How to Recover Permanently Deleted Files on a Mac: Working Methods

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recover pemanently deleted files on macDid you mistakenly delete a file from your Mac and are pretty sure that it’s gone forever? Well, you might be wrong. Even if you think that you’ve permanently deleted data on your computer, it might still be possible to bring it back.

In this article, you’ll find out how to recover permanently deleted files on a Mac and learn about the ways to increase your chances of successful data recovery.

How to Permanently Delete Files on Mac?

Dropping a file into the Trash folder on your Mac doesn’t permanently delete it. It will stay there either until you manually empty the folder or until Trash automatically removes the files (if you have this feature enabled).

If your goal is to permanently delete a file or folder from your computer, here are the best ways to do it.

Option 1: Keyboard Shortcut

You can use a keyboard shortcut to bypass Trash on your Mac and immediately delete a file. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Select a file or press and hold Command to choose multiple files.
  2. Press this keyboard combination: Option + Command + Delete.
  3. Once a pop-up window appears, click Delete to confirm your choice.delete file on mac with shortcut

Option 2: Delete Immediately Feature

You can access the Delete Immediately feature through the Finder’s menu on top of the screen. Here’s how to permanently delete files on Mac using this tool:

  1. Select a file or press and hold Command to choose multiple files.
  2. Click File on the menu at the top of the screen.
  3. Press and hold the Option key.
  4. Click Delete Immediately.delete immediately file on mac
  5. To confirm your choice, click Delete when a pop-up window appears.

Option 3: Remove From the Trash

If you’ve deleted a file on your Mac by dragging it into Trash or using the Command + Delete keyboard shortcut, you’ll need to remove it from the Trash folder to delete that file permanently. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open Trash on your Mac (it’s the last icon on the Launchpad).
  2. Locate the file which you want to delete and right-click it.
  3. Choose Delete Immediately, and when a pop-up window appears, click Delete.delete file from trash on mac
  4. If you want to remove all of the files from Trash, click the Empty button on the top right side of the screen. Then click Empty Trash to confirm.

Option 4: Specialized Software

Another way to quickly and permanently delete data on a Mac is to use specialized software known as a file shredder. In general, such a tool deletes a file from your computer and immediately overwrites it with some random data.

If you stick with this option, it’ll be impossible to restore the deleted data (unless you’ve created a backup containing the deleted file before removing it).

How to Recover Permanently Deleted Files on Mac

If you’ve realized that you’ve permanently deleted the wrong folder or file by mistake, the methods described below should help you get back the deleted files on your Mac.

Method 1: Use Data Recovery Software

Probably the easiest and quickest way to recover permanently deleted files on a MacBook is with the help of a specialized data recovery tool. While there aren’t many options to choose from, it’s still possible to find a few effective data recovery applications on the market, one of them being Disk Drill.

This tool is pretty versatile since it’s compatible with macOS and Windows-based computers, supports various drives and devices (digital cameras, external HDD, flash drives, SD cards, etc.), and can recover almost any file format. Moreover, there’s both a Disk Drill free trial version and a paid one.

Here’s how to restore permanently deleted files on a Mac via Disk Drill:

  1. Download Disk Drill and follow the onscreen instructions to install it.
  2. Launch the application.
  3. Select the Storage devices tab from the sidebar on the left, and then click the drive that you wish to recover from.disk drill storage devices mac
  4. Initiate a scan by clicking the Search for lost data button on the bottom-right of the screen.
  5. Once the app finishes scanning your device, click Review found items.preview found items disk drill
  6. To navigate to the needed data quicker, choose a tab corresponding to the file type from the sidebar on the left. Or if you know the exact file extension or the name of the deleted file, type it in the search field on the top-right of the screen.
  7. Click the eye icon near a file to preview it and ensure that it’s the one that you were looking for.restore screenshot on mac via disk drill
  8. Click the box on the left side of the file that you wish to restore to select it, and then click the Recover button.
  9. Choose a destination folder for the recovered file and click OK to confirm.

A pop-up window will appear saying that you’ve successfully recovered your file. Once that happens, quit the Disk Drill app. Then all you need to do to access the recovered data is go to the previously chosen location.

Method 2: Restore From a Time Machine Backup

Another effective solution is to restore the permanently deleted file from a Time Machine backup. Using this app is easy, and recovering files with it won’t take up much of your time.

However, this method has one huge limitation: you will be able to recover an accidentally deleted file on your Mac with Time Machine only if you’ve used this tool to backup your computer prior to losing the files.

Here’s how to retrieve permanently deleted files on your Mac with Time Machine:

  1. Connect the drive containing your Time Machine backups to your computer. Skip this step if you used an internal drive to create the backups.
  2. Launch Time Machine (go to Launchpad > Time Machine or open the app from the menu bar at the top of your screen).how to launch Time Machine from top menu on Mac
  3. Navigate to the folder where the deleted file used to be located or if you remember the name of the file, type it in the search field.time machine recover photo mac
  4. Use the timeline on the right to choose the needed backup version.
  5. Choose the file or files that you wish to recover and click the Restore button.

The file will be returned back to its original location. So to open the recovered file, navigate to the folder where the file used to be stored before deletion.

Method 3: Resort for Help From a Data Recovery Service

If the previous methods didn’t work in your situation and you’re searching for a way to recover deleted files on a Mac without software, the only other option that you have left is to let data recovery professionals take care of the issue. A data recovery center like CleverFiles is capable of restoring single files or data in bulk and retrieving data from damaged drives.

And even though the results depend on whether the deleted file was already overwritten with new data or not, this method still offers a high chance of successful data recovery.

Here’s how to recover a permanently deleted file with the help of a data recovery service:

  1. Find a reliable data recovery center and contact them to go over the details of your issue.
  2. Ship the device containing the deleted data to the center.
  3. Wait for the experts to inspect your device and provide you with a price quote.
  4. If the recovery price is acceptable to you, the professional will start working on restoring the lost data.

As soon as the data recovery center finishes the job, the recovered data and your drive will be returned to you.

How to Increase Chances for Successful Data Recovery

Unfortunately, no data recovery method can guarantee a 100 percent successful outcome. But the good news is that there are ways to maximize the chances of effectively retrieving lost data:

Method Description
✍🏻 Don’t let your computer overwrite the data You can never know for sure how long it might take your Mac to overwrite the deleted file with new data. So to prevent that from happening, it’s best to stop using your device as soon as you notice that a file is missing.
📁 Use a new destination for the recovered file Never restore a deleted file to the same drive where it used to be located before deletion. This will also keep it from getting overwritten.
💾 Regularly back up your Mac It’s impossible to emphasize enough the importance of backing up your files. The more often you create backups, the more chances you’ll have for quick and effective data recovery.
⚙️ Be careful when choosing data recovery software Sometimes, you have only one chance of successfully recovering a deleted file, which is why it’s important to choose a reliable tool.


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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.