Learn how to recover deleted files from Mac – Step by step guide
Check the Trash Can
Hitting “Delete” doesn’t actually delete files. It sends them to the trash, which you have to manually empty to get rid of them forever.
The Trash is usually located at the end of your dock. Right-click it and click the “Open” command. It should give you a list of files that you’ve deleted recently—at least, since the last time you emptied it. And if you haven’t emptied it in a while, doing so might get you back quite a bit of disk space.
Check the Other Trash Cans
If your file was stored on a USB flash drive or external hard drive, those have their own Trash you can check for deleted files. They’re hidden by default, though, so you have to do a little digging.
Whenever you use an external drive, your Mac creates a bunch of hidden folders starting with a period to help the drive work better with macOS. One of these hidden folders is “.Trashes” and it contains the trash for that drive.
Enable Hidden Files in Sierra or Later
If you’re using macOS Sierra or later, you can view hidden files in Finder by simply using the SHIFT+CMD+. Hotkey (that’s the period key).
If All Else Fails, Use Disk Drill
Even when you empty your trash, deleted files aren’t removed from your hard drive right away. Instead, macOS marks them as available space. Your data is still there until it gets overwritten by something else.
This means that if you have an app that can read the files directly off your hard drive, you could recover them in full if you do it quickly enough after deletion.
One tool that does this very well is Disk Drill. It scans your hard drive for any files that are still waiting to be overwritten and recovers them for you, bringing your documents back from the computer grave.
When you open it for the first time, Disk Drill will ask you to select your disk and perform a scan. The scan may take a few minutes, but when it’s done, you’ll be presented with a list of recently deleted files.
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Many of these are junk, but if you know what you’re looking for (pictures, for example) you can sort them and open the folders you want. Most files should be under your home directory with your name on it.
Once you’ve found the files, right-click them, choose the “Recover” option, and then select the directory where you’d like to save the recovered files.
Ideally, you should use an external drive to prevent other files from being overwritten. For this demonstration, I just used my hard drive, and it worked fine.
If all goes well, you should see your recovered files appear in the directory you chose. I deleted a screenshot on my desktop, emptied the Trash, and was then able to recover it with Disk Drill, 100% intact.