Recovering deleted files

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by Jomskylark, Jan 21, 2013.

  1. macrumors regular

    Sep 30, 2008
    Hi all,

    Saturday evening I accidentally deleted (emptied trash) a folder containing several dozen small -- each 4 - 12 KB in size -- text documents. I attempted to recover the documents using various Mac freeware but I could not find the specific documents. Frustratingly, the applications seemed to be able to pick up files that I deleted weeks ago but could not find the files that I had deleted within minutes of starting the recovery process. After many failed attempts I powered my Mac off in a hope that it wouldn't write to the drive and permanently delete my files while I slept.

    I was wondering if the reason I couldn't find the documents was because I had deleted them in batch -- that is, I deleted the folder instead of deleting the files individually. Every Mac recovery application I used listed hundreds of files, but each file was individual... there weren't any folders on the list. Could this be my problem, and if so, how do I get around it? I'd hate to just give up over simple technological confusion like this.

    Also, does anyone have suggestions for free or low-cost Mac file recovery applications? I tried MacKeeper, EaseUS, among others.

    Finally, if I can't get consumer-grade software to work, what are some typical options for working with a professional?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
  2. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010
    If the data is not overwritten (thus stop any access to the HDD you were deleting from, especially if it is the HDD with the OS on it, since it writes temporary files onto the HDD and might overwrite the sectors with the deleted files), the following should help:

    To retrieve files, that have been deleted and also been emptied from the Trash or are on unrecognisable partitions or HDDs or on accidentally formatted partitions or HDDs, you can use

    • Data Rescue 3 - trial lets you scan for free, but recovery needs a purchase (99 USD)
    • Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery - trial lets you scan for free, but recovery needs a purchase (99 USD)
    • FileSalvage - trial lets you scan for free, but recovery needs a purchase (99 USD)
    • DiskDrill - trial lets you scan for free, but recovery needs a purchase (79 USD)
    • Nice To Recover - trial lets you scan for free, but recovery needs a purchase (69.95 USD)

    Btw, as you probably have no backup procedure, do one from now one. Time Machine is the one, that could help you in such cases. Or for text documents use something like Dropbox, since you can recover files from there even for 30 days after being deleted.
    And if the files were on the HDD the OS is using, you should boot from an external HDD with Mac OS X on to install any recovery software, in order to prevent overwriting.
  3. thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 30, 2008
    Thanks for the suggestions, but as stated in my post I already have tried various recovery software with no avail. I suppose I could give one of those apps a go, but I'm writing to figure out if my problem lies in how the files were deleted.
  4. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010
    Emptying the Trash does only delete the links to the file, the file is still there, but depending on its physical location, that file could have already been overwritten, if you use the HDD you deleted from on a daily basis.
  5. thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 30, 2008
    Hmm. So you're saying that even though the files I deleted were contained in a folder, they should be just as accessible as another file that wasn't contained in a folder? (Assuming, of course, that the location was not overwritten.)

    Since there were so many files I deleted (50+), shouldn't it be statistically probable that I'd be able to locate and recover at least one of the files? I can't find any, so I'm wondering if the fact that I deleted them as a folder influenced that.

    How would a deleted folder be viewed in a recovery application list? (All of the recovery applications I've used have some kind of basic bullet-point list that shows all of the recovered items.) Would there just be a single line for the folder, or would the application dump out all the files from the folder, spreading them around the list?

    Thank you.
  6. macrumors 603


    Feb 15, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
    In the future consider a backup such as Time Machine (an HDD can fail at anytime). At the very minimal use DropBox (best use both).
  7. thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 30, 2008
    I am not opposed to back-ups, but encouraging me to change my ways for the future doesn't really address the current problem. Thanks anyway.
  8. macrumors newbie

    Oct 22, 2012
  9. macrumors 601

    May 22, 2008
    Milwaukee, WI
    No, it shouldn't matter how they were deleted. The options for recovery will be consistent.
  10. macrumors 68000


    Jan 21, 2008
    Melbourne, FL
    The data recovery programs will find any files that have not been over-written--it makes no difference if you deleted the folder they were in or if you deleted them individually.
  11. thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 30, 2008
    @Win Looks okay, but yeah, expensive. :/

    Thanks Greg and Bob! That answered my question. :)
  12. macrumors 65816


    Oct 9, 2010
    If you give it a bit more thought you will see that having a back up, (I recommend SuperDuper which makes a bootable clone) does in fact address your current problem. Why? Because unless you have a solid backup like a bootable clone then you have an ever present current problem of not having a back up.

    For example, while you are online searching for ways to recover your missing files imagine a scenario where your HDD dies. Your current problems will pale into insignificance due to your newly created more current problems. You should heed the warning you have received. In a sense there is not future, you always live in an ever present present. Even if you ponder the past, you do it in the present.

    Not only that but if you first make a bootable clone, then you can use your disk recovery methods to retrieve your file from the bootable clone, because while your computer is operating there is more and more chance that your files will be overwritten. At least the bootable clone will remain stable and you can try more robust recovery methods on it without the fear of losing other data.
  13. macrumors member

    Aug 13, 2013
    New York
    Please be careful two things:
    1. your data hasn't been overwritten.
    2. Some data recovery software just recover files, not folders. That is to say, you must be clear about your files, not folders. Because the folders may not be recovered, while files did it.
  14. macrumors 601

    May 22, 2008
    Milwaukee, WI
    I think the issue was resolved 10 months ago.
  15. macrumors 68000

    Mar 20, 2009
    Near London, UK.
    The files on a TM backup most certainly are in POFF [plain ol' finder format] if by that you mean they can be browsed and accessed via finder.

    Whether CCC is "better" depends on what values of "better" you choose.
    If you have been working on a document for a couple of days since your last CCC backup and manage to wipe it, good luck getting it back if you didn't have TM.

    If you just keep forgetting to backup, then TM is likely also better, since a "better" backup tool that you have to remember is likely worse than one you dont.

    If you arent a computer whizz and just want something you can plug in that just works, TM is also likely "better". Whats your grandmother going to find easiest to use, TM or CCC ?

    End of the day this is a false choice, why make it one or the other? I use both.

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