Deleted File Recovery: How to Recover Deleted Files on Mac with/without Software?

Methods to recover deleted photos, videos, documents, emails and music on Mac, including free deleted file recovery software - iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery.

By Katrina | Updated to Mac Data Recovery Tips on November 23rd, 2020

File deletion is a common and necessary computer operation as it is a convenient way to help you get more free space for new data. For instance, people would like to delete the Other in Mac Storage for more space.

However, when you intentionally or unintentionally end up deleting a folder that you didn't mean to delete is not less than a nightmare.

No worries! No matter how you deleted a file on Mac, there're a handful of options for you to get them back, particularly if you realized your mistake quickly.

In this comprehensive guide, you will learn about how to recover recently and permanently deleted files on Mac with and without software.

Recover deleted files without software

Can You Recover Recently or Permanently Deleted Files on Mac?

When you first delete files on a Mac computer, they will be moved to the Trash. At this stage, the files are not deleted but removed to another folder - Trash. You can restore these deleted files by simply clicking "Put Back" in Trash.

However, if you emptied the deleted files from the Trash, you can't discover it anywhere on the Mac computer. Have these files been deleted permanently from your Mac?

Actually, these files still remains on your hard drive. In this situation, the operating system will only remove the references to these files, so that the computer cannot see these files any more and the disk space the files took up is available for any new file. In other words, these deleted files are still on the hard drive until another file or part of another file to take up the same location.

Tips to increase the success rate of deleted file recovery on Mac:

  • Stop using the hard drive where you have deleted files, including saving new files and editing existing files. Because the chances for successful data recovery depend greatly on the remainder of the data which has not overwritten yet. If the deleted files are entirely overwritten, even the professional data recovery software or specialized data recovery labs are unable to recover them. So, what is worth noting that if you deleted files on the Macintosh HD, you should shut down your Mac computer as soon as possible.
  • Perform Mac file recovery right now. If you have no backup of your hard drive or backup has itself corrupted, the most reliable way is to download and install a professional data recovery software to recover deleted files on Mac.

After knowing that it's possible to recover deleted files on Mac, now, let's dive right into the solutions to make it true.

How can I Recover Recently or Permanently Deleted Files from Mac without Software?

As Apple is always doing to bring good experience for Mac users, there are some methods you can practice recovering your deleted files without any software. Check out the details as below.

Method 1: Restore deleted files from Mac Trash

Files that you've deleted are often sent to the Trash. The Trash will hold your deleted files until you empty the Trash. So, if you haven't emptied the Trash, you have two options to get them back.

Restore deleted files with "Undo Move"

If you haven't done any other operation on this Mac, the file deletion can be cancelled.

  • 1. Open Finder.
  • 2. Click Edit from the menu bar.
  • 3. Click Undo Move of "Your file name" from the drop-down menu.

Now, check the location where you deleted the file. You will see the file put back.

undo deleted

Restore deleted files from Trash

If you have already done other operation after deleted a file, don't worry. You can also restore it from Trash.

  • 1. Open Trash folder.
  • 2. Locate the file you deleted.
  • 3. Right click the file and select Put Back from the context menu.

You can restore any deleted file as long as you can find it in Mac Trash. However, if the files aren't in Trash folder, you need to try other methods to recover them.

put deleted files back

Note: Some users may be interested in recovering deleted files with Terminal, i.e. by inputting command lines in Terminal app. In fact, it's possible but not necessary. The command is only helpful when the deleted files are still in Trash folder. In addition, the command is same as the "Put Back" feature via a right-click.

Method 2: Recover deleted files from Time Machine backup

Time Machine is a native data backup tool of Apple which is especially useful to avoid unexpected data loss. If you have turned on Time Machine on this Mac computer, it's very likely that you can recover deleted notes on Mac and other files from Time Machine backup.

How to restore deleted files from Time Machine?

  • 1. Connect the drive that you used to do Time Machine backup to the Mac computer.
  • 2. Open the folder that you deleted files from. For example, if you have deleted files from Documents folder, open the Documents folder.
  • 3. Click the Time Machine icon from the menu bar.
  • You can also launch Time Machine from Launchpad, or go to Apple > System Preferences... > Time Machine.
  • 4. Browse the items in the backup folder by using on the screen up/down arrows or using the timeline at the edge of the screen. If you want to find files of the older version, using timeline to navigate the files is faster. You will be able to see a lot of snapshots of this whole folder and how the folder changes.
  • 5. Select the one that contains the files you deleted.
  • 6. Click Restore.

Restore permanently deleted files from Time Machine backups

However, what if you haven't enable Time Machine backup? How can you recover deleted files without Time Machine backups? Let's continue.

Method 3: Recover deleted files from iCloud Drive

iCloud is a cloud storage and cloud computing service from Apple Inc., which securely stores your photos, videos, documents, music, apps, and more and keeps them updated across all your devices. iCloud offers a way to restore deleted files, whenever you deleted them on, your iOS device, or your Mac.

Note: You can restore files you deleted from iCloud Drive in the last 30 days. After that point, files are gone for ever. Moreover, you can't recover files you permanently removed.

How to restore deleted files from iCloud?

  • 1. Open a browser, such as Safari, and visit iCloud website: You will need to log in with your Apple ID.
  • 2. Once logged into, click the Settings button.
  • 3. Scroll to the bottom of the screen, below the Advanced section, and then click Restore Files. You will see a list of deleted files with their previous location in iCloud Drive, size, and the time remaining until they expire.
  • Recover deleted files from iCloud Drive
  • 4. To restore a deleted file, tick the box beside it and then click Restore. After the deleted file has been successfully restored, iCloud will display a message confirming it.

Through any one of the methods above, you can recover deleted files on Mac without any third-part software. Hopefully, if one of the methods doesn't work, one of the other ones will.

Besides that, we will also cover some methods to recover a certain deleted file type in the following part.

How to Recover Deleted Photos on Mac?

So, you've deleted a precious photo or an entire folder of photos from your MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Mac Mini, and more. "Can I get permanently deleted photos back?", you may ask. Actually, there are a few ways you can try to recover deleted photos on Mac.

1. How to recover deleted photos from Photos app

If you deleted a photo from the Photos app on Mac, you have a 30-day grace, during which you can restore deleted photos easily.

  • 1. Open Photos and click Recently Deleted on the left sidebar.
  • 2. Select the deleted photos you'd like to recover.
  • 3. Click Recover in the top right corner.

Recover deleted photos from Photo app

2. How to recover deleted photos from iPhoto?

Perhaps, you are still using iPhoto, which Apple replaced with Photos in 2015. And you've deleted photos from that program, then you can recover these lost/missing picture in iPhoto:

  • 1. Open iPhoto and click on Trash in the Sidebar.
  • 2. Select those deleted photos and right-click to choose "Restore to iPhoto Library".

How to Recover Deleted Email Messages from Apple Mail?

Apple mail is a built-in utility which can be used to access email accounts from various other free email service providers including Apple's iCloud, Outlook, Google, Yahoo, AOL, etc. But deleted emails are a common accident. Luckily, Apple Mail has a Trash folder that you can recover recently deleted emails.

  • 1. Open Apple Mail and click View from the menu bar and choose Show Deleted Messages.
  • Recover deleted email messages Mac from Apple Mail
  • 2. Click on the Trash button in the sidebar and then you will see the list of all your deleted emails.
  • 3. Right-click the email you want to recover, then choose Undelete to restore your deleted emails to your inbox.

How to Recover Deleted iTunes Songs on Mac?

Music files are largely managed on Mac computers using iTunes. It can be devastating when you wanted to delete several items in iTunes but ended up with deleting the entire library. Now all your music songs are gone. If this happens to you, you are able to recover those deleted iTunes library files with the following steps:

  • 1. Get to the desktop of your Mac and click on the Go menu at the top and select the option that says Go to Folder. Alternatively, you can also press the Command + Shift + G key combo to open it.
  • 2. When the Go to Folder box opens, type in the following path and hit Enter. Make sure to replace username with your own username.
  • /Users/username/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Music/

Note: For earlier OS versions, look for Home > Music > iTunes Media > Music.

  • 3. When the path opens, you will see your entire iTunes music library. You will find your deleted music file here in this folder.

How to Recover Deleted Contacts on Mac?

If you've deleted contacts from the default Contact app in macOS, then you can follow the steps here to recover deleted Contacts file on Mac.

  • 1. Tap on Edit.
  • 2. Click Undo Delete Card option.

But please remember: This operation can only be done before making any other edits in Contacts.

Recover deleted contacts on Mac

How to Recover Deleted Downloads/Documents Folder on Mac?

Downloads folder, as we all know that it is a default location in every macOS where stores all downloaded files. However, when you clean up files and folders, you may accidentally delete the whole Downloads folder. Even worse, the whole Documents folder disappeared suddenly.

To recover deleted Downloads, Documents or any other folder on Mac, you can firstly check the Mac Trash. If you have already emptied the Trash and can't find the deleted folder, then you can check Time Machine backups if you created one. However, if none of the two methods helps, you can still find some deleted file recovery software.

How to Recover Deleted YouTube Videos on Mac?

Imagine a situation where a very crucial video is mistakenly deleted by you during video editing, sharing or uploading from your Mac, Google Account or channels. Keep calm! Let's go through some video recovery solutions to help you out.

Method 1: Recover deleted YouTube videos from the Help support

Don't hesitate to send an email to the support team to restore lost or deleted YouTube videos from your channel. They can help you get all deleted YouTube videos back.

Method 2: Recover deleted YouTube videos from is a service designed to store the majority of pages and group them by dates and updates. Therefore, this is where you should go in the next place if you've unintentionally deleted an uploaded video.

  • 1. Access your YouTube email account and find the relevant information about your deleted or lost videos.
  • 2. Copy the deleted or lost video's URL.
  • 3. Open a browser, go to
  • 4. Paste the URL of the deleted YouTube video on the search field and click on Browse History.
  • 5. The page redirects you to YouTube video upload history where you can find the video files you previously uploaded.
  • 6. Download the video file and upload it again (of course back it up too).

How to Recover Deleted/Disappeared Notes on Mac?

The Notes may disappear or get deleted on your Mac due to macOS upgrade or mistaken deletion. It won't go to the Trash. So, where you can find deleted/disappeared Notes on Mac? Let's have a look:

Note: Files will only be kept for 30 days at the Recently Deleted Folder before being permanently deleted.

  • 1. Open the Notes application and click the "Recently Deleted Folder" on the left menu panel.
  • Recover deleted Notes on Mac
  • 2. Choose Edit from the menu bard at the top of the screen and click on Undo Trash Note.

If you can't find the deleted Notes from the Recently Deleted Folder, then you can check if they are in Time Machine backup.

How to Restore Files from a Deleted User Account?

Mac user account disappeared? Accidentally deleted your user account? Can't log in to access your data stored on the account? Have no fear, we've got the data-saving solution you need.

First of all, if you have only one user account (namely the one has been deleted), you should create a new account before performing deleted file recovery. To create a new account, you need to go to System Preference, select Users and Groups, Click Padlock, Click + button to create a new user, input account name and password.

In addition, the easiest way to recover files from a deleted user account is using data recovery software.

How to Recover Deleted Files from an External Drive?

If you delete files from an external drive on your Mac, such as an external hard drive, USB flash drive, SD card or other media, these files will skip being sent to the Trash but move to a hidden folder called ".Trashes". That's to say, if you want to restore these eleted files, you should first show this folder in Finder and then put files back.

How to recover files deleted from an external drive?

  • 1. Show hidden files in Finder.
  • It's a little different to show hidden files on different Mac operating systems.
  • If you're running macOS Sierra or later, open Finder and simply press Command + Shift + . (the period key).
  • If you're running earlier OS X, you need to run the following commands.
  • defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
  • Press Enter. Then type in:
  • killall Finder
  • 2. When you find the deleted files in .Trashes, you can restore them simply.

Recover Deleted Files with Free Deleted File Recovery Software

However, what if you have emptied Trash or have no backup of the deleted files? Don't worry. In that case, you still can undelete files on Mac with Mac data recovery software, like iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery.

iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac is a free Mac data recovery software that helps recover deleted files from hard drives, external hard drives, USB hard drives, memory cards, and other storage devices. It supports recovering deleted photos, documents, videos, emails, music, etc. And it can also recover lost files from unreadable drives, unmountable drives, formatted drives, as well as lost partitions. It is fully compatible with macOS Catalina/Mojave/High Sierra/Sierra and earlier.

Best Mac Deleted File Recovery Software - iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac

  • Recover deleted photos, documents, audio files, videos, emails, etc.
  • Recover deleted files from HDD, USB, flash drives, SD cards, etc.
  • Recover deleted files from APFS, HFS+, exFAT & FAT32 formatted drives.
  • macOS Catalina supported.

Read-only & risk-free

Video tutorial: how to recover deleted files with iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac

Tutorial: recover deleted files on Mac with iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac

  • 1. Download and install iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac on your Mac.
  • 2. Launch iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac.
  • 3. Choose the drive or partition where you have deleted files.
  • Recover deleted files on Mac with iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac
  • 4. Click on Scan button to start the scanning process.
  • This Mac data recovery software supports two scan modes: quick scan and deep scan. To recover deleted files, the program will choose quick scan by default. If you didn't see the deleted files after quick scan, you can also manually try deep scan option at the bottom of the interface. By running deep scan, it will search the select partition or disk sector by sector in order to find as many files as possible.
  • Scan for deleted files with iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac
  • 5. Preview the files in the searching results and choose files that you want to get back.
  • Preview search results with iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac
  • 6. Click Recover to recover those deleted files from Mac.

Recover deleted files with iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac


In this article, we have presented several solutions to recover deleted files on Mac with and without software. In most cases, you can restore deleted files through the native features on Mac, such as Trash, Time Machine, or restore features in some apps. In other cases, if these features won't help, you can still find a deleted file recovery software, like iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac, to recover deleted files. According to your specific situation, you can try one or more of the solutions till you get back the files you want.

Anyway, the best solution to prevent unwanted data loss is to make a regular backup.

How to recover deleted and lost email files