Top 7 Free File Recovery Software for Mac OS X

Most computer users consider at least some of the files that reside on their machines to be important. Items such as digital photos, videos, and music files are just a few examples of electronic artifacts that would cause at least some emotional distress if they were suddenly to disappear. Their loss may result in users needing to recover deleted files on Mac. In some cases, there may be financial incentives to retain files and their accidental deletion or loss can lead to unnecessary expenses in trying to recreate the lost files. Many files cannot be recreated, meaning that the only solution will be to attempt a file restoration using data recovery software for the Mac.

Your first reaction upon discovering that you are missing your treasured family photos or those live recordings from a recent concert might be to panic. Try to control that feeling and look at the situation from an objective point of view. There are free file recovery software applications for the Mac and this is a time that you need to use one of them.

We are going to take a look at some of the best file recovery software for the Mac. All of the solutions reviewed offer at least a free trial download to preview recoverable files or to test the product. Some of these packages are totally free. One of them might be right for your data recovery needs.

1. Disk Drill for Mac

Let’s begin our review of free data recovery software for the Mac with the powerful and full-featured Disk Drill application. It is a complete data recovery package that is designed to recover deleted partitions or restore deleted files from your Mac’s internal drives as well as many peripherals including iOS and Android devices. In addition to its great data recovery capabilities, Disk Drill offers users advanced methods that increase your ability to proactively protect your precious data.


Disk Drill for Mac

Features:


Disk Drill employs a suite of powerful scanning options that can recover lost and deleted files from your Mac’s hard drive as well as from most external storage devices. When you first install and run the program you will be presented with a window that displays the drives or devices that are available for recovery. Depending on the type of device you may choose from a Quick scan that will often be able to recover your missing file, or dive deeper with Deep scanning technology. With a Deep scan, files can be recovered from formatted drives as the program identifies the scattered file components and puts them back together. Disk Drill can easily recover files from an emptied Trash Bin.


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 select the disk requiring recovery.
  3. Click Recover to scan for lost data.
  4. Preview the files that can be recovered and select a new storage location for restored data.
  5. Click Recover again to perform the recovery.

Disk Drill’s recovery and scanning algorithms can recognize more than 200 different file types meaning that the program can recover just about any file that might reside on your Mac machine. This includes photos, videos, documents, and applications to name a few. The application runs on Mac machines that run OS 10.8 or later and offers users an intuitive interface that allows you to filter files and select the recovery location for your files.


Recovery Vault and Guaranteed Recovery are data protection options that are included in the free trial version of the software. Activating these functions allows Disk Drill to monitor your file deletion activity and retain metadata to allow for quick and easy file recovery.


Advantages:

  • Deep scanning technology provides a greater chance of recovery success.

  • Over 300 file types are supported.

  • Recovery Vault and Guaranteed Recovery are included in the free version of the tool.


Disadvantages:

  • Free version only allows preview of data recovery or recovery of previously protected data.

2. TestDisk for Mac

TestDisk is an open-source, freeware product that is licensed under the terms of the GNU General Public License. It runs on many operating systems including the newest versions of the Mac OS X. The program is tailored to be useful to both experienced data recovery personnel as well as novices. Reports can be generated on non-bootable drives that can be used by tech support teams to diagnose drive problems.

TestDisk for Mac

Features:


The original intent of this freeware application was to recover lost partitions and correct problems in bootable drives that are failing to boot. It is excellent at performing those functions and can also be used to undelete files and recover or rebuild boot sectors. The tool recognizes many file types and can be instrumental in assisting you in your data recovery efforts.


Advantages:

  • No cost associated with using this freeware product.

  • Free customer support is available from the TestDisk team.


Disadvantages:

  • Command-line UI.

  • May be more suitable for expert users.

3. Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery

Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery is a totally free software tool that enables you to recover an unlimited amount of data with no financial investment whatsoever. The developers rely on donations to further product development and customer support. The package is specifically developed for the Mac OS environment and can be used to recover data from HFS/HFS+, FAT, FAT32, NTFS, EXFAT and other file systems.

Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery

Features:


The program employs complimentary file recovery and drive recovery methods to restore files that were accidentally deleted. Formatted partitions can be recovered using a deep scan with the drive recovery algorithms. You can use this program to recover photos, music files, documents, and applications from your hard drive of SD card. Data and file preview is supported during the applications scanning phase and the results are displayed in an easy-to-use user interface.


Advantages:

  • Designed to be used in the Mac OS environment.

  • No cost recovery of unlimited data.


Disadvantages:

  • May not support the most current version of the Mac operating system.

4. iSkysoft Data Recovery

iSkysoft Data Recovery is the next offering in our overview of recovery programs. It supports any type of storage device that uses the NTFS, FAT16, FAT32 or exFAT file systems. The application runs on Mac machines running OS 10.5 through the newest version 10.14. You can use this versatile program to recover photos, documents, music files, and just about any other type of file found on your computer.

iSkysoft Data Recovery

Features:


This software tool offers you the ability to preview files before recovery to ensure that you don’t waste time restoring invalid or corrupt files. The user interface presents your data in folder trees and filters make it easy to locate the file you are interested in recovering. The intuitive user interface makes file recovery simple. You can download a free trial version to test drive the app and recover a limited amount of data.


Advantages:

  • A 30-day money back guarantee is provided with the paid version of the software.


Disadvantages:

  • Slower than average scan and recovery speeds compared to other tools.

  • Free version is limited to 1GB of recovered data.

5. M3 Mac Data Recovery

Rounding out our look at free Mac data recovery tools is the M3 Data Recovery application. It runs on Mac machines running OS 10.7 through the newest version of Mojave. The program recognizes a wide variety of file types and systems including encrypted APFS partitions.

M3 Mac Data Recovery

Features:


Using this tool you can recover data from virtually any storage device that is compatible with your Mac computer. The app has the ability to recover deleted files from an emptied Trash Bin as well as from deleted logical volumes. A pre-recovery preview function allows you to view actual recovery results in virtual mode before proceeding with the actual restore.


Advantages:

  • Supports all Mac-compatible storage devices.


Disadvantages:

  • The free version has the ability to scan lost data but only allows 1GB of data recovery.

6. PhotoRec Recovery for Mac

PhotoRec is a free recovery tool that specializes in recovering lost images from all types of disk-based storage media and CD-ROMs. It is a companion product to the partition recovery tool TestDisk. It works on a wide variety of operating systems and file systems and can restore files from damaged or corrupted disks.

PhotoRec Recovery for Mac

Features:


PhotoRec provides users with a menu-driven, command-line interface that can be used to recover photos and images from a wide variety of storage devices. You can upload damaged or corrupted files to the tool’s online checker which will let you know if they are potentially recoverable. The utility runs in read-only mode and will not cause any damage to your disk or storage device.


Advantages:

  • Recovers many file types besides photos;

  • Recovers from many different kinds of storage devices;

  • Freeware.


Disadvantages:

  • May not fully recover data;

  • Suitable for experienced users;

  • Command-line interface.

7. Exif Untrasher

Exif Untrasher is a free Mac data recovery software tool that was developed with a single purpose in mind. It can be used to recover JPEG images from an SD card, memory stick or hard disk. The utility can restore accidentally deleted files from many types of SD cards and digital cameras.

Exif Untrasher

Features:


Exif Untrasher offers users a basic graphical interface that enables them to recover deleted JPEG files from an SD card or digital camera. The card needs to be mounted as a volume on your Mac machine for the utility to access it and attempt a restore. No changes are made to your SD card and the tool prompts for a safe location to restore any found JPEGs.


Advantages:

  • Freeware;

  • It can be used on many digital cameras and other storage devices.


Disadvantages:

  • It can only recover JPEG files.

Comparison Table

Criteria Disk Drill TestDisk Lazesoft iSkysoft M3 PhotoRec Exif Untrasher
User-interface quality Excellent Poor command-line tool Good Excellent Excellent Poor command-line tool Fair
Recover files from emptied Trash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Storage Media supported All disk-based storage devices All disk-based storage devices All disk-based storage devices All disk-based storage devices All disk-based storage devices All disk-based storage devices All disk-based storage devices
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 10.13 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
Preview data before recovery Yes No Yes Yes Yes No No
Data Protection Tools Free tools included with the trial version No No No No No No
Price $89 Freeware Freeware $79.95 yearly subscription $99.95 Freeware Freeware

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated on by Disk Drill Team

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 files 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.

Here’s how to recover with a Time Machine backup:

  1. Connect the storage device containing the backup to your Mac.
  2. Launch Time Machine by clicking the clock icon on the menu bar.
  3. Open a Finder window where the files were last located.
  4. Search for and select the versions of the files to recover.
  5. Click Restore to recover your data.

If you do not have a Time Machine backup, your best chance of recovering your files is by using data recovery software. A data recovery app can get back files that have already been deleted from your Mac’s Trash and help you recover accidentally lost and deleted files in many different scenarios. It’s a cost-effective alternative to sending out your disk to a professional data recovery service.

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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Frequently Asked Questions

Updated on by Disk Drill Team

To recover files from your Mac’s hard drive follow these steps:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill on a different disk than the one you will recover.
  2. Launch the app and select the drive.
  3. Click Recover to start scanning the drive for files.
  4. Review the list of recoverable files.
  5. Select the files you want and click Recover to restore them.

Disk Drill is the best hard drive recovery software you can obtain for your Mac. It combines powerful recovery technology with an intuitive and easy to use interface to offer a versatile tool that can be used by anyone with a Mac. Quickly recover lost or deleted files from your hard drive with just a few clicks using Disk Drill.

To recover lost files from and external hard drive on Mac:

  1. Download, install and launch Disk Drill.
  2. Connect the external drive to your computer.
  3. Select the external drive from the disk list.
  4. Click the Recover button to look for files.
  5. Preview the files that can be restored and make your selections.
  6. Click Recover again to retrieve the selected files.

You need to resolve the issue so macOS recognizes the drive before attempting recovery. You can try:

  1. Reconnecting the device to another port;
  2. Rebooting your Mac;
  3. Checking for a damaged cable or interface;
  4. Using a direct connection rather than a hub;
  5. Updating your Finder preferences to show external drives;
  6. Running Disk Utility and attempting to mount and verify the drive.