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How to Recover Files from APFS Drives on Mac (Internal & External)

Updated on Friday, June 14, 2024

iBoysoft author Rivers Wong

Written by

Rivers Wong
Professional tech editor

Approved by

Jessica Shee

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Summary: This article gives you a brief introduction to the APFS files system and tells you how to recover deleted or lost files from Mac's internal APFS hard drive and external drives with an APFS file system.

How to Recover Files from APFS Hard Drives on Mac

What is APFS? 

APFS, short for Apple File System, is a relatively new proprietary file system introduced by Apple alongside macOS Sierra and it becomes the default file system on Macs running macOS High Sierra to macOS Ventura and will be deployed on all Mac products in the future.

You can check if your Mac is having APFS by launching the Disk Utility and selecting Macintosh HD. On the right pane, Disk Utility will display your Mac running macOS 10.13 or above has APFS.

Apple File System

Like other common file systems such as exFAT, NTFS, and HFS+ (Mac OS Extended), it is still a set of logic rules about how to store, organize, and retrieve files and folders.

APFS file system is exclusively optimized for flash drives and solid-state hard drives to protect against corruption and data loss, but it also can run on other traditional storage devices like hard drive disks, memory cards, and USB flash drives with reduced performance and functionality. 

APFS data recovery: is it possible? 

The short answer is yes. Deleted or lost data from a hard drive with an Apple File System can be retrieved with the most recent backup and the right powerful data recovery software.

However, solid-state hard drives these days, especially with APFS as a file system, are extremely challenging for data recovery, as they have changed the way how data is stored, retrieved, and cleared. 

  • 1. Compared to old hard disk drives with a mechanical spinning arm and magnetic head, SSDs have no moving parts, making them no obvious warning before SSD failure and data loss.
  • 2. The position of data storage is constantly shifting to prevent wear and tear on the flash chip of an SSD, which makes it hard to find the data on a solid-state disk during data recovery.
  • 3. TRIM and encryption features with SSDs can even make data recovery impossible.

How to recover files from APFS hard drive on Mac?

APFS is very reliable and robust compared to traditional file systems and it reduces the chance of data loss due to hard drive failure and system crashes. However, accidents like inadvertent deletion, mistaken formatting, trash can emptied, sudden power issues, fatal hardware failures, and others may happen.

When an accident strikes, it is important to know how to recover files from an APFS drive on a Mac.

Recover files from APFS hard drive on Mac with a data recovery software

iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac is a versatile and powerful APFS data recovery software that enables you to recover deleted data on Mac, including deleted or lost files from the startup disk under macOS 10.13 - 13, and data on an external storage device with an APFS file system. You can rely on this data recovery program to restore documents, videos, audio files, archives, and many more from APFS hard drive.

Steps to get back deleted files from APFS hard drive:

Step 1: Download and install iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac on your Mac computer.

If you have multiple partitions on your Mac's hard drive, install the data recovery software to the partition that doesn't contain lost data. Then follow the onscreen instructions to grant permissions, finish installation, and launch the software.

Step 2: Select the APFS volume/disk to scan.

search for lost data on APFS disk

If you want to recover files from an external APFS disk, plug it into your Mac now. Select the location where you lost data and click Search for Lost Data to start scanning. 

Step 3: Filter and preview lost APFS files.

preview APFS files

The software now incorporates the traditional quick scan and deep scan into the universal automatic scan. After it completes the scan for lost data on your Mac, it will list all found data through Type and Path categories. You can select a file and preview it in the left-side window.

Step 4: Recover files from the APFS disk

recover files from APFS disk using iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac

Make sure you tick the box in front of the files you want to recover and tap on the Recover button. The data recovery software will not allow you to store recovered files in the original APFS-formatted location, so make sure you have a separate partition or external disk for data recovery.

iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac will recover files from the APFS drive on Mac in the following situations:

1. Encrypted APFS drive data recovery. 

iBoysoft APFS file recovery software supports encrypted Macintosh HD by FileVaultT2 Security Chip, and Apple Silicon. It lets you scan the disk to recover data from the APFS drive after you enter the password to decrypt the drive.

2. Formatted APFS drive data recovery. 

For good reasons, you need to format your startup disk or system partition to reinstall macOS or downgrade macOS. Accidents occur when you mistakenly format the APFS drive or you unexpectedly erase APFS drive data. iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac tool is able to recover files in these scenarios.

3. Deleted/Lost APFS partition data recovery

It is common to have multiple APFS volumes in one APFS container. If an APFS volume or partition gets deleted, lost or disappeared, iBoysoft APFS data recovery software can scan the disk thoroughly for retrieving missing data.

How to Recover Lost Data From Deleted APFS Partition

4. Unmountable APFS drive data recovery

iBoysoft APFS data recovery software is capable of recovering data from unmountable APFS boot volume on Macintosh HD. It also supports all types of solid-state drives, hard disk drives, USB drives, and memory cards in APFS format when the APFS is not mounting due to issues in the volume header, catalog record, or file directory.

5. Inaccessible APFS drive data recovery

APFS file system becomes corrupted or damaged and all data get inaccessible, especially in the Mac is not turning on the situation. This APFS drive recovery program can recognize and scan the Mac hard drive for deleted or lost data.

Recover files from APFS hard drive on Mac with Time Machine backup

Time Machine is a backup and system restoration utility natively built into Apple computer machines. It can copy everything on your system in addition to taking local "snapshots" that offer you access to prior timelines of your machine. 

If luckily, you have a habit of using an external hard drive to back up your Mac with Time Machine software, it will be very straightforward to restore your lost files with Time Machine backups.

Follow this guide to restore your Mac system or lost data: 

A Time Machine Guide to Back Up and Restore Your Mac


To sum up, this article offers you detailed tutorials on how to recover data from an APFS drive on Mac either with professional data recovery software or Time Machine. 

Apple File System is optimized for faster read-write speed and more data security, so it has overturned the traditional ways of how data is processed on a disk. As a result, APFS data recovery is very challenging. 

Keep in mind, if the TRIM feature installed on your SSD has already wiped your data, data recovery from these SSDs with APFS is impossible. It won't hurt to use iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac to scan your hard drive to see if data can be found. Scanning and previewing are completely free.

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