Top 7 Free File Recovery Software for Mac OS X

Not all files can be replaced - at least not easily. But if you’ve lost or accidentally deleted an irreplaceable file, not all hope is lost just yet. There’s a good chance that you’ll be able to get it back using one of the top 7 free file recovery software for Mac OS X described in this article.

Updated in June 2021

1. Disk Drill for Mac

Disk Drill is a complete data recovery package designed to quickly and painlessly recover deleted partitions or deleted files from your Mac’s internal drives as well as various peripherals, including iOS and Android devices.


Disk Drill data recovery software for Mac

Overall Experience:


There are many file recovery software solutions for Mac, but only a few feel like true Mac apps. And out of those that are designed in accordance with Apple’s GUI guidelines, a small fraction delivers satisfactory results. Disk Drill is the best free file recovery software for Mac because it offers professional data recovery features in a sleek package.


With Disk Drill, it doesn’t matter what type of file you want to recover and from which device. This file recovery software supports hundreds of file formats and all commonly used storage devices, including Android and iOS smartphones and tablets.


Regardless of whether you need to recover a single document from your system drive or thousands of pictures from a memory card, it always takes just one click on the Recover button to get the job done. To reassure you that you’re recovering the right files, Disk Drill can preview the same file formats as your Mac.


To recover deleted files on Mac using Disk Drill, you need to:


  1. Download and install Disk Drill for Mac.
  2. Launch the application and locate the storage device from which you want to recover deleted files.
  3. Click Recover next to the storage device to scan for lost data.
  4. Preview recoverable files and select a new storage location for restored data.
  5. Click Recover again to perform the recovery.

Included for free in the basic version of Disk Drill are Recovery Vault and Guaranteed Recovery, two handy data protection features that allow Disk Drill to monitor your file deletion activity and retain metadata so that you can quickly and easily recover any deleted file with 100% success rate.


Advantages:

  • Supports hundreds of file formats

  • Restores data from Android and iOS devices

  • DIY approach to data recovery

  • Comes with extra free disk tools


Disadvantages:

  • The free version can only preview files


Price: PRO $89, Enterprise $499

"It was the only product in my arsenal that was able to successfully restore some files I'd lost on a crashed Time Machine volume." - yelp.com

2. TestDisk for Mac

TestDisk is a free and open-source file recovery software application created by Christophe Grenier. While its main purpose is to recover lost partitions and fix boot issues, it can also be used to recover deleted files.

TestDisk for Mac

Overall Experience:


TestDisk is an open-source, freeware file recovery software application licensed under the terms of the GNU General Public License. It runs on many operating systems, including the newest versions of macOS (the users of macOS Catalina can install TestDisk via Homebrew, but there are some known issues). It was originally intended to recover lost partitions and fix boot issues, but its developers have gradually turned it into the multi-purpose file recovery software it is today.


Despite being completely free, TestDisk supports most file formats and file systems, including FAT16 and FAT32, exFAT, NTFS, HFS, HFS+, ext2/3/4, LVM and LVM2, ReiserFS, and others. Unfortunately, not all file systems are supported equally well, so some can be repaired and recovered, while others can only be scanned for lost partitions.


But the biggest limitation of TestDisk, at least for regular users, is its command-line user interface. Not that the interface is unreasonably complicated or unintuitive, but less experienced users tend to feel intimidated by it. If you’re among those who are afraid of command-line applications, we recommend you read the official documentation before you throw in the towel.


Advantages:

  • Open-source and free

  • Reliable recovery results

  • Runs on many platforms


Disadvantages:

  • Command-line user interface

  • Geared toward experienced users and professionals


Price: Free

"Been using for several years and it keeps getting better. Have not seen anything I don't like. Lost an exfat partition and was able to recover and rebuild the partition quickly with Testdisk." - g2.com

3. Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery

Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery is a free file recovery software tool that enables you to recover an unlimited amount of data with no financial investment whatsoever.

Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery

Overall Experience:


Even though Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery has been around for some time, most younger Mac users have never heard of it. That’s probably because it doesn’t officially support the latest version of Mac OS X. That said, we were able to get it to run on macOS Catalina just fine and use it to recover deleted images.


Besides images, Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery can also recover audio files, videos, documents, and many other file format families from HFS/HFS+, FAT, FAT32, NTFS, and exFAT file systems. You can either run a fast scan to quickly recover files from a working storage device or select the deep scan option to first recover a lost, deleted, or damaged partition.


Regardless of which of these two options you select, you can start looking for your files even when the scan is still being conducted, which makes the recovery process go a bit faster. Unfortunately, it seems that developers of Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery will never update this file recovery software to officially support the latest version of Mac OS X because the last update was released in 2014.


Advantages:

  • Designed specifically for Mac users

  • Features an easy-to-use interface

  • Runs on older versions of Mac OS X


Disadvantages:

  • Doesn’t officially support the latest version of Mac OS X


Price: Free

"After using this program on my MacBook on OSX 10.6.8, almost all deleted files were recovered. Quite satisfying." - macupdate.com

4. iSkysoft Data Recovery

File recovery is a complicated process, but iSkysoft Data Recovery makes it simple with its user-friendly interface and three-step recovery process.

iSkysoft Data Recovery

Overall Experience:


iSkysoft Data Recovery supports any type of storage device that uses a common Mac, Windows, or Linux file system. It runs on Mac OS X 10.6 and newer and can be used to recover photos, documents, music files, and just about any other type of file found on your Mac.


One of the main goals of its developers is to make iSkysoft Data Recovery so intuitive that even users who have never recovered files before can launch it and instantly figure it out. We can say that this goal has been accomplished nearly perfectly. File recovery with iSkysoft Data Recovery requires just three simple steps, and the application makes it abundantly clear where you need to click next to get your files back.


With the free version of iSkysoft Data Recovery, you can recover up to 1 GB of data. To unlock unlimited recovery, you need to purchase one of the three available licenses, which start at $79.95.


Advantages:

  • Sleek user interface

  • Recovers hundreds of file formats

  • Translated into a dozen of languages


Disadvantages:

  • Can recover only 1 GB of data for free


Price: Essential $79.95, Standard $99.95, Advanced $119.95

"It is rare for a company to produce such high quality software and have great customer service as well." - trustpilot.com

5. M3 Mac Data Recovery

M3 Mac Data Recovery is an attractive file recovery software application with an intuitive recovery process and two powerful scanning modes. Its user interface is clean and clearly inspired by Apple’s own design guidelines.

M3 Mac Data Recovery

Overall Experience:


Using this tool, you can recover files from virtually any storage device compatible with your Mac, such as an external hard drive, USB flash drive, or SD card. The M3 Mac Data Recovery can recover deleted files from an emptied Trash Bin as well as from deleted logical volumes. A pre-recovery preview function allows you to view deleted files before you recover them.


M3 Mac Data Recovery can read encrypted APFS volumes and recover deleted or lost files from them just as effortlessly as from all other unencrypted volumes. You can choose between two equally useful scanning modes: Quick Scan and Deep Scan. The former takes less time, but it can miss some hard-to-recover files. The latter can take hours to complete, but it delivers the best file recovery results.


The free version of M3 Mac Data Recovery lets you recover up to 1 GB of data free of charge. The least expensive paid version of this file recovery software application costs just $69.95, but it doesn’t support encrypted APFS volumes. To recover files from them, you need to pay $99.95 for a Professional license.


Advantages:

  • Support for encrypted APFS volumes

  • Two scanning modes

  • File preview before recovery


Disadvantages:

  • Can recover only 1 GB of data for free


Price: Standard edition $69.95, Professional edition US$99.95, Technician edition $299

"M3 data recovery is simple, easy to use, super fast and actually works with a minimum of fuss. Sets a new benchmark in data recovery." - cnet.com

6. PhotoRec Recovery for Mac

PhotoRec is a companion product to the partition recovery tool TestDisk, and it specializes in recovering lost images from hard drives, memory cards, USB flash drives, CD-ROMs, and other storage devices.

PhotoRec Recovery for Mac

Overall Experience:


PhotoRec shares many similarities with its sister application, TestDisk. They both have a command-line interface known for turning away users who have limited experience with data recovery and computers in general, they are both distributed under GNU General Public License (GPL v2+), and they both recover deleted files from a wide variety of storage devices.


The difference is that TestDisk is a partition recovery tool, whereas PhotoRec is a general-purpose file recovery software application with support for more than 480 file extensions (not just image file formats, as its name suggests).


Recovering files with PhotoRec isn’t significantly more complicated than recovering files with a file recovery software application with a graphical user interface, except that there are no visual elements to guide you through the process.


Advantages:

  • Free and open source

  • Runs on many different operating systems

  • Works even with severely damaged file systems


Disadvantages:

  • Command-line interface

  • Suitable for experienced users


Price: Free

"I used PhotoRec on my GNU/Linux PC (Xubuntu 20.10) to undelete deleted photos on an SD card in my camera. It worked phatastically and took not too much time. Great software, I immediately donated a few bucks." - alternativeto.net

7. Exif Untrasher

Exif Untrasher is a free Mac file recovery software tool that was developed with a single purpose in mind: to recover JPEG images from physical storage devices and disk images.

Exif Untrasher

Overall Experience:


Developed by software developer Carsten Blüm, Exif Untrasher is the most straightforward free file recovery software that we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to all Mac users. It’s designed to painlessly recover JPEG images from physical storage devices and disk images. Yes, this file recovery software doesn’t support any other image file formats, so you better look elsewhere if you need to recover documents or videos.


Because Exif Untrasher does just one thing, it can do it exceptionally well. To recover images with it, you simply select a physical storage device or disk image, specify the destination folder, and start the recovery process.


Exif Untrasher runs on Mac OS X 10.10 or higher and is localized in English, German, French, and Italian. You can download it directly from the developer’s website and install it just like you would any other third-party Mac application.


Advantages:

  • Freeware

  • Extremely easy to use


Disadvantages:

  • It can only recover JPEG files


Price: Free

"All images had been deleted and memorycard formatted on my Nikon D70! Still Exif Untrasher wal able to recover all 240 jpeg-images I was missing. Great app!" - cnet.com

Comparison of the Best Data Recovery Software for Mac

Disk Drill free photo recovery
Disk Drill
TestDisk
TestDisk
Lazesoft
Lazesoft
iSkysoft
iSkysoft
M3
M3
PhotoRec
PhotoRec
Exif Untrasher
Exif Untrasher
Recovery Results
Price $89 Freeware Freeware $79.95 annual subscription $99.95 Freeware Freeware
Mac OS support Mac OS X 10.5 - macOS 10.15 Mac OS X 10.5 - macOS 10.14 Mac OS X 10.5 - macOS 10.14 Mac OS X 10.6 - macOS 10.15 Mac OS X 10.7 - macOS 10.15 Mac OS X 10.5 - macOS 10.14 Mac OS X 10.10 and later
Demo avaiable
Modern interface
Data Protection Tools
Payment Options PayPal, Credit Card, Wire Transfer PayPal, Credit Card PayPal, Credit Card PayPal, Credit Card, Wire Transfer

Choosing the Best Data Recovery Software

We considered multiple characteristics of the data recovery solutions chosen for our list. Examining a single factor may not be enough to determine which solution is the right one for your data loss situation. Following are the attributes of the competing software solutions that influenced our decision and may steer you toward a specific application.



  • ⚙️ Data recovery performance.The recovery performance of the chosen solution is its most important characteristic. No matter how well a solution compares in the other categories we will consider, it needs to be able to successfully recover your lost data. That’s the bottom line for data recovery software.
    Recovery performance should be considered apart from factors like ease of use and pricing. A free tool that is extremely easy to use but fails to recover more than half your files is not very useful when faced with the loss of valuable data. So recovery performance is a crucial factor in determining the best solution.
  • 💡 Functionality. Recovery tools should provide the user with the required level of functionality to address their data loss scenario. A stable software solution will straightforwardly perform its recovery functions and enable data in many formats to be restored from a variety of storage devices.
    The functionality of a recovery tool can be hindered by issues like not recovering file names or not categorizing recoverable files. This reduced functionality makes it hard or impossible for a non-technical user to successfully recover data with the tool.
  • 💲 Pricing. The price of data recovery software ranges from freeware to expensive commercial products. In general, freeware recovery products have limited functionality and do not have user-friendly interfaces.
  • 💬 User reviews. User reviews can be a good source of information about a software product. Keep in mind that the review could have been submitted by the product’s marketing department or a competitor. Taking that into account, you should be able to glean some information regarding recovery results and ease of use from user reviews.
  • 👴 Ease-of-use. Data recovery is a stressful situation for the majority of computer users. Trying to restore your lost files using a complicated procedure or obscure interface will only increase the stress level. We like simple interfaces that make it easy to recover data with a few clicks. You should look for a user-friendly tool that simplifies the data recovery process.

How Does Data Recovery on Mac Work?

Data recovery app for Mac takes advantage of the fact that Apple designed its operating system to be as efficient as possible. When a user deletes a file on a Mac computer, the operating system simply marks the physical storage space occupied by the file as available but doesn’t actually delete it.

Instead, the deleted file remains physically present on the storage device until the operating system overwrites it with new data. Before that happens, it’s possible to recover it using one of the data recovery apps listed in this article.

Can Data Recovery Be Performed on All Versions of macOS?

While newer versions of macOS require users to grant data recovery apps some additional permissions, the actual recovery process remains the same regardless of which version you choose. That said, you need to verify that your data recovery app of choice supports the version of macOS you have installed on your computer.

Here’s a list of all versions of macOS and Mac OS X that were released in the last 10 years:
  • OS X 10.7 Lion - 20 July 2011
  • OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion - 25 July 2012
  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks - 22 October 2013
  • OS X 10.10 Yosemite - 16 October 2014
  • OS X 10.11 El Capitan - 30 September 2015
  • macOS 10.12 Sierra - 20 September 2016
  • macOS 10.13 High Sierra - 25 September 2017
  • macOS 10.14 Mojave - 24 September 2018
  • macOS 10.15 Catalina - 7 October 2019
  • macOS 11.0.1 Big Sur - 12 November 2020

As you can see, Apple decided to rename its operating system to macOS with the release of macOS 10.12 Sierra.

Which Storage Devices Can Be Recovered?

The best data recovery apps for Mac can recover deleted and lost files from all storage devices available to Mac users, including:
  • Hard drives: Both internal and external hard drives can be recovered using a capable data recovery app, and that includes traditional spinning drives and modern solid-state drives. Some data recovery apps let you recover data from specific partitions, while other apps always scan the entire hard drive.
  • USB flash drives: Flash-based data storage devices with an integrated USB port are useful for transferring small files between computers, but it’s easy to accidentally format them, wiping out all data in just a few seconds. Fortunately, all USB flash drives (USB 1.x, 2.0, and 3.x) can be recovered just as easily as hard drives.
  • Memory cards: Available in a wide variety of types and form factors (SD, SDHC, SDXC, CF I and II, xD, and so on), memory cards are commonly used in cameras, smartphones, media players, and other portable electronic devices. As long as you have a compatible memory card reader, you can recover lost data from any memory card using the data recovery apps for Mac listed in this article.

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated on by Disk Drill Team

You can recover permanently deleted photos on a Mac using a previously created backup or data recovery software.

Using a previously created backup:

  1. Connect the backup media to your Mac.
  2. Start the backup and recovery application.
  3. Search for the deleted photos and restore them using the tool’s interface.

With recovery software like Disk Drill:

  1. Download and install the data recovery software.
  2. Launch the program and select the disk that contained the lost data from the available devices.
  3. Click the Search for lost data button to start scanning the disk for recoverable photos.
  4. Preview the found files and select the ones you want to recover.
  5. Choose a safe storage location that is not on the original disk at which to save the recovered photos.
  6. Click the Recover button and allow the program to complete the recovery process.

The amount of money it will cost to recover data from a Mac varies widely based on the method and product used to perform the recovery. Assuming that you do not have a backup of the data and the lost files are not in the Trash, you essentially have three options.

Freeware - You might be able to recover your lost data for free using a freeware solution. If you choose this route, be prepared for inconsistent recovery results and the possibility that you will be using a very basic or command-line interface.

Commercial software - Reliable commercial data recovery products can be obtained for under $100 and offer a much more intuitive and consistent recovery experience compared to freeware alternatives.

Data recovery service - When data recovery software fails, the professionals at a data recovery service may be able to restore your data. This is the most expensive method and can cost several hundred or thousands of dollars.

Yes, there are. TestDisk for Mac is our favorite completely free Mac data recovery software application because it’s open-source and supports most file formats and file systems. Other options include PhotoRec, Exif Untrasher, and Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery.

Follow these steps to recover deleted files from Mac’s Trash:

  1. Open the Trash by clicking on its icon on your Mac.
  2. Search for the folder or files that you want to restore.
  3. Select the files and right-click to open up the action menu.
  4. Click on Put back to return the files to their original locations.

To recover files using Mac terminal: 

  1. Launch the Terminal application.
  2. Enter cd .Trash and press Return to move to the Trash folder.
  3. Type this command mv xxx.xxx specifying the filename and extension you wish to recover. Hit Return.
  4. Type Quit to exit the Terminal app. Files are restored to their original locations.

Conclusion

When faced with a lost or deleted file, don't despair. These software packages can help you recover those lost files. Using Disk Drill’s data protection capabilities before a data loss event occurs will give you peace of mind that you can always recover an accidentally deleted file. Download the application today and have it working behind the scenes to protect your data before an unfortunate data loss scenario.
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