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Recover Overwritten/Replaced Files or Folders on Mac (2022)

Updated on Friday, March 24, 2023

iBoysoft author Connie Yang

Written by

Connie Yang
Professional tech editor

Approved by

Jessica Shee

How to Recover Overwritten/Replaced Files on Mac With Simple Ways

Summary: This post by iBoysoft shows how to recover replaced files on Mac with or without Time Machine backups. To recover overwritten files, the easiest way is using iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac.

how to recover replaced or overwritten files on Mac

When you save a file on your Mac, a message pops up to warn you that this file with the same name already exists in the same location. You click Replace accidentally or just want to do so.

But later, when you need the replaced file, how can you recover it on Mac? Notably, recovering overwritten data is different from restoring deleted files. Well, this tutorial is here to help you recover overwritten/replaced files on Mac, whether it's an Excel or Word file, photo, video, folder, or so.

Recover overwritten files on Mac

Table of Contents:

 Can you recover files that were overwritten?

Yes, you can recover replaced files on your Mac. Although the replaced Word document, Excel file, PDF, photo, or other types of files seems can't be found anywhere on your Mac, the actual data still exists on your Mac hard drive.

However, different from recovering deleted apps that may remain in Mac Trash, an overwritten file isn't stored in any folder on your Mac. Recovering replaced files should use a Time Machine backup, cloud backup, the restore feature within the app you are using, or Mac file recovery software if the first three are not available.

How do you recover overwritten files on Mac without Time Machine?

It is fortunate that you've backed up your Mac with Time Machine just now. Then you can restore replaced files with Time Machine backup.

However, in most cases, you rarely have the habit of backing up Mac with Time Machine in routine unless you prepare to reinstall macOS or do some cleaning tasks.

Thankfully, without Time Machine backups, you can try other ways to restore the overwritten files on Mac. Your cloud backups, the built-in revert function of the apps, or in the worst case, a data recovery application can give you a hand to restore overwritten files.

Recover overwritten files on Mac with cloud backups

Most of the cloud backup storage featured maintaining history changes to files. You can find out your accidentally replaced files from the history files and then recover them.

iCloud is a popular backup and recovery tool for Apple devices including Mac computers. The file location of iCloud is on a remote server. One of iCloud's excellent functions is, it can remain your deleted or overwritten files in a recovery folder for 30 days.

Use iClud to recover replaced files on Mac

Hence, as long as you have turned on iCloud on your MacBook, iMac, Mac mini, you can use it to recover your replaced files. Otherwise, try to use the data recovery software.

Here is how to use iCloud to recover overwritten files on Mac:

1. Access iCloud.com from Google or other browsers. 

2. Type your Apple ID to sign in to iCloud.com. 

3. Click Account Settings.

Open Account Settings in iClud

4. Click Restore Files at the bottom of the settings page.

Select Restore files in iCloud

5. Browse files in the Restore Files tab to check all the previous versions of the replaced files. Then, restore the desired overwritten file to iCloud Drive.

If you use another cloud to back up your Mac, you can also use it to recover overwritten data with similar steps. For instance, Dropbox. You can follow the steps below to retrieve your overwritten files.

1. log in to your account at dropbox.com. 

2. Choose the folder where your overwritten file locates or access All files. 

3. Select the file you want to recover and click the three dots > check the Version history option. 

Restore overwritten files with Dropbox

4. Find the original version of the file and click Restore.

Now, you get the overwritten file back.

Recover overwritten files with data recovery software (The simplest way)

If unfortunately, you haven't backed up your Mac recently with Time Machine or a cloud storage service. To restore the replaced files on your MacBook Pro, MacBook Air or so, you have no choice but to get help from data recovery software.

Data recovery software can scan the files that are no longer stored on your Mac, including the replaced, inaccessible, and deleted files. Then, it tries its best effort to recover lost files on your Mac machine.

There are types of third-party data software that are used to recover data, like Disk Drill. But here, we highly recommend iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac.

This Apple-trusted Mac data recovery app can scan your entire Mac hard drive and detect the overwritten files with reliable, secure, and advanced algorithms. Then, returning all the lost data it scanned for you, of course, including your overwritten files.

More importantly, this Mac data recovery software is easy to operate which anyone who knows nothing about technology can do.

Here's how to recover replaced files on Mac using iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac:

1. Free download, install and launch iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac on your Mac.

2. Scan your Mac to find the lost files.

3. Preview the recoverable files from the scanning results.

Preview the scanned results in iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac

4. Click Recover to get back the replaced files.

Recover deleted files with iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac

Now, the recovered files will return to your Mac or external storage device that you choose. Easy enough, right?

Recover overwritten files using the built-in restore function of apps

Nowadays, many apps are designed with restore functions. If you've replaced a document within an app, go to check if it supplies a restoration option. Just like Apple's TextEdit app, it offers you a chance to revert to the previous versions of documents.

To check if there's a restoration feature available within an app, go to the top Apple navigation bar. If it has, click File > Revert to or similar options to check the version history of the accidentally replaced file. Next, look through the previous versions of the file and restore the original file.

Revert replaced files within app

How to recover replaced files on Mac with Time Machine?

The powerful macOS always considers users' requirements. It is designed with a built-in backup tool called Time Machine, helping you do regular backups on your Mac in case of unexpected data loss happens. For example, data loss due to your accidental file replacement.

But the case is, Time Machine is different from cloud storage that can back up data on your Mac in real-time, or we say sync.

So, only if you've turned on your Time Machine before your file is overwritten, you can recover an overwritten file with it. Otherwise, you have to use a cloud backup or data recovery tool to help you.

To restore files with Time Machine, you can refer to these steps:

1. Open Finder > the folder where the overwritten file was stored.

2. Click the Time Machine icon at the upper right corner of your screen. Then, choose Enter Time Machine from the Time Machine menu.

Use Time Machine to restore replaced files

3. Click the up arrow to return to the time before the file was replaced and select it.

4. Click Restore and make sure which file you want to remain, the previous or current one, or both of them.

Well, the overwritten files are back, you can access or edit the restored files now.

What is an overwritten file?

The overwritten files, or called replaced files, are lost files on your Mac computer. When you store a file that has the same name and size as another one, the operating system will usually ask you if you'd like to replace the file that already exists. If you insist on replacing it, the file labeled the same name as your new file is overwritten. That is what we call an overwritten file.

What are replaced files

Where do the replaced files go?

The overwritten file will still store on your Mac internal hard drive until a new file is written in its place. But you can't find it from any folder or location on your Mac because once the files are replaced by new files, the operating system will automatically remove them to free up space. You need to recover it with the help of the data recovery program to get it back from your Mac hard drive.

Does Overwrite Mean Delete?

If you can't find the original data in any folder or app even Trash on your Mac, overwrite can stand for delete. Because the existing file on your Mac is the new one after replacement.

But if you mean the data no longer exist on your Mac hard drive, in the strictest sense, overwrite doesn't mean delete. That's because the overwritten files on your Mac are not immediately removed from your Mac hard drive until new files take up their location on the drive.

Final thoughts

All right, there are many options for you to recover overwritten files on Mac, such as Time Machine, cloud storage tool, the internal restore feature of the app, or data recovery software. But, whether you can recover overwritten files on your Mac or not with one of these tools, it's depending on your situation.

In general, using a data recovery app is the easiest and most convenient way as it can restore your overwritten Word document, images, or other files within a few clicks. Moreover, it also helps recover permanently deleted files on your Mac.

FAQs about recovering overwritten files on Mac


When the original file is overwritten by the new one, the file name of the overwritten file doesn't change but the content is replaced with the new. You can't find the content of the overwritten file on your Mac. But in fact, the old file is still recoverable. It still stores on your Mac internal hard drive until some new data is written in its original place on the hard drive.


You can try to undo replace the file with the revert function within the app. Or, restore from your Time Machine backup or cloud backup. If the mentioned three options are not available, use third-party software to get the lost file back.


You need to open the Word document. Then, select the File option at the top of the Apple navigation bar and click Revert to > Browse All Versions. Next, browse versions via clicking the up arrow and choose the version you'd like to restore.

If you want to recover the document to this version, just click Restore. But if you want to restore this version in a new document, press down the Option key and then, click Restore a Copy.


Open the File document and navigate to the top Apple menu bar. Click File and select Browse Version History. Look through the history versions of the File document and then choose your desired one.

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