Simple file recovery tips for Mac

Friday, 30 May 2014 by Sam Wiltshire

Sometimes you accidentally delete a file on a Mac. What is the best way to get it back? Where should you be looking? Here are a few simple things to try first:

1. Check the Trash

1. To avoid deleting files by accident, your Mac first sends everything to the Trash. This holding area gives you one last chance to confirm you really want to delete files before they are removed permanently. You will see the Trash icon at the far right of the dock in the bottom of your Mac’s screen (it looks like a wastepaper basket):

Click the icon and you will see a list of all the files that have been moved to trash, but not yet permanently deleted. Select the missing file from the list and click the “cog” icon at the top of the screen. Choose Put Back to return the file to its original location.

2. Files stay in the Trash until you empty it, so you may find there are hundreds of documents to sift through until you find the one you need.

2. Check the file isn’t somewhere else

If you don't remember dragging the missing file into the Trash, you could simply be looking for it in the wrong place. Before doing anything else, try searching the entire for the missing file like so:

  1. Click the magnifying glass icon in the top right-hand corner of the screen and type some of the filename into the search box provided. Your computer will start to display results immediately based on what you type.
  1. Check the list of files that is generated to see if the one you need is listed. If you move your mouse pointer over any of the file names, you will get a preview pop-up, showing you the contents of the file so you don’t even have to open it properly to check.Your computer will automatically display the top 5 “hits” for various file types including documents, images and emails.
  2. If you don’t see the one you need, click Show all in Finder.
  3. A new Finder will pop-up showing any file that matches your search text, in this case “corporate”. Be warned, there may be hundreds, or even thousands. So long as you have remembered the right file name, your missing document should be somewhere in this list. You can use the filter options circled in the picture above to help narrow down some of the results. You can also click on any file name to see a quick preview of its contents.

3. Recovering deleted files

If the file is not in your Trash, and you can’t find it by searching, then chances are that it has probably been deleted completely. Unless you have set up your Mac’s Time Machine backup system, there is no quick or easy way to recover deleted data.

Even so, there is still no need to panic. You just need a file recovery programme like Ontrack EasyRecovery to search for and undelete the document.

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