How to Recover Deleted Files on a Mac

Retrieve your mistakes

What to Know

  • Restore files through the Trash by clicking Trash > right-clicking the file > Put Back.
  • Restore files via Time Machine by clicking Time Machine > Enter Time Machine > Restore
  • The longer you wait to restore a file, the less chance it's still available.

This article teaches you how to recover deleted files on Mac and looks at the different methods available with file recovery.

Is It Possible to Recover Deleted Files on Mac?

If you sent the file to your Trash, then yes, you can get it back as the files weren't permanently deleted yet. Files aren't removed from the Trash Can unless you manually delete them or 30 days since you deleted the file has elapsed.

If the file is no longer in the Trash, it has been permanently deleted, making retrieval much harder, although not impossible, if you have Time Machine set up for regular backups. 

Recover that Trash: Where to Find Deleted Files on Mac

Recovering files on Mac is very simple, providing you haven't permanently deleted the file. If you check your Trash Can within 30 days of deletion, the file is usually still there. Here's where to look. 

  1. On the MacOS desktop, click Trash.

    MacOS desktop with the trash can highlighted

    Depending on your geographical region, it may be called Bin.

  2. Browse through the files to find the one you're looking for.

    MacOS Trash Can with a deleted item highlighted
  3. Click on it to preview the contents of the file.

How Do I Restore Deleted Files?

If you want to restore your deleted files via the Trash Can, the process is still straightforward. Here's how to do it.

  1. On the MacOS desktop, click Trash.

    MacOS desktop with Trash Can highlighted
  2. Browse through the files in the Trash Can to find the one you wish to restore.

  3. Right-click the file and click Put Back.

    MacOS desktop with Trash Can open and Put Back highlighted on a file
  4. If you wish to restore several files, you can click on each while holding down Shift to select them all, then right-click and click Put Back. 

How Do I Restore My Bin on a Mac?

If you want to restore your entire Trash Can or Trash Bin on a Mac, you can do this in a far quicker way than right-clicking each file. Here's how to do so.

  1. On the MacOS desktop, click Trash.

  2. Tap Cmd + A on your keyboard to select all, then right-click on the section and click Put Back.

    MacOS with trash can open and all items contained within highlighted
  3. The files are all now restored to their respective locations from before you deleted them.

How Do I Recover Permanently Deleted Files?

It's sometimes possible to recover permanently deleted files, but you'll need to use either MacOS's Time Machine or file recovery software such as Disk Drill. The easiest way to recover permanently deleted files is to use Time Machine. Here's how to recover files.

If you don't already have Time Machine set up, you can't use it to restore files.

  1. Open the folder you deleted the file from.

  2. Click Time Machine on your Menu Bar.

    MacOS desktop with Time Machine icon highlighted on Menu Bar
  3. Click Enter Time Machine.

    MacOS desktop with Time Machine menu open and Enter Time Machine highlighted
  4. Select the file you wish to recover.

  5. Click Restore.

  6. The file is now back in its original location. 

  • Can I recover deleted files from an external hard drive on my Mac?

    Yes. When you restore deleted files from the Trash or Time Machine, they will appear wherever they originally were, including external drives.

  • How do I back up my Mac to an external hard drive with Time Machine?

    To back up an external hard drive on your Mac, go to Apple menu > System Preferences > Time Machine > Select Backup Disk and select Use Disk on your external drive. Then, select Show Time Machine > Time Machine icon > Back Up Now.

  • How do I automatically back up my Mac with Time Machine?

    To automatically back up your Mac, go to Time Machine and perform a manual backup. Before you select Back Up Now, check the Back Up Automatically box and select Options. Next, set your preferences and Save.

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