Recover Deleted Files in OS X (and Windows)

What should you do if you find out that you've deleted files or folders that you actually wanted to keep? Here we explain how to get these files back on your Mac (and secretly on a Windows PC too...).

Check the Recycle Bin

The first thing to do is to check if the deleted files are still in the recycle bin. If so, then you've been lucky and can put them back. Files stored on USB drives and other external devices are almost never put in the trash when you delete them. The same goes for files that are too large to fit in the trash. Also Read: Retrieve Lost Photos and Documents Easily.

On your Mac, you need to go to the trash can right click on the file or folder in question and put back Selecting.

On your Windows PC, you need to go to the Garbage can go, click on the file or folder in question and Restore this item select on the toolbar. You can also restore everything in the Recycle Bin by clicking Restore all items clicking when no files or folders are selected. The items will then be returned to their original location.

File Recovery

If the items you want to retrieve aren't in the trash, but they do come off your computer instead of an external device, it's best to stop using your computer right away. You can still do some things, but don't save anything, don't install new programs and don't try to stream or download anything to your computer.

Files and folders that have been deleted are not completely gone. The items themselves still exist, but are hidden. The operating system only removes the links that point to it and adds the storage space the items would have taken up to the free space on your system. As long as nothing else is stored on your computer, this physical free space will not be used and the original data will remain, so you can retrieve it.


You can try using file recovery software such as Recuva for Windows or Disk Drill for Mac OS X. If the software you are using cannot find the deleted file, it may be a good idea to try another recovery program. Because such software works in different ways, one program may find your files while another cannot.

It is a good idea to download the portable version of recovery software and save it to an external drive, as this way you will not overwrite free space on your computer that may contain the data you want to recover.

Each program is a little different, but usually you have to select which hard drive you want to scan. Depending on the size of the hard drive, searching for deleted files may take a few seconds to several minutes. You will then be presented with a list of recoverable files along with an option to recover them.

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