How to Recover Data from a Formatted Hard Drive on Mac

Losing a partition as the result of accidentally formatting a disk can lead to a devastating data loss scenario. It’s not as bad as you think. Fortunately, there is an effective and efficient software tool that can recover data from a formatted drive on Mac. Read on to see how Disk Drill can restore your lost files and folders. MacOS Big Sur Ready!
As long as you did not choose a “secure erase” option, your old data will remain on your drive until it is overwritten. So formatted hard drive recovery on Mac is still possible! Disk Drill can scan your drive and find invisible files that haven’t been erased yet.

It is actually pretty easy to recover formatted hard drive on Mac. Simply download the free Disk Drill Basic software, scan the drive and review the files. If you find your files, great! You can proceed with recovery. If not, all you’ve spent is a few minutes of your time.

1. Download and install Disk Drill for Mac

Download and install Disk Drill for Mac. Don’t use the formatted disk for the download to prevent files from being overwritten. If you have inadvertently formatted a partition on your main hard drive, perform the download and install on a different computer or an external storage device. If the formatted drive was an external device, use the main drive for Disk Drill.
recover formatted hard drive mac

2. Choose the formatted hard drive partition

Connect the formatted drive to your Mac and launch Disk Drill. In the application’s main window, select the drive from the list of available disks.
recover formatted mac hard drive

3. Start scanning for lost data

Click the Recover button to initiate the software’s scanning algorithms. You can select a Quick or Deep scan to recover as much data as possible. Scans can be paused and restarted at will and you can stop the scan at any time and recover found files. Scan results can be filtered to allow you to focus on the type of data you want to recover and not be overwhelmed with every file that can be restored.
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4. Preview the files you want to recover

Preview the files that have been found during the scanning process and select those you want to recover. Files found in a Deep scan may have generic file names appended to their file extension if the software could not recover enough metadata to specify their names.
recover data from formatted mac hard drive

5. Recover the deleted data from the formatted disk

Specify a safe storage location that is not on the formatted disk to avoid further data corruption. Click the Recover button again to perform the recovery. When the process completes, the recovery data will be in the storage location you specified.
recover formatted hard drive mac free

Why is it possible to recover a formatted hard drive on Mac?

The reason you can recover files from a formatted hard drive on Mac is due to the way the operating system deletes data. When you delete a file or format a partition or disk, macOS marks the space occupied by the deleted data as available for later use by the operating system. The logical links that allow you to access the data are removed, but the information is still physically present on the storage device. Data recovery software scans the drive and repairs the logical links. This restores access and allows the files to be used again.
How TRIM Affects SSD Recovery?

Many modern computers and most new laptops are equipped with solid-state drives (SSDs). They have become popular due to the speed and efficiency of the storage devices. SSDs store data using flash memory as opposed to the magnetic disks of traditional hard drives.

TRIM technology is an advanced technique that is used to automatically delete blocks of data efficiently. This can affect the chances of recovering the lost data with a software solution. If the storage cells have been zeroed out by TRIM, it is unlikely that you can recover the lost data with recovery software. You may need to use a backup or engage a professional data recovery service to get your information back successfully.

Recover Deleted Files From any Formatted Device

Disk Drill can recover lost and deleted files from any type of formatted disk-based storage device. Here are some examples of the kinds of devices that the software tool supports.
  • PC / Mac
    Dell®, HP®, Acer®, Asus®, MacBook Pro®, MacBook Air®, Apple iMac® and more
  • HDD / SSD
    HP®, Samsung®, Seagate®, Toshiba®, WD®, LaCie®, Intel®, Adata® and more
  • USB Drive
    SanDisk®, Samsung®, Kingston®, Corsair®, Patriot®, PNY®, Verbatim®, Silicon Power® and more
  • SD / CF Card
    SanDisk®, Transcend®, Toshiba®, Lexar®, Integral®, SP®, PNY®, Kingston® and more
  • Digital Camera
    Samsung®, HP®, Sony®, GoPro®, Canon®, Sigma®, Nikon®, Epson®, Panasonic® and more
  • iPhone / Android *
    Samsung Galaxy®, iPhone®, Lenovo®, Huawei®, OnePlus®, Google Pixel®, LG® and more
*Note: iPhone / Android devices are only supported in Disk Drill for Mac at the moment

Supported File Types for Recovery from a Formatted Device

Disk Drill’s deep scanning algorithms recognizes and recovers over 400 different file signatures. This enables the software to recover virtually any type of image, video, audio, archive, or document file.
  • Audio
    AIF, MP3 (MPEG Audio Stream, Layer III), AIFC, WMA (Windows Media audio files), AIFF (Audio Interchange File)
  • Images
    BMP, JPEG, JP2, GIF, TIFF, PSP. Polaroid/Sigma: X3F. Pentax: PEF. Adobe: AI, INX, IDML, INDB, APM, INDD, INDL, LRCAT, PSD, PSB.
  • Archives
    DMG (Mac OS X Disk Image), ZIP (Extended Zip File), 7Z (7-Zip Compressed), RAR (WinRAR Compressed Archive)
  • Video
    M4V (iTunes video),AVI, FLV (Flash video), MPG (MPEG video), MP4 (MPEG-4 video), WMV (Windows Media Video)
  • Documents
    DOCX (Microsoft Word), PPTX (Microsoft PowerPoint), XLSX (Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet), PDF (Portable Document Format)
  • Other Files
    Other Files
    DB (Paradox), ACCDB (Microsoft Database), MYO (MYOB Limited Windows File), SQL (bundled SQL queries), OTF (OpenType Font)

It is better to stay safe – protect your data now!

Disk Drill is outstanding in its protection options. They will keep your files safe and prevent data loss. Use S.M.A.R.T. Monitoring to constantly keep an eye on your hard drive performance. Guaranteed Recovery keeps invisible copies of the files that were moved to Trash and they can be restored whenever needed. Recovery Vault options saves the metadata, so that files can be restored with their proper names and locations.

How to Protect Mac Hard Drive Data

Here are some tips that will help you protect the data on your Mac’s hard drive.
  • Backup your drive

    Backup your drive

    Regularly backing up the data on your hard drive is one of the most important measures you can take to protect its valuable information.
  • Guard against malware

    Guard against malware

    Infection with viruses and malware can lead to lost data on your Mac. Maintain updated antivirus software to minimize this risk.
  • Avoid heat and moisture

    Avoid heat and moisture

    Excessive heat and moisture can damage a hard drive and make it unusable. Keep your devices cool and dry to ensure the data is safe.
  • Think before clicking

    Think before clicking

    Human error is the number one cause of data loss. Take the time to check what you are doing when performing any activity that can destroy data.
  • Use data protection tools

    Use data protection tools

    Disk Drill provides free data protection tools. Recovery Vault and Guaranteed Recovery offer additional safety for your valuable data.
  • Don’t ignore warning signs

    Don’t ignore warning signs

    Strange sounds coming from your hard drive indicates it may be failing. Make a byte-level backup of the data for recovery purposes.
  • Stop using the drive

    Stop using the drive

    Once you determine you have lost data, stop using the device until you have recovered the drive to avoid overwriting files and folders.
  • Use quality recovery tools

    Use quality recovery tools

    Use a reliable software tool if you have to recover a formatted HDD on Mac. You may only get one shot at recovery so don’t take chances.

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated on by Disk Drill Team

To recover files from a formatted hard drive on Mac:

  1. Install Disk Drill on a different drive than the formatted on you wish to restore.
  2. Launch the app and select the formatted drive from the disk list.
  3. Click Recover to scan for recoverable data. 
  4. Preview the files and select those to be restored.
  5. Click Recover to perform the restore.

You can try this procedure to recover a formatted Mac SSD with Disk Drill. The key is to attempt this recovery as soon as you realize you have formatted the SSD. Time is of the essence!

  1. Turn off the Mac with the formatted SSD.
  2. Download and install Disk Drill on another Mac computer which will be the host.
  3. Connect the original Mac to the host in Target Disk Mode.
  4. Create a byte-level backup of the formatted SSD using Disk Drill if possible.
  5. Use the backup as the target disk for recovery if you can create it. If not, point Disk Drill at the original SSD device.
  6. Scan the SSD with Disk Drill and see what files can be recovered.

Use the following steps to recover a formatted hard drive on Mac.

  1. Download and install Disk Drill on a different drive than the one you just formatted.
  2. Connect the drive to your computer and launch Disk Drill.
  3. Select the formatted drive from the app’s disk list.
  4. Click the Recover button to start scanning for lost data.
  5. Preview the files that can be recovered by the application.
  6. Select the files for recovery and a new storage location to save them.
  7. Click Recover to complete the process.
Possibly. Data recovery software can scan the disk and may be able to recover some files that have not been overwritten by the operating system installation.

Follow these steps for using a PC formatted hard drive on Mac. Drives formatted for Windows will need to be reformatted before use on macOS or OS X.

  1. Connect the hard drive to your Mac.
  2. Open Disk Utility on the Mac machine.
  3. Select View > Show All Devices.
  4. Chose the storage device to be formatted in the sidebar and click Erase.
  5. In the Scheme pop-up, choose GUID Partition Map.
  6. Click the Format pop-up menu and select the filesystem to be used.
  7. Enter a disk name.
  8. Click Erase.
  9. Click Done.

To unformat a hard drive on a Mac, you need to use data recovery software to restore the data lost during the formatting process. Follow these steps:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill using a different drive than the one that is formatted.
  2. Connect the formatted drive to your computer and start Disk Drill.
  3. Select the formatted drive from the App’s disk list window.
  4. Click the Recover button to start scanning for lost data.
  5. Preview the files that can be recovered.
  6. Select the files you want to recover and a new storage location to save them.
  7. Click Recover to perform the recovery.
Yes, it is possible. When a drive is formatted, macOS makes its space available for future use. It does not physically remove the files if you perform a quick format. The data still exists on the drive and can be recovered until it is overwritten. Using data recovery software, you can restore data from a drive after it is formatted.

Follow these steps to recover data from a formatted external hard drive:

  1. Connect the external hard drive to your computer.
  2. Start Disk Drill and select the external drive.
  3. Click Recover to begin scanning for lost data on the formatted drive.
  4. Preview the files that can be retrieved.
  5. Select the files you want and click Recover to perform the restore.

Recovering formatted data on a Mac for free requires you to restore from a previously made backup. As a precaution against the problem of accidentally formatting the wrong partition or disk, you should always create a backup before performing a format operation on your computer’s disks. It is the only way to recover from formatting without using data recovery software.

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