How to Recover Lost Files on Your Mac OS X

There is nothing worse than deleting a file by mistake. But don't despair! 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!

Read on for a brief overview of the steps. 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

If you haven't done so already, download the free Disk Drill application. It requires Mac OS 10.6.8 or later. Once it has downloaded, double-click the "diskdrill.dmg" file in your Downloads folder. 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

Launch Disk Drill. If this is your first time launching Disk Drill, you will be asked some questions. We recommend leaving the first three boxes checked, but uncheck the last box to skip the tour. Enter your administrative password so that Disk Drill has permission to scan your drive. On the next screen, you will be asked if you want to upgrade to Disk Drill PRO. Click "No thanks. Basic edition is OK." You can decide whether or not to upgrade after you see the scan results.

#4 Select the Drive To Be Scanned

You should see a list of the drives and devices available to be scanned. Select the drive (and then the partition if necessary) that you wish to recover your deleted files from. If you are new to recovering files on the Mac, you may want to simply click the "Recover" button next to the volume you wish to scan. This will automatically go through all the available scanning methods one by one. If you have a specific type of scan you wish to try, simply click the drop-down arrow on the "Recover" button to select a particular method, as outlined below.

#5 Undelete Protected Data

Undelete Protected Data is an effective and powerful method to recover files on the Mac. It is only available if you had Disk Drill installed before you lost your data - and you had either Recovery Vault or Guaranteed Recovery enabled to protect the volume that you lost data on. If you had these data protection features enabled, the chance of a successful recovery is high.

#6 Quick Scan for Deleted Files

If you can't Undelete Protected Data, Quick Scan is your next best option. Quick Scan is a powerful tool that allows you to recover your files with their metadata intact - including file names. It can now be used on HFS/HFS+ file systems (the most common type of system for Mac internal disk drives), as well as FAT and NTFS file systems. Note: If Quick Scan is grayed out, or if it didn't locate the files you need, try Deep Scan, which may recover files Quick Scan could not.

#7 Deep Scan for Lost Data

If you were unable to use Undelete Protected Data or Quick Scan, or if those scans didn't recover the files you needed, don't lose all hope. Deep Scan may still be able to recover the deleted files on your Mac. Deep Scans take quite a bit longer, so be prepared to wait awhile for it to finish. Note that deleted files recovered by Deep Scan will probably not have their original file names - they are instead assigned generic file names such as "file123.doc," or, if there is some meta-info available, they might be named according to some of their file properties, such as a photo being named by its dimensions like "1920x1200.jpg".

#8 Select Your Deleted Files

At the end of a scan, Disk Drill will show a complete list of the deleted files it was able to find. There are several ways to sort the results to make finding the particular lost files you need easier:

  • 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. Once you have found the deleted files you wish to recover, check the box next to each file name.

#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.

I'm so glad with Disk Drill I can recover my files now! I'm losing/deleting things all the time :P Try it :) - James Thornton-Mason
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