How to Recover Deleted Files from HFS/HFS+ Partitions on Mac

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hfs recoveryNeed to restore deleted files from an HFS or HFS+ partition on a Mac? Or maybe you’ve lost the whole partition and want to recover it? Regardless of whether you’ve deleted the data from the partition yourself or the data loss occurred because of a virus, there are a couple of methods that you can try to restore your files.

In this article, we’ll cover the most effective data recovery solutions that can help you with HFS recovery.

What is an HFS Partition?

Partition is a logically separated section of a drive. The way drives and partitions store and organize data is called a file system. There are various types of file systems: APFS, HFS, HFS+, NTFS, FAT, EXT3, etc.

HFS/HFS+ (also known as Mac OS Standard and Mac OS Extended) are file system types developed by Apple. HFS file system drives can no longer be written or read on Macs powered by macOS 10.15 or higher. And HFS+ was the primary file system for Macs up until the release of APFS in 2017.

But which one is better, HFS vs APFS? While APFS is best for SSDs and flash drives since it is known to boost their performance, HFS+ still remains a great choice for external HDDs.

How to Recover Data from an HFS Partition on a Mac

Unfortunately, there are no built-in methods that can help you restore data from a partition on your Mac. Which is why, using a specialized data recovery tool would be one of the quickest and easiest ways to conduct an HFS partition recovery.

Our software recommendation is Disk Drill since it supports all major file systems and can be used to restore data from APFS , HFS, HFS+, NTFS/NTFS5, FAT/FAT32/exFAT, and EXT3/EXT4 drives or partitions.

Important: Once you notice that files are missing from your HFS/HFS+ partition, you should stop using it immediately. To successfully conduct an HFS data recovery, it’s also essential to start the process as soon as possible. This should help to avoid the data getting overwritten with other files.

Follow these steps to recover files from an HFS/HFS+ partition on a Mac with Disk Drill:

  1. Connect the HFS/HFS+ drive to your Mac (if you want to recover data from a partition on your Mac’s main drive, skip this step).
  2. Download Disk Drill and follow the onscreen instructions to install it.
  3. Launch the app and choose the Storage devices tab from the sidebar on the left.scan hfs drive disk drill mac
  4. Choose the drive which you need to recover files from.
  5. For best results, choose All recovery methods from the drop-down menu on the right and click the Search for lost data button.
  6. Wait for the scan to finish and click Review found items.preview files disk drill mac
  7. Look through the files and choose the ones you want to recover (use the search field on the top-right or the tabs on the sidebar on the left to simplify the search). Click the eye icon near a certain file to preview it.
  8. Click Recover.recover files disk drill mac
  9. Choose a location for the recovered files (it should be a folder on a drive different from the one that was used for recovery) and click OK.location for file recovery disk drill mac

Disk Drill has a free trial which allows you to scan the partition and preview the found files. So if you want to actually complete the HFS/HFS+ partition recovery, you’ll need to purchase the pro version.

How to Recover Deleted HFS Partition on a Mac

If you need to recover the whole HFS or HFS+ partition on a Mac, you should try doing it with TestDisk. It is a free open source data recovery application that has the capabilities to restore deleted, lost, or damaged partitions.

Note: This HFS recovery software should be able to restore a deleted partition only if the data loss was caused by a human error or malware. If the drive containing the partition has physical damage, you might need to get help from a professional data recovery center.

However, TestDisk has a text-based user interface. So it might be a bit complicated to navigate this application and recover a lost HFS+ partition for users that don’t have much experience with using such applications.

Before you move forward with the partition recovery process, you need to install TestDisk. The easiest way to do it is with the help of Homebrew via Terminal. Here’s how to install TestDisk on your Mac:

  1. Launch Terminal (go to Launchpad and type Terminal in the search field).
  2. Copy and paste the following command in the Terminal window and hit Return:
    /bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install.sh)"

    homebrew download mac

  3. Open Terminal and type in brew install testdisk, and hit the Return key.

Follow these steps to complete an HFS disk recovery with TestDisk on a Mac:

  1. Type sudo testdisk in Terminal and hit Return to launch TestDisk.
  2. Choose Create a new log file and hit Return.testdisk create mac
  3. Select the drive containing the lost or deleted partition.
  4. Select the partition table type and hit Return.partition type testdisk mac
  5. Choose Analyse current partition structure and search for lost partitions, and hit Return.analyse partition mac testdisk
  6. Wait for the Quick Scan to finish to view the found partitions.
  7. If the scan revealed the lost partition, select it and choose the Write option. Otherwise, choose the Deeper Search option and hit Return.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to restoring HFS/HFS+ partitions or drives, the data recovery results depend greatly on how fast you act and whether the data has already been overwritten or not. Therefore there is no solution that would guarantee a 100% recovery success rate.

It’s always a good idea to be prepared for the worst. And the best way to do that is regularly backup your data (for example, with Time Machine) so that in case you delete important files or lose a partition, you’ll have an easy way to bring back the data.

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.
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12 years experience in software development, database administration and hardware repair.