So you hit the “Empty Trash” option on your MacBook, only to find that you have several important files got removed as well? Or they are lost after you updated your machine to latest macOS High Sierra?
Those files could be the precious photos you’ve just synced from an iPhone or iPad, or some documents you’ve been working on for days…whatever they are, the question is – is it possible to recover files deleted from Trash on macOS?
Quick answer: yes — but it’s not 100% guaranteed.
In this post, we’re going to explain the reasons why, and more importantly, show you a step-by-step guide on how to recover those trashed files the right way.
Are files deleted from Mac Trash still recoverable?
We all know that once you delete a file by dragging it to the Trash bin, it’s easy to undelete it. Simply go to the Trash, find the file, highlight it, right-click and select “Put Back”. Then you’ll find it immediately in its original location. You see, macOS doesn’t actually delete the file immediately.
But what if you also removed the file from the Trash? Does that mean it is gone for good?
Well, it depends.
If you are using a MacBook with a hard disk drive (HDD), chance to recover the file is high. Technically speaking, only the name of the file is removed from the disk directory of your Macintosh HD, and the space that file originally takes is now marked as vacant, to be written over by new files generated by the user (you) or the system. The disk directory we talk about here acts like a “chief-commander” to manage all the data writing activities that occur in a hard drive. It records everything, where every file lives, its size, etc. When you delete a file, only the “header” information of the file is removed while the real data remains intact. So, as long as you don’t write anything new to the disk space, the file is usually recoverable. However, there is no way to tell when the released space will be reused.
If you are using a MacBook Pro with a solid state drive (SSD), sadly it’s another story. When you erase the file, it’s usually beyond recovery unless you have a backup. This is due to how the “Trim command” organizes a file in a SSD. When you delete a file from Trash, the TRIM system in Apple macOS also zeros out the actual data as part of its disk management, making the chances of salvaging the data slim.
Okay, now you get it, so what’s next…
How to get those trashed files back to your MacBook Pro?
Important thing first — it is highly recommended that you stop using your Mac immediately. If your Mac is equipped with HDDs, try your best not to save or generate new files as they can possibly “over-write” the disk space where your deleted files were stored. Once overwritten, it’s extremely hard to retrieve the deleted files.
Step 1: Check if you have saved the files on another storage device.
Close your eyes for a few seconds, think about when you created the files. For example, if they are photos, maybe they are still on your smartphone or on removable media (memory card, USB stick, external hard drive, etc.). If they are project-based documents, maybe you’ve shared them with your co-workers, also check your email sent box to see if they are there.
Step 2: Restore from Time Machine backup
If you have enabled Time Machine backup, you are in luck. The files you trashed are probably in a previous Time Machine snapshot. Simply enter Time Machine and navigate to the folder where your erased items lie. Read this Apple article for detailed steps.
Step 3: Use a third-party Mac data rescue program
If the above steps don’t apply or work for you, your last option would be to use a professional data recovery tool.
You might try Stellar Mac Data Recovery. The trial version is free and allows you to see if it is able to scan and locate the deleted files (with “Preview” functionality), you’ll need to purchase the software to fully recover the items though.
Other good alternatives are DiskWarrior 5 and Remo Recover Mac, in case Stellar doesn’t work out for you.
Final words – backup is king!
Your data is irreplaceable. The best way to avoid data disaster on Mac machine is to make backups, or backup of your backups.
Apple Time Capsule is my first recommendation as it’s made by Apple. If you’re looking for something more affordable, Seagate Personal Cloud Home Media Storage Device 3TB NAS is a nice alternative.
Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that online backup services like Dropbox and Google Drive are also great choice, and they have free plans. Personally, I prefer hardware storage devices because they are more reliable and have much bigger volume. But hey, it’s up to you.
New update: since macOS Sierra, you can back up your files to iCloud even more conveniently.
Either way, we wish you best of luck in recovering your trashed items.