Recover Deleted Files from Mac Hard Drive

Deleting files from a Mac hard drive is necessary when you wish to eliminate unwanted, duplicate, or large old files from your system to free up storage space. But the fact is, it’s not possible to stop accidental deletion of files at all times. In a spree to clean up your Mac hard drive, you might delete some essential files and suffer from data loss. In this post, we’ll share some tried and tested methods to help you recover deleted files in Mac. Read on to learn.

Use Trash to Put Back Deleted Files

macOS provides a built-in application to prevent accidental data loss. So, when you delete a file using Command + Delete hotkey or drag and drop a file to Trash, the file moves from the current location in Finder to the Trash folder. Trash is a storage location in your Mac hard drive that temporarily stores deleted files until you remove them from there using Delete immediately or Empty Trash. But, if you haven’t used any of the two commands, you can, of course, use Trash to put back your deleted files. The steps are as follows:

  1. Launch the Trash folder from Dock
  2. Look for the deleted files in the Trash folder.
  3. Choose the files you want to put back.
  4. Secondary-click the selected files and click Put Back
  5. Or else, drag the selected files from Trash and drop them to the desired Finder location. 

That’s it. You’ve restored your accidentally deleted files using Trash, the built-in data loss prevention application provided in macOS. A keyboard shortcut to undo accidental deletion is to use the Command + Z hotkey immediately after deletion. This command will undo the delete operation. If the hotkey doesn’t work, you can go to Trash to find and put back your deleted files. 

When you’ve used Delete Immediately, Empty Trash, or Option + Command + Delete hotkey, deleted file restoration using Trash is impossible. Also, after 30-days, Trash files are deleted automatically (if you’ve activated it in the Storage Management app). In such situations, you need a backup of your Mac to restore your deleted files. We’ll explain the restoration process next.

Use Time Machine to Restore Deleted Files

Time Machine is a backup and restoration application provided in macOS that helps prevent data loss due to any data loss scenarios, including corruption, deletion, formatting, etc. So if you have set up Time Machine and have an up-to-date backup of your Mac, you can quickly restore deleted data even when you empty your Trash. The steps are shared next:

  1. Ensure you connect Time Machine hard drive to your MacBook, Mac mini, or iMac.
  2. Open the Finder location from where you have deleted the files accidentally.
  3. Navigate to Menu bar > Time Machine > Enter Time Machine
  4. When the Time Machine icon is unavailable, navigate to the Apple menu > System Preferences > Time Machine. Next, select Show Time Machine in the menu bar.
  5. Use the Up/Down arrow key or TimeLine to search your deleted files from the backup.
  6. Select the trash deleted files and click Restore to restore them to your Mac.

The above data restoration steps are easy and can act as a savior in any data loss situation. But, if you have not set up a backup drive or the backup is old, you can’t use this method to restore your permanently deleted files. It will help if you use data recovery software for Mac to recover deleted files on Mac’s hard drive in such a case. We’ll share the method next. 

Use Mac File Recovery Software to Recover Deleted Files

A mac file recovery software is a third-party tool that can help you recover files on a Mac hard drive in any logical data loss situation, including emptying Trash, formatting volume, loss of partition, drive corruption, etc. You need to download and install a trusted file recovery software from its official site, launch it, then use it to recover your permanently deleted files. All data recovery tools use the following (or somewhat similar) steps to recover files:

  • Select: In a Mac file recovery software, you need to select file types and storage location to pinpoint what you intend the software to do.
  • Scan: Use the advanced scanning option to perform a rigorous scan of your Mac hard drive. Wait till the scan completes.
  • Recover: Click the recover button to recover deleted files from Mac hard drive and let the tool save them to a distinct volume or an external storage drive to avoid overwriting. 

The file recovery software method is helpful in case you’ve emptied your Trash, and you don’t have a Time Machine backup. Please note that in macOS Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave, or High Sierra, you must allow the data recovery software’s extension to perform recovery on your startup disk (Macintosh HD).


We hope the post helped you recover your deleted files from your Mac hard drive. You can immediately press Command + Z hotkey or search your deleted files in the Trash folder in case of accidental file deletion. If you can’t locate your deleted files, you might have emptied your Trash probably. In such scenarios, try restoring your deleted files from Time Machine backup if you have an up-to-date backup of your Mac. When none of the above methods work, install a trial version of a data recovery mac software to scan your hard drive and verify the recoverable files. In case you are satisfied with the scan result, activate the software to recover your deleted files.