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Hard Drive Recovery on Mac: Recover Files from Internal or External Drives

Data recovery on a Mac hard drive can be tricky. The good news is, we are going to show you several methods you can use to rescue your data or repair your hard drive. When you need to recover files from a Mac hard drive – either internal or external, Disk Drill can help you get your data back quickly. macOS Big Sur Ready!
For successful hard drive recovery on your Mac, it has to be able to spin up and respond. However, as long as the hard drive can be mounted onto Mac OS X, even with physical damage on the drive, Disk Drill can help!

Depending on the seriousness of the disaster, you might be able to see some files and folders on your hard drive, or the disk may become not partitioned, formatted, corrupted, etc. The good news is that Disk Drill can help you to find lost partitions, rebuild HFS+ catalog files and recover the lost data.

Below is an overview of the steps you can take with our hard drive recovery software for Mac. For detailed tutorials, see How to Install Disk Drill and How to Recover Lost Files with Disk Drill Basic in our Knowledgebase. Note that there are special steps you should take if you are trying to recover files from your Mac's internal hard drive. Also, disk physical damage may substantially lower the success rate of the hard drive recovery.

Follow these steps to recover deleted files from Mac hard drive

1. Download and Install Disk Drill for Mac

So you downloaded your copy of Disk Drill hard drive recovery software for Mac, and deployed it to your Applications menu. On the first launch you will need to install the new driver, which is required for correct hard drive recovery on Mac OS X. Enter your administrator password. After that you are ready to go!
recover deleted files from mac

2. Verify disk condition

As mentioned before, physical damage to your storage device is no help with software-based data recovery. If the target disk got bad sectors, or electronic controller fails in some operations, it's not much that can be done by Disk Drill with data stored in affected disk areas. However, before that happens, if you suspect an improper disk behavior, ticking sounds, slow read/write operations, we recommend using Disk Drill's supplemental free tool that helps anyone create a byte-to-byte disk image in a DMG (or ISO) format.

Just proceed with "Backup / Backup into DMG-image". The unique aspect of the byte-to-byte backups is the fact they actually store the contents of data sectors that were marked as empty, not occupied by data. Yes, you get it right, the sectors where your lost data can still reside. Once the backup disk image is created, you may start your hard drive recovery from the image instead of the real hardware. This will ensure the final failure will not occur while Deep Scanning, more data stays safe and potentially recoverable.
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3. Recovering from your system (root) drive

If you are planning to do hard drive recovery from your system Mac drive, the one you are booted from, chances are more recoverable data gets lost completely by overwriting with various system activities being run in the background when you boot, launch apps, etc. If you cannot connect the hard drive with lost data to another computer and run the recovery there, we recommend creating a bootable data recovery drive and running Disk Drill off it. The "Create boot drive" wizard will guide you through the process. It takes a few minutes to maximize your data recovery chances. If creating a bootable Mac USB drive is not an option, proceed in a regular way.
recover hard drive mac

4. Connect the Storage Device

When recovering an external device, you need to connect the external HDD or SSD to your computer. Your selected drive will be displayed in Disk Drill’s list of volumes available for recovery. Clicking on the drive lets you view specific partitions on the disk. Be advised that recovering an SSD requires additional steps when performing the recovery which we outline in the FAQs at the end of this page.
recover files from external hard drive mac

5. Choose Your Disk From the List

Disk Drill has several powerful methods for hard drive recovery on Mac OS X. The ones available to you will be determined by the file system of the hard drive and whether it is formatted at all or not. You can choose to scan the entire drive or just one partition. If you choose the whole drive, Disk Drill will use Deep Scan to analyze the whole disk as one entity with a raw file system, meaning it'll analyze every bit of it in a binary mode. However, this takes the longest, so if the partition that contained your deleted data is available, you may want to select that first.
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6. Select Scanning Method

If you are just learning how to recover from a Mac hard drive, the simplest way to start the recovery process is to click the "Recover" button next to the volume you want to scan. It will automatically go through all available scanning methods one by one. But if you have a particular scanning method you wish to try, you can click the drop-down arrow on the “Recover” button to select an individual scan.

As discussed in the previous step, you can either go on with Deep Scan (which takes the longest but is the most thorough) or Quick Scan (if your data was recently lost and you have an APFS, HFS+, FAT, exFAT or NTFS disk). If you had Disk Drill installed before you lost data, and you had Guaranteed Recovery or Recovery Vault enabled, you may be able to use our most reliable recovery method: Undelete Protected Data.
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7. Wait until the software finishes scanning process

Depending on the scanning method you selected you will need to wait from 1 minute to may be several hours, if you are using Deep Scan to recover your hard drive. The scanning speed may also be slower if you need to recover files from external hard drive on Mac. Since Disk Drill reads every bit of the hard drive, scanning might be long, but as effective as possible.
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8. Recover From Mac Hard Drive

Once the scanning is complete, you will see the list of found files. Sometimes these files can still be corrupted. This means that another application may have overwritten a block of bits and the whole file structure is lost. Unfortunately there's no way to prevent this. In reality, data recovery on Mac is mostly about luck! (The one exception to this is Guaranteed Recovery.) Click the "eye" icon next to each name to Preview the file to determine if the file is intact.

When you are ready, select the files and click the "Recover" button. Upgrade to Disk Drill PRO if needed. Make sure the recovery destination is outside of the hard drive you are recovering from. Wait until all the recovered files are copied to the new media.
So now you know how Disk Drill can help you with Mac hard drive recovery. What are you waiting for? Download the free version of Disk Drill today.

Why You Need Hard Drive Data Recovery for Mac

Disk Drill is a reliable software tool that can help you recover lost data on your Mac. Here are some of the data loss situations that Disk Drill can resolve.
  • Data Deleted From a Hard Drive
    Data Deleted From a Hard Drive
    Disk Drill scans the hard drive and recovers lost data with a few clicks. It can even restore files that have been emptied from your Mac’s Trash Can.
  • Accidentally Formatted Disk
    Accidentally Formatted Disk
    Formatting a disk can result in the loss of a large amount of data. Recovery software can restore lost files and folders from formatted disks.
  • Faulty OS Installation or Upgrade
    Faulty OS Installation or Upgrade
    You can lose files from operating system installations or upgrades that don’t go well. With data recovery software, you can get those files back quickly.
  • Damaged Hard Drive
    Damaged Hard Drive
    If your operating system can recognize a damaged hard drive, you can use data recovery software to retrieve its data. Save it to a new device when restoring.
  • Lost Partitions
    Lost Partitions
    You can lose a partition and its files due to inadvertent formatting or a virus infection. Recovery software is the most reliable way to get your data back.
  • Filesystem Corruption
    Filesystem Corruption
    Filesystems can become corrupted for a variety of reasons, making it impossible to access their data. Disk Drill can recover these files with its scanning technology.

Recover Deleted Mac Data From any Type of Hard Drive

Disk Drill can be used to recover data from any type of hard drive. It can easily restore files and folders from internal or external drives from all manufacturers.
  • Internal hard drive
    Internal Hard Drive
    Seagate®, Western Digital®, Toshiba®, G-Technology®
  • External hard drive
    External Hard Drive
    Maxone®, KESU®, Silicon Power®, LaCie®
  • Hybrid Hard Drive
    Hybrid Hard Drive
    Seagate®, WD®, Fantom Drives®, Dell®
  • USB Flash Drive
    USB Flash Drive
    Samsung®, SanDisk®, Kingston®, Corsair®
  • SD CF Card
    SD / CF Card
    Lexar®, Hoodman®, Delkin®, Lexar®
  • Other
    Other
    Sony®, Transcend®, LG®, ADATA®

File Types Supported for Hard Drive Recovery

Disk Drill can recover over 400 different file types through its deep scanning technology. It effectively recovers just about any kind of file with a few clicks in its user-friendly interface.
  • Video
    Video
    DIR (Adobe Director Movie), M4V (iTunes video), MP4 (MPEG-4 video), MPG (MPEG video), MOV (Apple QuickTime movie), M4P (iTunes Music Store audio), SWF (Flash movie)
    and more
  • Audio
    Audio
    AAC (Advanced Audio Coding), AU (Audacity audio files), CAF (Core Audio File) MP3 (MPEG Audio Stream, Layer III), M4A (Apple Lossless Audio), OGG (Ogg Vorbis Compressed audio file), WAV (DTS-WAV) and more
  • Images
    Images
    BMP, JPEG, JP2, GIF, TIFF, PSP, DNG (Digital Negative), SRW (Samsung camera RAW image), VSD (Visio Drawing file). Polaroid/Sigma: X3F. Mac OS X Icon: ICNS. Adobe: AI, IDML, INDB, INDD, PSD and more
  • Documents
    Documents
    EMLX (Apple Mail Message), ICS (iCalendar), PDF (Portable Document Format), IPA (iPhone or iPod Touch Application), NUMBERS (Apple iWork Numbers), DOCX (Microsoft Word)
    and more
  • Archives
    Archives
    ZIP (Extended Zip File), RAR (WinRAR Compressed Archive), JAR (Java Archive), DMG (Mac OS X Disk Image), ISO (ISO-9660 CD Disc Image), 7Z (7-Zip Compressed), MBX (Apple Mail mailbox file) and more
  • Other Files
    Other Files
    ACCDB (Microsoft Database), DD (Forensic DD images), ISO (Uncompressed disk images), SQL (bundled SQL queries), OTF (OpenType Font),BIN (Generic disk images), VMDK (Virtual VMWare disks) and more

Ways to Recover Mac Data From an External Hard Drive Without Software

There are several methods that you can try to retrieve your files without using data recovery software. Your ability to use them depends on how you use your computer, protect your data, and the extent of damage to the external device.

Recovering Data From Your Mac’s Trash

If the external hard drive was connected to your Mac when the files were lost, you may be able to get them back from your Mac’s Trash Can. Just follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Trash’s icon to open it.
  2. Locate the item you wish to restore.
  3. Right-click on the file or folder and select Put Back to recover it to its original location.
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Restore With a Backup

Recovering lost data from backup media is a solution that requires you to have created a copy of your data. The macOS provides a free backup and recovery tool called Time Machine that you should consider using if you are not doing so already. To recover deleted data with Time Machine, use the following steps.

  1. Connect the storage media with the Time Machine backup to your computer.
  2. Open a Finder window and navigate to the folder that contained the lost data.
  3. Click on the clock icon on the menu bar to open Time Machine and select the Enter Time Machine option.
  4. Find the items and specific versions of the item you want to be recovered from within Time Machine.
  5. Choose the item you want to recover. You can hit the Spacebar if you want to preview the file before recovery.
  6. Click Restore to restore your data.
restore files from external hard drive mac

Use a Mac Hard Drive Recovery Service

Physical damage can make it impossible for your Mac’s operating system to recognize a disk. In these cases, your best bet is to use a reliable data recovery service. These are the basic steps to follow if you need to perform this kind of recovery.

  1. Contact the recovery service to get details regarding shipping the drive to the vendor. At this time you should be able to get an estimate of the recovery cost.
  2. Ship the device to the service center. The center’s technicians will use specialized equipment in an environmentally-controlled clean room to disassemble the device and clone it to recover its data.
  3. Once recovery is complete, your data will be returned and the original device will be destroyed. There will be no charge from a reputable recovery service if they fail to recover your data.
internal hard drive data recovery mac

Tips to maximize the chance of successful data recovery

Try these tips to give you the best chance of successfully performing an external hard drive recovery on your Mac.
  • Stop using the device
    Stop using the device
    The most important action you can take when experiencing data loss is to stop using the device as soon as possible to avoid files being corrupted or overwritten.
  • Allow data transfers to complete
    Allow data transfers to complete
    Don’t disconnect an external hard drive from your computer until you are certain that any file transfers have completed to avoid corrupting your data.
  • Dont reformat the hard disk
    Don’t reformat the hard disk
    Avoid reformatting the hard disk until you have attempted recovery with Disk Drill. After the recovery is complete you can reformat the drive for further use.
  • Watch battery levels
    Watch battery levels
    If you are using a laptop on its battery, make sure that you have enough power to finish any file transfers before starting any processes with the external drive.
  • Save data to a new device
    Save data to a new device
    Do not use the device that experienced data loss for storing data recovered with Disk Drill. Doing so increases the chance you will corrupt or overwrite your files.
  • Use a reliable brand of hard drive
    Use a reliable brand of hard drive
    Try to avoid purchasing inferior quality external hard drives. The financial savings may be offset by problems with the device that lead to data loss situations.

Bonus Tips for Repairing a Damaged or Corrupted Hard Drive

Here are some methods you can try to attempt a home repair of a damaged hard drive.

Restart your Mac in recovery mode

  1. Click the Apple logo at the top left of your screen.
  2. Select Restart.
  3. Hold down the Command and R keys until the Apple logo or spinning globe appears.
  4. Select Disk Utility from the macOS Utilities screen.
retrieve data from external hard drive mac

Use the fsck utility - Files System Consistency Check

  1. Click the Apple logo at the top left of your screen.
  2. Select Restart.
  3. Hold down the Command and S keys until you see the command prompt.
  4. Type fsck -fy.
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Use Disk Utility to repair a drive

  1. Open Disk Utility which is in your Mac’s Utilities folder.
  2. Select the disk from the list of volumes presented.
  3. Click on First Aid.
  4. Click Run. Disk Utility will attempt to repair errors found on the disk.
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Connect the drive to another computer

Connecting the drive to another computer may allow you to access the device. If so, you can use Mac utilities to repair the drive or data recovery software to restore its data.
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Format the drive with the HFS file system

Try formatting the drive with the HFS file system so it can be reused with these steps:

  1. Open Disk Utility from your Mac’s Utilities folder.
  2. Select the drive you wish to format.
  3. Click the Erase button.
  4. Choose OS X Extended as the file system.
mac hard drive recovery

Technical Specifications for Disk Drill for Mac

  • OS support
    OS support:
    Versions of Disk Drill are available for all versions of macOS from 10.5 through the newest version 11.0 named Big Sur.
  • Files Systems Supported
    Files Systems Supported:
    FAT/FAT32/exFAT, NTFS, HFS & HFS+, APFS, EXT3/EXT4 and any RAW disk
  • Hardware Requirements
    Hardware Requirements:
    Disk Space: 150 Mb minimum free space
    CPU: at least with x86
    RAM: at least 128MB

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated on by Disk Drill Team

Solid-state drives (SSDs) provide higher access speeds and are using in many newer Apple Macintosh computers. Here is the procedure to use to recover deleted data from an SSD drive that has TRIM disabled. If TRIM is enabled on your MacBook Air, MacBook Pro or iMac, recovery is not possible without a backup of your data.

  1. Turn off the Mac as soon as you realize you have lost some data.
  2. Use another Mac to download and install Disk Drill. This will be known as the host machine.
  3. Restart the affected Mac in Target Disk Mode and connect it to the host computer.
  4. Use Disk Drill to create a byte-level backup of the SSD drive to be used to recover its data.
  5. If you cannot create the byte-level backup, scan the affected Mac using Disk Drill from the host computer.
  6. Allow the scanning process to complete and restore the recoverable data that the application has found.

Another option is to create a bootable disk and boot your Mac from it so you bypasses the SSD disk. You are trying to preserve the data on the disk, so you don’t want to use it to boot your computer.

To recover files from your Mac’s hard drive follow these steps:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill Data Recovery Software for Mac on a different disk than the one you will recover.
  2. Launch the app and select the drive.
  3. Click Recover to start scanning the drive for files on your Mac.
  4. Review the list of recoverable files.
  5. Select the files you want and click Recover to restore them.

Here are the best Mac hard drive recovery software solutions.

  • Disk Drill for Mac
  • TestDisk
  • PhotoRec
  • Minitool Mac Data Recovery Personal
  • M3 Mac Data Recovery

Yes, you can with Disk Drill recovery software with these simple steps.

  1. Download, and install Disk Drill.
  2. Launch the app and select the hard drive.
  3. Click Recover to start scanning for lost data.
  4. Preview the files that can be recovered.
  5. Click Recover again to perform the recovery.
The best way to recover files from an unbootable external hard drive is with Disk Drill recovery software. Connect the drive to your Mac and let the application recover your data.
A hard drive recovery process is a procedure that is used to restore files that have been deleted from a hard drive. Data recovery software is often used in the recovery process which can be performed by general computer users. In cases of severe damage, the drive may need to be sent to a professional data recovery center.

You can fix a corrupted hard drive by reformatting it with the following procedure.

  1. Connect the external drive to your Mac.
  2. Open Disk Utility.
  3. Choose the external hard drive.
  4. Click the Erase button after selecting the format.

There are several reasons your Mac may not recognize your external hard drive. They include:

  • Malfunctioning cable or USB port;
  • Finder settings need to be updated to display external disks;
  • The drive is not mounted. You can mount it with Disk Utility.

Use these steps to force your Mac to mount an external hard drive using the command line.

  1. Use the diskutil list command to find the drive you need to mount.
  2. Enter the command diskutil mount "disk name".
  3. The command will return verification that the drive has been mounted.

Disk Drill is the best hard drive recovery software you can obtain for your Mac. It combines powerful recovery technology with an intuitive and easy to use interface to offer a versatile tool that can be used by anyone with a Mac. Quickly recover lost or deleted files from your hard drive with just a few clicks using Disk Drill.

To recover lost files from an external hard drive on Mac:

Step 1. Download, install and launch Disk Drill Data Recovery Software for Mac.

Step 2. Connect the external drive to your computer.

Step 3. Select the external drive from the disk list.

Step 4. Click the Recover button to look for files.

Step 5. Preview the files that can be restored and make your selections.

Step 6. Click Recover again to retrieve the selected files from external hard drive on Mac.

You need to resolve the issue so macOS recognizes the drive before attempting recovery. You can try:

  1. Reconnecting the device to another port;
  2. Rebooting your Mac;
  3. Checking for a damaged cable or interface;
  4. Using a direct connection rather than a hub;
  5. Updating your Finder preferences to show external drives;
  6. Running Disk Utility and attempting to mount and verify the drive.

To recover from a damaged or failing hard drive:

  1. Use Disk Drill to create a byte-level backup of the drive and preserve it from further damage.
  2. Connect the backup media to your computer and launch Disk Drill.
  3. Attach the byte-level backup by selecting Backup -> Attach non-mountable images.
  4. Select the backup disk and click Recover.
  5. Preview and select the files to be restored.
  6. Click Recover again to perform the recovery.

To restore files from your Mac’s disk follow these steps:

  1. Open Disk Utility application on your Mac.
  2. Choose View > Show All Devices.
  3. In the sidebar, select the volume and copy any files you want to restore, then click the Restore button.
  4. This is the volume that is deleted and becomes the exact copy.
  5. Click the Restore, then choose the volume you want to copy.
  6. Click Restore to recover your deleted files, then click Done.
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