How to Recover Deleted and Trashed Files on a Mac


Did you accidentally delete that family photo and are having difficulty recovering it, or did you trash an important office document on your Mac? Don't panic. Retrieving deleted data on a Mac is relatively easy and we have created an easy to follow step-by-step guide to help you out.

Put Back

The simplest way to recover a deleted file is by restoring it from the Trash / Bin folder. When you delete a file from your Mac, it is either stored indefinitely (until you start to get messages about running low on disk space and need to take action) or you can optionally set it to automatically delete items after 30 days.

Using the Trash Bin, you can easily recover any files you decide to keep or mistakenly deleted in the first place. Here is how to do it:

  1. Navigate to the Trash folder.
  2. You will see a list of all your trashed files.
  3. Select the file or files that you want to recover and then right click and choose ‘Put Back’.

Undo Delete

An even quicker way to restore a deleted file is by using the 'Undo Delete' feature. However, this feature only works for recently deleted files, as in you literally just deleted it and want to put it back in your folder right away. Here is how to use the Undo Delete feature:

    Method 1: Undo Move

  1. Head to Edit.
  2. Under the Edit menu, choose 'Undo Move of.'
  3. Your file will be restored to its original location.

    Method 2: Undo Shortcut

  1. Press CMD + Z on your keyboard.
  2. Your file will be restored back to its original location.

Recovery Software

If you have permanently deleted a file from your Mac and can't find it in the Trash folder (i.e. the trash was emptied and the file was "permanently" deleted), then there is still a chance you can recover it used specialised software.

Data recovery software is software that enables the recovery of corrupted, deleted or inaccessible data from your Mac device. It reviews, scans, extracts and copies deleted data to make it accessible for you again.

We recommend Recoverit and DrFone. In our testing, these two applications performed the best, and even though there were minor glitches, they were, for the most part, able to recover our deleted data.

If you want to increase your chances of using recovery software successfully, it is important that you use it as soon as possible once you have emptied the trash / "permanently" deleted the file(s) you want to recover. The sooner you act, and more importantly, the fewer operations you carry out on your computer before using it, can make all the difference.

For this guide, we are using Recoverit. Here's how you can use it to restore files on your Mac.

  1. Download and launch the Recoverit application. Note that there is a free version.
  2. Choose the ‘Trash’ option and hit Scan.
  3. Give it a few minutes to complete the scans.
  4. Now select the files you want to restore and hit recover.
  5. From a Backup Device

    One of the easiest ways to recover lost or deleted files is from a backup device - provided you have one of course! Here is how to do it:

    1. Connect your back-up device to your Mac (most people make backups to an external USB drive).
    2. Navigate to the device.
    3. Look for the file you deleted from your Mac on the device.
    4. Drag the file(s) back over to your Mac folders (i.e. your desktop or elsewhere).

    MacInfo recommends keeping a backup of your data at all times and using the Time Machine backup system that comes with your Mac. If you don't own an external USB drive, here are three that MacInfo recommends.

    Seagate External Hard Drive

    The Seagate External Hard Drive has storage options of up to 5TB – plenty to keep backups of your Mac device. With the considerable storage space also comes portability as this drive is also incredibly lightweight. It also comes with a 1-year limited warranty.

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    • Designed to work with Windows or Mac computers, This external hard Drive makes backup a snap just drag and drop
    • To get set up, connect the portable hard drive to a computer for automatic recognition software required
    • This USB drive provides plug and play simplicity with the included 18 inch USB 3.0 cable
    • Enjoy long term peace of mind with the included 1 year limited warranty

    WD My Passport Portable

    Priced the cheapest of all the options here, Western Digital's Portable Passport External Hard Drive has storage options of up to 5TB. It is designed to work seamlessly with Mac computers, all you have to do is plug and play. As there is no setup process, this is an ideal drive to quickly make backups of your Mac device. It also has an option to password protect the drive so you can easily secure your backups, making them inaccessible to intruders.

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    • Password protection + 256-bit AES hardware encryption
    • Western Digital Discovery software for Western Digital backup, password protection and drive management
    • Superspeed USB port; USB 2.0 compatible
    • 3-Year manufacturer's limited warranty

    Samsung T5 Portable SSD

    Samsung T5 Portable, even though slightly more expensive than the other products, is still highly recommended for two reasons. One, it comes with a USB-C to USB-C connection port, which means you can directly connect to the newer Macs without any convertor of a sort. Two, the drive is extremely fast. With its SSD technology, the Samsung T5 Portable provides speeds of up to 500 MBs/s, enabling you to quickly make backups of hundreds if not thousands of GBs of data. Not just that, it also comes with a 3-year warranty which is much longer than the usual 1-year warranty you might expect with a drive.

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    • SUPERFAST READ WRITE SPEEDS: SSD with V-NAND offers ultra-fast data transfer speeds of up to 540MB/s (up to 4.9x faster than external HDDs); Ideal for transferring large-sized data including 4K...
    • COMPACT AND PORTABLE DESIGN: Top to bottom shock resistant metal design fits in the palm of your hand and easily slides in your pocket or purse to take work and entertainment on the go
    • SECURE ENCRYPTION: Optional password protection and AES 256-bit hardware encryption keeps your personal and private data more secure
    • SEAMLESS CONNECTIVITY: Includes USB Type C to C and USB Type C to A cables to connect to PCs, Macs, smartphones and other devices
    • WARRANTY AND COMPATIBILITY: 3-year limited warranty; Requires Windows 7, Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks), Android 4.4 (KitKat), or higher; Older versions of the Windows, Mac and Android operating systems...

    Conclusion

    In this guide, we outlined the easiest ways to recover trashed files on your Mac - Put Back, Undo Delete, Recovery Software, and Recovering from a Backup Device. We hope it has helped you to recover your trashed data. If it did, let us know in the comments!

Muaz Ashrafi

Hi! I am Muaz, a Mass Communication major. I like to think I am a free urban spirit. I write blogs with a focus on tech and gadgets. When I'm not writing, you can find me with my headphones on, relaxing to some good house EDM music. I'm also a hobbyist photographer, you can find me on Instagram @mzwithacamera.

2 Comments

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  1. Thanks for the great article! I never heard of Recoverit before and it worked perfectly. I accidentally deleted some photos and I really wanted them back. On Windows I would use Recuva but that’s not available on OS X so I thought I had lost my photos for good. I’ll definitely be more careful when removing files now.

  2. What do you think of my chances of recovering a file I permanently deleted a couple months ago? I totally overlooked what I was removing and now I need that file back. I will try the free app you suggest but if that doesn’t work, are there any others? I’m willing to pay to get it back.