How to Recover Lost Files on Your Mac OS X

We know how awful it is to delete a file by mistake. But don’t give up! Disk Drill is the fast and easy way to recover deleted files on Mac OS X. You can recover deleted files from your internal hard drive and almost any other type of storage device you can connect to your Mac.

Disk Drill has several powerful scanning techniques that can recover lost files on your Mac - even from failing drives. Whether you need to learn how to recover files on your Mac today, or you want ongoing data protection, Disk Drill is a great solution.

Quick recovery is possible for all major file systems including HFS+, FAT and NTFS. It has never been easier to recover a deleted file on your Mac - and best of all, you can scan your hard drive or device and see which files can be recovered for free!

Below is a brief overview of how to recover your Mac files. For detailed tutorials, see How to Install Disk Drill and How to Recover Lost Files with Disk Drill Basic in our Knowledgebase.

#1 Download and Install Disk Drill

The first step is to download the free Disk Drill application from our website. It requires Mac OS 10.6.8 or later. After downloading, find the "diskdrill.dmg" file in your Downloads folder and double-click on it. Drag the Disk Drill icon to your Applications folder when prompted.

#2 Connect Your Device to Your Mac

If you need to recover deleted files on an external device, connect it to your Mac now. Skip this step if you wish to recover a deleted file on your Mac's internal hard drive.

#3 Launch Disk Drill Application

Once Disk Drill is installed, go ahead and launch it. In the first window that pops up, we suggest leaving the first three boxes checked. Next, to give Disk Drill permission to scan your drive, you will need to enter your computer’s administrative password. When you get to the screen that asks if you wish to upgrade, select “No thanks. Basic edition is OK.” After you review the scan results and confirm that it has found your deleted files, you can proceed with upgrading.

#4 Select the Drive To Be Scanned

In the main Disk Drill window, there will be a list of the drives connected to your computer. Select the drive that you need to recover deleted files from and then click the “Recover” button next to it. That’s it. Disk Drill will run through all of its scanning methods without you having to do another thing. However, if you are an advanced user and have a particular scanning in method in mind to recover the files on your Mac, you can click the drop-down arrow on the Recover button to select the method of your choice.

#5 Undelete Protected Data

If you had Disk Drill installed before you deleted your files, then you may have had one of Disk Drill’s data protection features turned on -- either Recovery Vault or Guaranteed Recovery. These powerful deleted file recovery tools make it much more likely that you can recover your data. When you click the Recover button, this is the first method Disk Drill will try. If it can’t used this method, it will proceed to Quick Scan.

#6 Quick Scan for Deleted Files

If you can't Undelete Protected Data, Quick Scan is your next best option. The best thing about the Quick Scan method is that it can recover files with its metadata intact (including file names). This method can be used to recover deleted files on HFS/HFS+, FAT and NTFS file systems. However, if Quick Scan fails to turn up your files, Deep scan is the last (and most powerful) method.

#7 Deep Scan for Lost Data

Deep Scan can help you recover deleted files on your Mac when all other methods fail. It scans your entire drive or partition at a binary level. The scan may take several hours, depending on the size of your drive. The only drawback to Deep Scan is that it is unable to recover the metadata for your files, so original file names are lost. Instead, they will have a generic name like file567.doc, or if Disk Drill can retrieve some meta-info, it might be named according to its file type, such 1920x1200.jpg for a photo file. Once the scan is complete, you can sort and preview the files to find the deleted files you were looking for.

#8 Select Your Deleted Files

When Disk Drill is done scanning, you will be shown a list of the files it has found. If you are looking for certain files, you can sort the results to narrow down the number of files shown:

  • You can search for filenames by typing a keyword into the box with the magnifying glass on the upper left. (Filenames are not preserved with Deep Scan, so you will need to narrow your results by date and file type.)
  • You can also adjust the time to show only the files deleted within the last few days or weeks.
  • Click on any of the column headers to sort the list by that value.
When you find a potential file, click the "eye" icon next to the name to preview it. Some files may be corrupt, so previewing is the only way to know if the file is fully recoverable. After you have identified the deleted files on your Mac that you wish to recover, check the boxes next to their names.

#9 Recover Your Deleted Files

Once you have selected your files, select the location where you want to store the recovered files and then click the Recover button in the upper-right corner. If you are using Quick Scan or Deep Scan and have not upgraded to the PRO version of Disk Drill yet, you will be prompted to do so. Once you complete your upgrade, click Recover to begin the recovery of your deleted Mac files.

Congratulations! You now know how to recover files on your Mac OS X. Download Disk Drill Basic for free to get started right away.

Accidentally deleted my comic-con photos. Restored them with ease using Disk Drill. #lifesaver - Kelly Abbott