Even though Apple makes the most reliable laptops in the world (there are consumer surveys that say so), MacBook data recovery is a topic that most Mac users have researched at some point, only to find solutions that don’t work and tutorials that are difficult to follow. With this article, we want to explain everything there is to know about MacBook Pro data recovery to help Mac users of all walks of life recover all data with ease.

recover deleted files from a macbook tutorial

Ways to Recover Data from a MacBook Pro Hard Drive

It doesn’t matter if you have an older MacBook Pro with a spinning hard drive (HDD or a new MacBook Pro with a fast solid-state drive (SSD)), after reading this chapter, you’ll know exactly what to do to recover your data on Mac.

Way 1: Restart Your MacBook in Recovery

Recovery Mode in macOS provides convenient access to useful recovery tools, including Time Machine, Apple’s backup software application. Assuming that you had activated Time Machine prior to losing your data, you can use it to go back in time and recover files that are no longer present on your MacBook computer.

Follow these steps to recover data from your MacBook Pro with Time Machine:

  1. Reboot into Recovery by restarting your MacBook and holding down the Command + R until you see an Apple logo or spinning globe. M1 mac users should follow this instruction.
  2. Select the Restore From Time Machine Backup option and click Continue.data recovery from a Time Machine backup on a MacBook
  3. Read the information about restoring from a Time Machine backup and click Continue.macbook file recovery using Time Machine
  4. Select the disk that contains your Time Machine backup and click Continue.data recovery process on a MacBook pro from backup
  5. Select the Time Machine backup you want to restore and click Continue to begin the restore.Time Machine backup

Way 2: Recover Data by Using a Bootable Mac Data Recovery Software (Without Backup)

As you may know, there are many data recovery software applications available for Mac computers, and they all promise to recover your lost data. But what if you can’t use them because your MacBook Pro refuses to boot properly and you don’t have a backup that you could recover it from?

In that case, you should recover your data using bootable Mac data recovery software such as Disk Drill, which lets you create a USB boot drive for recovery on any working Mac so you can recover your data without booting into macOS.

Disk Drill 4

Here’s how bootable recovery works in the latest version of Disk Drill (version 4):

  1. Click on the Apple logo at the top left of the screen.
  2. Choose the Restart option.
  3. Hold down Command (⌘) and R as soon as you see an Apple logo or spinning globe to start your Mac in Recovery Mode. You can also try holding down Option (⌥) + Command (⌘) + R to use Recovery over the internet.
  4. Click the “Utilities” menu and launch the Terminal app.open terminal in macbook pro recovery
  5. Enter the following command and press enter: sh <(curl http://www.cleverfiles.com/bootmode/boot.xmlenter terminal command to launch disk drill
  6. Wait for Disk Drill to be downloaded from the internet and automatically launched.
  7. Select the storage device you want to recover (your Mac’s main hard drive, most likely) and click the Scan for lost data button.macbook pro recovery mode disk drill
  8. Wait until Disk Drill finishes analyzing the drive.wait for disk drill to finish scan macbook pro
  9. Select each file you want to recover.
  10. Click the Recover button to restore your files to a safe location.restore files from macbook pro via disk drill

Disk Drill 3

If you’re still using Disk Drill 3, you can follow these instructions instead:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill on a working Mac.
    Disk Drill
    Data recovery for free
    Your Companion for Deleted Files Recovery
  2. Plug in an external USB flash drive. Make sure the flash drive is empty.
  3. Open Disk Drill, click the Create boot drive option in the top menu, select Boot drive for data recovery.
    macbook data recovery bootable drive
  4. Select the Recovery partition of your Mac (it should be called Recovery) and click Use as Source.
    macbook pro data recovery boot drive
  5. Click the Make Bootable option next to the destination drive. data recovery macbook pro boot drive
  6. Restart your Mac and press Option (⌥) or Alt during boot. Choose your Disk Drill Boot flash drive.macbook file recovery bootable drive
  7. Select Disk Drill from the list of available options.data recovery macbook bootable drive
  8. Click the Recover button next to your Mac’s hard drive.macbook data recovery disk drill bootable
  9. Wait until Disk Drill finishes analyzing the drive.
  10. Select each file you want to recover.
  11. Specify the recovery directory and click the Recover button to recover the selected files.macbook pro data recovery disk drill bootable

Way 3: Retrieve Mac Data by Using Target Disk Mode

Truth be told, not all MacBooks are easy to take apart and service. For example, iFixit gave the latest MacBook Pro a repairability rating of just 1 out of 10 (10 is easiest to repair), stating that Apple still has a long way to go when it comes to designing serviceable devices. That’s bad news for those who would like to recover data from a MacBook Pro that doesn’t want to boot but don’t feel confident enough to take it apart.

Fortunately, Apple has a solution, and it’s called Target Disk Mode. Simply put, Target Disk Mode can turn your Mac into an external storage device that you can access from another Mac using Thunderbolt or FireWire. This means that you can retrieve lost data from an unbootable Mac using data recovery software running on a different Mac. Disk Drill is a great choice because a single Disk Drill activation code works on up to three computers.

Follow these steps to retrieve your data using Target Disk Mode:

  1. Connect your Mac with another Mac using a FireWire or Thunderbolt cable.
  2. Turn off your Mac and start it up while pressing and holding the T key. You can also activate Target Disk Mode by going to Apple menu > System Preferences > Startup Disk > Target Disk Mode.restart macbook pro in target disk mode
  3. Download, install, and launch Disk Drill on the working Mac and recover your data just like you would normally (see the next chapter for step-by-step instructions).
    Disk Drill
    Data recovery for free
    Your Companion for Deleted Files Recovery

Way 4: Restore Data Using Time Machine

Since Mac OS X Leopard, all MacBook Pro users can use what’s arguably the most user-friendly backup and versioning software for macOS: Time Machine. If you already do, you’re in luck because Time Machine makes restoring lost or accidentally deleted data a breeze. Best of all, you can choose specifically which files you want to get back, so there’s no need to restore many GB of data just to recover a single document.

Follow these steps to restore your data using Time Machine:

  1. Connect your Time Machine backup disk to your Mac.
  2. Open the folder that contained the deleted data. For example, if the data was in your Documents folder, open Finder and select Documents from the sidebar on the left.
  3. Click the Time Machine icon located in the Menu Bar and choose Enter Time Machine.macbook file recovery time machine
  4. Locate the data you want to recover using the timeline on the right edge of the screen.
  5. Click Restore to restore the selected files.macbook data recovery time machine

Way 5: Recover Data from Backup or Cloud Storage Services

There are many different ways of backing up important data on a Mac. Some users enjoy the convenience of cloud storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive. Recovering data from such services is typically straightforward because you can log in to your cloud storage account from any computer and download your data with a simple click.

Other users prefer to create byte-to-byte disk images (DMG) using the backup feature included in Disk Drill or specialized backup software applications like Acronis True Image, and Carbon Copy Cloner. To recover your data from a backup image, you simply locate it and double-click the DMG file to open it and mount it to your Mac.

If that doesn’t work, you can try to attach the non-mountable disk image with the help of Disk Drill:

  1. Launch Disk Drill.
  2. Select the “Storage devices” option from the left panel and click “Attach disk image…” at the bottom of the main window.macbook file recovery non-mountable image
  3. Select the backup image and click Attach.data recovery macbook pro DMG file
  4. Recover your data.

Ways to Restore Data from Crashed/Dead MacBook Pro Hard Drive

If you visit Apple’s official forums, you can find many threads created by MacBook Pro owners who have lost important data because of a sudden hard drive failure. In many of these cases, data recovery is still possible, but it requires special hard drive recovery software or even the help of data recovery professionals.

Way 1: Using Data Recovery Software

A capable data recovery software application like Disk Drill is able to detect and rebuild a lost Mac partition and recover files that many lesser data recovery MacBook Pro software applications would consider to be unrecoverable.

Follow these steps to recover your data with Disk Drill:

  1. Install Disk Drill on your MacBook Pro. 
    Disk Drill
    Data recovery for free
    Your Companion for Deleted Files Recovery
  2. Launch Disk Drill and click the Search for lost data button next to the hard drive on which they were stored. Disk Drill will automatically select the most appropriate recovery method and attempt to fix common issues.data recovery macbook
  3. Wait until Disk Drill finishes analyzing the drive.
  4. Select the files you want to recover. Use the preview feature to preview them before recovery.
  5. Click the Recover button to recover the selected files.macbook data recovery disk drill

Way 2: Data Recovery Service

Even though modern data recovery software applications like Disk Drill can do wonders, there are some data loss scenarios that can only be solved by data recovery experts.

For example, if you have a MacBook Pro whose hard drive has suffered a mechanical failure and is no longer spinning, you won’t be able to recover any data from it without first repairing it, which requires a dust-free environment, the proper tools, and plenty of experience.

Follow these steps to have professionals recover your data for you:

  1. You initiate a work order with the CleverFiles data recovery center.
  2. Remove the hard drive from your MacBook Pro.
  3. Pack and ship the hard drive to the provided address.
  4. Wait for the lost data to be recovered and securely shipped back to you.

Tips for Better MacBook Pro Data Recovery

how to get files off a dead macbook

If you haven’t yet had a reason to learn about data recovery MacBook solutions, you can be sure that there will come a time in your life when MacBook data recovery will be the only thing on your mind. Recognizing that data loss is an inevitable fact of life, you should do whatever you can to prepare your self for it.

While some data is impossible to recover no matter what, most data loss scenarios can be solved relatively easily as long as you keep in mind certain basic data recovery dos and don’ts. Here are five tips that are guaranteed to help you get your files back.

1. Create a Backup in Advance

Backups make it very easy to recover accidentally deleted or lost data. Depending on your needs, you can either backup your entire MacBook Pro hard drive or just the most important files and folders. As a Mac user, you already have an excellent backup solution installed on your system—Time Machine. However, you can also explore other backup options, such as those that are included for free in Disk Drill.

2. Don’t Defragment Before Recovery

Defragmentation won’t help you recover your files. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed to make easily recoverable files impossible to retrieve. Why? Because files are moved during defragmentation and organized into the smallest number of contiguous regions, overwriting the space occupied by the very same files you’re trying to recover. Besides, modern SSDs don’t even benefit from defragmentation, so there’s no reason to bother with it in the first place.

3. Never Write New Data to the Place Containing Lost Data

Deleted files are recoverable until they are overwritten by new data. To prevent this from happening, don’t write any new data to the place containing lost data until you finish their recovery. Even if you have plenty of free storage space left on your MacBook Pro, you never know where it decides to write new data.

4. Limit the Use of Your MacBook Pro

For the same reason you shouldn’t write new data to the place containing lost data, you should also limit the use of your MacBook Pro as much as possible. Ideally, don’t use it at all until you’re ready to begin the data recovery process. If you don’t already have a data recovery software application like Disk Drill installed on your MacBook Pro, consider removing your machine’s hard drive so that you can connect it to another Mac.

5. Use the Best MacBook Pro data Recovery Solution Available

The market is saturated with data recovery MacBook Pro software solutions, but not all of them perform equally well. Truth be told, some do more harm than good, which is why it’s so important to use the best MacBook Pro data recovery solution available. In this article, we’ve described data recovery with Disk Drill, which combines professional performance with the ease-of-use of Apple’s own software applications.


Despite owning the most reliable laptops in the world, most MacBook Pro users have at least some experience with data loss. The good news is that losing an important file on a MacBook Pro isn’t the end of the world because you can easily recover it using Disk Drill and other methods described in this article.


David Morelo

David Morelo is a professional content writer specializing in the technology niche, covering a wide range of topics from consumer products to emerging technologies and their cross-industry applications. His passion for te...

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Approved by
Brett Johnson

This article has been approved by Brett Johnson, Data Recovery Engineer at ACE Data Recovery. Brett has a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Systems and Network, 12 years of experience.