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How to Recover Deleted Files on Mac? How to Recover Empty Trash Mac?

author Carrie Murray
date Wednesday, September 15, 2021

This post will tell you how to recover deleted files on Mac, no matter the files are emptied from Trash or not, and recommend you a useful data recovery software with powerful functions and simple and fast operation – FonePaw Data Recovery.

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It is easy to delete files on a Mac. But when it comes to recover deleted files from Mac, especially recovering permanently deleted files after emptying Trash, things become difficult. Still, it is not impossible to gain back your lost files on Mac. This article is going to show 4 ways to recover recently or permanently deleted files on MacBook, iMac, Mac Mini with or without software. You can:

  • Recover deleted files from empty Trash;

  • Retrieve files that are deleted by Command-Shift-Delete or Command-Shift-Option-Delete;

  • Restore deleted files or folders that are removed via "Delete Immediately" option from the File menu in Finder.

Read on to learn more.

How to Recover Deleted Files on Mac directly from Trash

Once you discover that some files on your Mac are missing, the first thing you should do is check the Trash.

Macintosh computers have Trash to hold deleted files. If you recently deleted a file on Mac, you should first search Trash for the deleted file.

Step 1. Open Trash from Dock or directly click on its icon on Mac.

Step 2. View the deleted files by size, kind, date added, etc. Or type a keyword in the search bar to find the deleted files that you need.

Step 3. Select and drag the deleted files to any place you like. The files will be restored to its original location. You can also choose Put Back to restore deleted files Mac.


You may say, "The data I deleted before was automatically removed by the Trash after 30 days." In fact, we can modify this setting ourselves! Proceed as follows:

  1. In the Finder on your Mac, select Finder > Preferences and click "Advanced".

  2. Uncheck "Remove item from Trash after 30 days".

Restore Deleted Files from Trash

How to Recover Empty Trash on Mac (Recommended)

If you have emptied Trash or bypass Trash and permanently deleted files via keyboard shortcut (Command-Shift-Delete or Command-Shift-Option-Delete), you cannot find the deleted files on Trash nor easily undo empty Trash.

To undelete files on Mac, you should download FonePaw Data Recovery (opens new window), which can recover deleted files from Mac computer, external hard drive, SD card, USB drive (opens new window) on Mac.

FonePaw Data Recovery mainly supports the following types of file recovery:

  • Photos: JPG, PNG, GIF, JPEG, HEIC, PSD, SWF, BMP, ICO, AI , RAW, SVG, TIF, etc.
  • Videos: MOV, MP4, MPG, TS, WAV, NLS, etc.
  • Audios: ACT, MP3, M4A, WAV, OGG, etc.
  • Resource: DB, COM, EXE, FON, DLL, LIB, TLB, etc.
  • Compressed files: ZIP, RAR, 7Z
  • Email and other files

It works with iMac, MacBook, Mac Mini running from macOS Big Sur 11.6, macOS Catalina 10.15, macOS Mojave 10.14, macOS High Sierra 10.13 and so on, supporting files recovery for NTFS, HFS+, FAT, etc. file systems.

Download FonePaw Mac Data Recovery (free trial).

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FonePaw Mac Data Recovery

Tip: If you continue to use Mac after the files are deleted, there are chances that the deleted files are covered by new files and cannot be recovered. So, to increase your chances of recovering deleted files on Mac, do not run other applications except for the FonePaw Data Recovery application.

Step 1. Run FonePaw Mac Data Recovery


If you need to recover deleted files from a Mac computer and see a message like "Startup disk is protected by 'System Integrity Protection' on your Mac. Please disable it for data recovery completely," you need to disable System Integrity Protection on your Mac before using the software. Since the deleted data are saved in the system files that are protected by System Integrity Protection, FonePaw Mac Data Recovery cannot find the deleted files when System Integrity Protection is on. .

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Step 2. Select the Files that You Want to Recover

Tick photos, videos, documents or other kinds of files you want to retrieve from Mac. Then select the drive that used to contain the deleted files.

Select File Types and Drive

Tip: If you need to recover deleted files from SD card, USB drive, etc. on Mac, connect the storage device to Mac and select it in Removable Drive.

Step 3. Click Scan for the Application to Find Deleted Files on Your Mac

The application provides two modes of file recovery: Quick Scan and Deep Scan. Quick Scan can recover files that are deleted recently while Deep Scan can find out all deleted files on a Mac. So Deep Scan will take a quite long time, from several hours to even one day, depending on the storage size of your hard drive.

I suggest that you can use the Quick Scan first, if you can't find the deleted files you need, then use the Deep Scan. After starting the Deep Scan, you can just to do other things and let your computer complete the scan by itself, waiting for a while and then come back to check the results.

Quick Scan Deleted Files on Mac

Step 4. Restore Deleted Files Successfully on Mac

During the scanning, you can view the found files by types or path. Once you see the deleted files that you need, pause the Deep Scan, select the files and click Recover to get them back to your Mac.

Note: Files marked in orange are files that have been deleted.

Recover Deleted Files on Mac

How to Recover Deleted Files Mac without Software

You can also recover deleted files on Mac without software, only if you have backed up the deleted files to an external hard drive with Time Machine. To restore deleted files from Time Machine, follow the steps below.

Step 1. Launch Time Machine on your Mac. You can access it via System Preferences > Time Machine or using Spotlight Search.

Step 2. Find the deleted files from the backup that are created before the files are deleted.

Step 3. Select the files and click Restore.

Restore Deleted Files from Time Machine

The Time Machine method only works if you have set up Time Machine backup before the files are deleted. If not, your best chance to retrieve deleted files is using a Mac data recovery software such as FonePaw Data Recovery (opens new window) recommended before.

How to Recover Deleted Files on Mac via Terminal

Terminal is an application that enables users to complete different tasks on Mac with Unix command line. Some users wonder if there is a command line that can recover deleted Mac files via Terminal. Yes, there is a command line to recover deleted files, but only from Trash. Therefore, if the deleted files are emptied from Trash, there is no command line to recover the emptied trash.

To restore deleted files via Terminal, follow these steps.

Step 1. Open Terminal. You will see the command-line interface.

Step 2. Type cd .Trash. Hit Enter.

Step 3. Type mv xxx ../. Replace the xxx part with the name of the delete file. Hit Enter.

Step 4. Open Finder and in the search bar, enter the name of the delete file and hit Enter. The deleted file will appear.

Recover Deleted Files on Mac via Terminal

What do we need to do before emptying Trash on Mac?

In order to avoid losing some important data files, before you emptying the Mac Trash, we recommend:

  • Tip 1: Check the Trash again. When you decide to perform the operation of emptying the Mac trash can, please double check that there are no important files in the Trash.

  • Tip 2: Get in the habit of regularly backing up files. Save important files to the cloud, external hard drive or other places for double protection.

  • Tip 3: Use "Command+Shift+Delete" instead of "Command+Option+Shift+Delete" to delete files. The previous hotkey will warn you when it is executed, reminding you that you are about to empty the Mac trash bin; while the latter hotkey operation will permanently delete the files in the Trash without any prompt.


Above are 4 possible solutions to recover your deleted files on Mac.

The most direct and easy method: Locate deleted files from the Trash app.

Other Chances to recover deleted files on Mac without Software: Check Time Machine backups or try the Terminal command.

The most recommended method: Try professional third party tools such as FonePaw Data Recovery. In this way, you can recover deleted files on Mac with a very high success rate.

When you realize that you have deleted files that you actually need, you should first check Trash to see if the files are restorable. If the files have been deleted from Trash, restore files from Time Machine backup if you have one. If not, your only chance to get back the deleted files is using Mac files recovery software - FonePaw Data Recovery. To make sure the deleted files won't be overwritten by new files, do not use the Mac to create or download new files (only run FonePaw Data Recovery on the Mac to search for deleted files if possible).

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