There are a number of ways that you can experience a data loss event while working with your Mac. You might find that files are missing after an application or operating system upgrade. Perhaps you inadvertently deleted some important files from your computer while trying to clean up your hard drive. Formatting a USB or flash drive by mistake can definitely lead to a number of deleted files.
We are going to look at two methods of recovering replaced files on a Mac.
- How to Recover Overwritten Files on a Mac with Time Machine
- How to Recover Replaced Files on a Mac without Time Machine
Another way you might lose a file is by overwriting it. This can happen accidentally or purposefully while working with an application. It can also occur if you are sorting through files and renaming them. At some point when you are saving a file you will be prompted by the app or operating system to replace or overwrite a file with the same name. You might click Yes when you really meant No. It’s over in a second and now you have destroyed a valuable file.
You can’t take advantage of the built-in safeguards that the macOS provides to address deleted files. A file that is deleted is first moved to the Trash where it is easily recovered. This luxury does not exist for the overwritten file. You won’t find it in the Trash because the operating system only logically recognizes the newly created file that has the old file’s name.
As far as the OS is concerned, the original file no longer exists. How can you recover a replaced file on a Mac?
#1 Recover Overwritten Files on a Mac with Time Machine
If you follow best practices you should be performing regular backups of your Mac. Time Machine, the backup and recovery tool that is part of macOS, provides an easy way to protect your data for just this type of occasion. Unless the original file was created after your last backup, you should have a copy of it in Time Machine.
To recover a replaced file using Time Machine:
- Connect the storage media that holds the Time Machine backups to your computer.
- Navigate to the folder that contained the file you want to restore.
- Click on the Time Machine icon in the Menu bar and select Enter Time Machine.
- Locate the items to be restored by using the timeline on the edge of the screen.
- Select an item and press the Space Bar to preview the file.
- Click restore to recover the selected file.
#2 How to Recover Replaced Files on a Mac without Time Machine
If you do not have a backup that contained the file you need to recover you will have to make use of data recovery software like Disk Drill 🔧 to restore your data.
When the macOS replaces or seemingly overwrites a file, it treats the file in the same way it does a deleted file. It removes the logical reference to the original file and frees up its storage space for later use by the OS.
The operating system only references the newly created file of that same name. But the new file does not really physically overwrite the old file. It is very likely that a new storage location was used to save the new file and that the old file still physically exists on your disk.
Disk Drill makes use of this fact to recover files that are still physically present on your storage media but not visible to the operating system.
Follow these steps to recover overwritten files on a Mac:
- Download and install Disk Drill.
We recommend that you not use the disk that holds the files you wish to recover if at all possible. This will increase the chances that the files have not been physically overwritten before the attempted recovery.
- Connect the storage media if necessary.
- Launch the application and select the disk that contains the files you want to recover.
- Click the Recover button to initiate Disk Drill’s scanning algorithms.
- The tool displays the files that are available for recovery. The free download of Disk Drill allows you to preview the files that can be recovered before upgrading to the Pro version to enact that actual recovery.
- Select a file location where you will store the recovered files. Do not use the original location to avoid file corruption.
- Click Recover again and the selected files will be restored to the location you selected.
Disk Drill is an excellent data recovery solution that can be indispensable when recovering from a data loss event. It also offers advanced data protection features to offer you more ways to secure your data. A combination of good backups and quality data recovery software is essential in order to keep your data protected and available.