Recovering Lost Data from Mac: A Quintessential Guide

You rely so much on your Mac to get things done and keep your most important and sentimental files. So you can only imagine the horror and frustration when one day, you mistakenly formatted your hard drive, accidentally deleted your precious files or by any chance, they just became corrupted.

If you’re not one of those who didn’t believe your technician when he said that you should back up your files, then your next best bet is to try and recover all the data you lost from your Mac or learn how to recover PowerPoint from Mac. The good news is: it is possible. Here are some steps that you can try:

Check the trash can first.

It’s a natural thing to do, right? If you accidentally threw away something, the first place that you should look for is the trashcan. In this case, if you accidentally hit “delete” while working on your Mac, it automatically moves that file to the Trash and keeps it there until you manually empty your trash to permanently get rid of all those deleted files.

If you haven’t explored your Mac yet, your Trash is located at the end of your dock and once you open it, you’ll see the most recent files that you deleted making it easier to locate the file that you want to recover. Now if you haven’t emptied your Trash yet, it would be good to do so after getting your file so you can free up some disk space.

Check in other places where your deleted file could be stored.

Aside from the Trash, your Mac could have moved your deleted file to other places. For instance, if the file was stored on an external hard drive or USB flash drive, these external storage devices have their own Trash for deleted files.

Every time you use an external drive on a Mac, it automatically creates some hidden folders beginning with a period to help the device work better on macOS. So you could start looking for a folder like “.Trashes” that might contain the trash for that external drive.

For macoS Sierra and other later versions, view hidden files by going to Finder and using the “Shift+CMD+.” Hotkey. If you’re using an older OS X version, however, you can run some commands on the Terminal. Press “Command+Space” and type “Terminal.” Then, paste the following lines one at a time hitting “Enter” after each line:

  • defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
  • killall Finder

This should prompt the terminal to reveal the “.Trashes” folder where you can look for your deleted file. After recovering it, you can empty this hidden folder from Finder to free up some space on your external device.

Try to repair the failed Mac hard disk or SSD.

If you lost data due to a failed Mac hard disk or SSD, you can try to do a repair to see if you can still fix the problem yourself and recover your files. Follow these steps:

  • Open Disk Utility by searching for it on Spotlight Search or accessing your Apps folder>Utilities>Disk Utilities.
  • Click on the disk that you’re having problems with from the list of disks and then, click First Aid.
  • Your Mac’s First Aid will automatically check the volume for errors and do some repairs if needed. While doing this, you will see a prompt saying that First Aid will temporarily lock the boot volume, which means that any running apps won’t be responsive.
  • If Disk Utility was able to detect and fix the issue, you will be able to access and recover your files. But before you do that, try to back up your Mac to make sure that you have your files secured in case the disk fails again.

Restart in Recovery Mode.

Sometimes, all you have to do is turn your Mac off and on again to reboot your system and hopefully, fix all the errors in it. But if you already tried doing this or you think that your disks are really dying, you have to go for the restart in Recovery HD mode or risk losing your files permanently if your disk doesn’t survive the regular reboot.

You have to remember, however, that this will only work if your drive failure is not terminal yet.

Recovery HD is actually a part on a drive where a version of the macOS is stored for you to boot from. To enter into this mode, hold down “Command+R” while your Mac is starting and keep holding those keys until you see the Apple logo or a spinning globe.

If you are successful with getting into Recovery mode, run Disk Utility and fix your disk so you can recover your data. But if you get to this point, make sure that you have an external disk ready to back up your files.

Never use your sickly drive to avoid overwriting files that are already in it including your lost files. This will make then basically unrecoverable. After plugging your external drive, use it as your boot drive to recover your lost files.

The takeaway

There are several ways and tools to recover deleted documents from Mac, so don’t be afraid to explore your options before giving up.

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