How to Recover Data from an External Hard Drive on Mac: Easy Methods

Written by
103

recover external hard drive macWhether you’ve accidentally deleted a wrong file from the external hard drive or the data disappeared by itself because of file system corruption, drive damage, or any other reason, don’t panic just yet. If your file hasn’t already been overwritten and is still physically present on the device, you have a good chance of successfully restoring it.

Read on to learn about the quickest and most effective ways to recover data from an external hard drive on a Mac.

How to Recover Deleted Files from an External Hard Drive on Mac

For best results, stop saving new files to your external hard drive as soon as you notice data loss. This should protect the deleted data from being overwritten by other files.

So, let’s dive into the best methods for external hard drive data recovery on a Mac.

Method #1. Check Trash on the External Device

In case you didn’t know, when you delete a file from an external hard drive on your Mac, it gets moved to the Trash folder (just like when you delete any other file from your Mac’s main drive). If you eject the drive from your computer, the deleted file will also disappear from the Trash. But as soon as you connect the hard drive back to your Mac, it will reappear.

Note: If you’ve configured Trash on your Mac to automatically remove the deleted files, the data you’ve deleted from the external hard drive will also get permanently erased after 30 days.

Follow these steps to recover files from an accidentally erased external hard drive on a Mac via Trash:

  1. Connect the external hard drive to your computer.
  2. Open the Trash folder (click the last icon on the Dock).
  3. Look through the deleted files to find the needed one.
  4. Right-click the file and choose Put Back from the drop-down menu to place the file back in its original location. Or drag and drop the file into any drive or folder.recover file from trash

Alternatively, you can enable hidden folders on your external hard drive and access the deleted files directly from there. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Connect the external hard drive to your computer and open it through Finder.
  2. Press the following key combination: Shift + Command + >
  3. Open the .Trashes folder and look for the deleted file.hidden trash folder on external hdd on mac
  4. If you need to change the folder permissions to open it, right-click the folder and choose Get Info from the drop-down menu. Click Sharing & Permissions and change your user privilege to Read and Write.
  5. Look for the deleted file and drag and drop it into a different folder.recover files from hidden folder

Method #2. Use Data Recovery Software to Retrieve the Files

Okay, you’ve looked through the files in Trash, and the deleted ones from your external hard drive are not there, what’s next?

The other method that can help you to recover files from an external hard drive on a Mac is to use data recovery software. Such an application should be able to successfully recover the lost data from an external hard drive, but only in one condition — if the deleted files haven’t been already overwritten with new data.

If you’re unsure of what data recovery tool to use, give Disk Drill a try. It’s suitable for all computer users since it has an intuitive interface and a simple navigation system.

Moreover, it supports over 400 file formats, so you can be sure that this tool can handle restoring all of your lost data. This application can even recover a whole deleted partition on your external HDD if that’s the case.

If your storage device is in a working condition and is recognizable by your computer, follow these steps to recover deleted files from the external hard drive on your Mac using Disk Drill:

  1. Download Disk Drill and follow the onscreen instructions to install the app.
  2. Launch the application (go to Finder > Applications > Disk Drill).
  3. Connect the external hard drive to your computer.
  4. Choose the drive from the list of available devices and click Search for lost data.recover data from external hard drive mac disk drill
  5. Wait for the scan to finish and click Review found items.review files external hdd disk drill
  6. Use the sidebar on the left to narrow down your search to specific file types.
  7. Select the files that you want to restore and click the Recover button on the bottom right.recover files from external hdd disk drill
  8. Choose a preferred folder for your recovered files (make sure that it’s not located on your external hard drive) and click OK to confirm.

But in case your external hard drive has severe issues and fails to mount for recovery, it’s better to create a byte-to-byte backup image and use it instead to recover your data. It will minimize the possibility of your drive failing altogether and increase the chances of successfully recovering the needed files.

Here’s what you should do to restore external hard drive on a Mac:

  1. Connect the external hard drive to your Mac.
  2. Launch Disk Drill.
  3. Choose Byte-to-byte Backup from the list on the sidebar.
  4. Click your external hard drive to select it and click the Create backup button on the bottom-right of the screen.
  5. Type in a name for the backup and choose a preferred location. Click Save to confirm.create backup disk drill
  6. Once the process is finished, eject your external hard drive.
  7. Choose Storage devices from the sidebar on Disk Drill and click Attach disk image at the bottom of the screen.attach disk image disk drill
  8. Choose the DMG backup file you’ve previously created and click Search for lost data.
  9. Follow the data recovery instructions described above (steps 5-8).

Method #3. Get Help From a Data Recovery Service

If the options described above didn’t bring any results, you can send your external hard drive over to a data recovery service and let professionals take care of the issue. Without any doubt, our recommendation is the Cleverfiles Data Recovery Center since they offer a free evaluation of your drive and have a no data – no charge policy.

Here’s how to recover external hard drive on a Mac with the help of a data recovery service:

  1. Contact the chosen data recovery center and describe your issue.
  2. Send your external hard drive over to the lab.
  3. Get a price quote from the data recovery professionals.
  4. If you agree with the price, the center will start the data recovery process.
  5. Receive the recovered data on a new storage device.

How to Repair an External Hard Drive on Mac

Depending on the reason lying behind your external hard drive issues, you might be able to repair it by yourself using a Mac. Here are the most effective options that you should try.

Method #1. First Aid in Disk Utility

A native tool called Disk Utility can check and repair any disk connected to your Mac. Of course, it won’t do miracles, but it sure can deal with some basic issues such as file corruption or formatting.

Follow these steps to repair an external drive on your Mac using Disk Utility:

  1. Launch Disk Utility (open Launchpad and type Disk Utility in the search field).
  2. Choose your external hard drive from the list of devices on the sidebar.
  3. Click the First Aid button at the top of the window.first-aid-external-drive
  4. Click Run to confirm.first aid mac
  5. Once the process is finished, click Done.

Method #2. FSCK Command

FSCK, also known as File System Consistency Check, is a command that can help you repair any inconsistencies in the file system of your external hard drive. To use it, you’ll need to launch the Terminal app and then boot into the Single User Mode.

Follow these steps to repair an external drive on your Mac using the FSCK command line:

  1. Open Terminal (go to Launchpad and type Terminal in the search field).
  2. Type in the following command and hit the Return key: diskutil list
    Find your external drive on the list and note its identifier path (it should be similar to /dev/disk3).terminal-diskutil-list
  3. Restart your Mac and immediately press and hold the Command + S keys to boot into the Single User Mode.
  4. Type in the following command and hit the Return key: /sbin/fsck -fy
  5. Then type this command and hit Return: /sbin/fsck -fy /(your drive’s identifier path)
  6. When the process is finished, type in reboot and hit Return.
  7. Restart your Mac.

Method #3. Format the External Drive

If the above-described methods weren’t useful, the last thing that you can try is to format your external hard drive. But before moving forward with this solution, make sure that you’ve created a backup of the data stored on your drive since once you format it, all of the files and folders will get erased.

Follow these steps to format an external hard drive on your Mac:

  1. Launch Disk Utility (open Launchpad and type Disk Utility in the search field).
  2. Click on your external drive on the sidebar on the left to select it.
  3. Click the Erase button at the top of the window.
  4. Type in a name for your drive, select a preferred format and a partition scheme type.erase-drive-disk-utility
  5. Click Erase.

FAQ:

Romana Levko is a professional content writer with a strong interest in tech-related topics. Her main focus is on data recovery, Apple products, and cybersecurity. She spends her free time tinkering with her Mac and burning through her favorite music albums.
Approved by
12 years experience in software development, database administration and hardware repair.