash. And make sure you have good backup systems in place.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips for successfully rescuing deleted files on a Mac! I’m happy to help.