How to Recover Disappeared Files from External Hard Drives/USB Drives on Mac?

By Vivian | Posted to Mac Data Recovery, updated on September 12th, 2019 |

Summary: If your files get lost, deleted, missing, or disappeared from an external hard drive or a USB flash drive, you can recover them with 4 methods. Downloading iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery to recover data from external hard drives on Mac is one of the easiest.

Usually, people use external hard drives and USB flash to save photos, music files, documents, movies, or other files and to transfer files between computers. It's convenient and easy-to-perform. However, it would be bewildering or even annoying if you find that your files get disappeared from the USB external drive. Wondering why you can't see files on external hard drive? Well, some common reasons could be:

  • You accidentally deleted these files.
  • The external hard drive or USB flash drive was mistakenly formatted.
  • Files are removed by the virus or malware.
  • Files are hidden by the system of your USB external drive.
  • The file is not showing up because the file system of this disk drive is corrupted.
  • Other reasons.

No matter what makes your files disappeared, the most imperative thing is how to recover those disappeared files from the USB external drive on your Mac. In this article, you will find four practical solutions to recover disappeared files with no fuss.

Let's check them out!

Table of contents
1. Recover disappeared/deleted files from the Trash
2. Recover and show disappeared files in the Finder
3. Repair the external hard drive with First Aid
4. Recover disappeared files with Mac data recovery software

Many users have stated in forums that they can't see files on USB drives even though they're sure they have copied files and paste them to the USB flash drive. The same thing accurs for external hard drives, too. Indeed, most users don't know how their files disappeared from the external drives exactly, just like the user below:

I hope someone has a solution to my problem. I have a MacBook Pro, and I have a 2 TB Seagate external hard drive whose all capacity has almost been used. Everything was fine until I restarted my MacBook Pro: half of the files are missing and 1TB of this external hard drive is free. I just don't get how did that happen and I have very important files that I don't know how to get them back.

Thus, if you don't know exactly how your files get lost, you can try the following solutions one by one.

Solution 1: Restore disappeared/deleted files from the Trash

Even though you would way "I had never deleted my files on this drive", it is possible that you accidentally press "Move to Trash" and deleted them occasionally. Or if you didn't perform such deletion, your naughty kid might do it. Anyway, to make sure if your files disappeared from the external drive due to accidental deletion, you can check the Trash on your Mac and see if your files are there or not. If fortunately, your files deleted from the external hard drive or USB flash drive are in the Trash, you can follow the steps to recover them easily.

Step 1: Click the Trash icon on the dock of your desktop to open it.

Step 2: Check if your lost files are in the Trash.

Step 3: If you find the lost files, you can right-click on these items and choose Put back.

Restore disappeared/deleted files from the Trash

After you put them back, your files will be recovered and get back to your drive.

Solution 2: Recover and show disappeared files in the Finder

Sometimes, files on your external hard drives, USB flash drives, memory cards, etc. are not missing but hidden by the system, especially files that started with a dot. This is because some important files of an external drive are hidde by default to avoid damages to the file system of this disk. Therefore, if your have files starting with a dot disappeared from your drive, you can use this guide to show hidden files on your Mac.

Step 1: Click the smile face (Finder) icon at the dock of your Mac to open the Finder.

Step 2: Find the external hard drive or USB drive where your disappeared files were saved in the left sidebar.

Step 3: Press Command + Shift + . key combinations.

Recover and show disappeared files in the Finder

You will see your missing files or folders appearing as grayed out in the right column of the Finder. Then, you can open and check this files normally.

Solution 3: Repair the external hard drive/USB flash drive with First Aid

If your files disappeared but you didn't see them in the Trash or the Finder, it could have issues with your drive. The most common reason is that the file system of this disk is corrupted and Mac just can't read your files on this disk, let alone show them up. It happens particularly after you plug this disk into several computers. But don't worry, Mac has a built-in application called Disk Utility which is designed to verify and repair minor drive errors.

Step 1: Go to Applications and choose Disk Utility in Utilities.

Step 2: Launch Disk Utility and click "Show all devices" in View option.

Step 3: Select your external hard drive or USB flash drive that lost data in the left sidebar.

Step 4: Click First Aid to check and repair errors in that drive.

Repair the external hard drive/USB flash drive with First Aid

After repairing your disk drive with Disk Utility, you can check if your files are showing up or not. Hope First Aid will work and you don't need to recover your files at all.

Solution 4: Recover disappeared files with Mac data recovery software

However, if you still can't see your files after trying solutions above, you may have emptied the deleted files from the Trash or you have mistakenly formatted your external hard drive. You can try to recover the lost files with Mac data recovery software like iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery.

iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery is reliable Mac data recovery software. It is powerful in recovering deleted/lost photos, audio files, pages, documents, movies, etc. This data recovery tool can not only recover disappeared data from emptied Trash but also can recover data from external drives like external hard drives, USB flash drives, SD cards, memory cards, etc.

What's more, iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery can also recover data from formatted, unreadable, unmountable, unrecognizable drives on Mac. Also, it is one of a few software that can recover data from APFS encrypted partitions. This Mac data recovery software is compatible with macOS 10.15 (Catalina), 10.14 (Mojave), macOS 10.13 (High Sierra), macOS 10.12 (Sierra) and Mac OS X 10.11 (El Capitan), 10.10 (Yosemite), 10.9 (Mavericks), 10.8 (Mountain Lion), 10.7 (Lion).

Tutorial to recover files disappeared from external drives on Mac

Step 1: Download, install and launch iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery on your Mac.

Step 2: Check "Deep scan" at the left bottom and select your external hard drive where your files disappeared.

Step 3: Click "Next" to scan for data on this drive.

Free SD card data recovery software - iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery

Step 4: Preview the scanning results to make sure the files are not corrupted.

Preview the disappeared files before recovering them

Step 5: Choose the files you want to recover and click "Recover" to get your files back.


Rather than recover disappeared files from USB external hard drives on Mac with data recovery software, you'd better make multiple backups on a regular basis. It's the best and safest way for you to avoid data loss. Just as the saying goes: a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.


Vivian likes to share technical tips and solutions with people, especially in macOS and Windows data recovery and disk repair tricks. Being a part of @iBoysoft, she has solved many computing and technological problems for readers with ease.

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