How to recover files from your Mac

This tutorial will guide you through the steps required to recover files that you may have accidentally deleted from your Mac (or an SD Card connected to your Mac, or a USB drive connected to your Mac etc) running OS X.

Disk Drill is a relatively new program that provides an easy to use interface to “undelete” files that have been removed or corrupted on your Mac. It’s currently (Dec 15 2010) in beta – and free. Once the beta period ends, the beta version(s) will still work. If you want to upgrade to the non-beta, you’ll have to pay. However – the folks at Clever Files have offered Simple Help readers 5 free copies of Disk Drill once it becomes final. Follow Simple Help on Twitter and you’ll be the first to know when we get free copies to give away.

  1. To get started, head over to the Disk Drill web site and download the app. The installation is straight forward – just uncompress the file and drag the app to your Applications folder. Launch it from there.
  2. The first screen you’ll be presented with is one that explains why your Administrative password is required.

  3. Enter your password when prompted.
  4. Click the No button to watch the intro video. You can always watch it later.
  5. Decide if you want to check for updates at startup, and click the appropriate button.
  6. Now you’ll be asked if you want to enable Recovery Vault. I opted not to, but again, this is a feature that you can turn on later should you decide this is a feature you want to use.

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  8. Time to recover those lost files! Click the large Recover button from the main Disk Drill window.

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  10. You’ll be presented with a list of all the disks (hard drives, external hard drives, SD Cards etc) currently connected to your Mac. Select the one that you want to recover files from.

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  12. Depending on the disk type, you may need to further drill down the exact partition or section of the disk you want to search/recover. In my case (see example screenshot below) I’m recovering files from an SD Card that was in my digital camera.

    Disk Drill recognizes that this card is either FAT32 or NTFS, so all that’s required is to click the Quick scan button. NOTE: if a Quick scan cannot recover your files, you can come back and do a much more in depth (and time consuming) Deep Scan.


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  14. Disk Drill will now run a scan of your selected disk.

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  16. Then a list of all the possibly recoverable files and folders will be displayed. Place a check in the box next to each file/folder that you want to restore.

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  18. Now select the pull-down menu titled Choose Folder… in the We are able to recover selected files to: section.

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  20. As indicated in the message displayed in the ‘save files to’ window, it’s a very, very good idea to recover the files to a different disk/drive than the one that the files are being recovered from. In my example I’m recovering files from an SD Card, so I opted to restore those files to my Mac’s hard drive – a different disk – to maximize the possibility of the files being successfully recovered.

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  22. Click the Recover button when you’re ready.

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  24. Just sit back and let Disk Drill do its thing. Depending on the size of the disk/drive, this process can take a while. You may want to make yourself a cup of coffee while you’re waiting…

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  26. Once Disk Drill has finished the recovery process, it will display a window with the ‘results’. Click the Destination folder button to open a Finder window directly to the place where the files were restored to (the location you specified in step #13).

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  28. And there are all your recovered files!

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  30. If Disk Drill wasn’t able to recover your files, restart the process and this time select Deep scan (step #9 above). This will take significantly increase the time it takes to run the scan, but your chances of recovering files goes up.

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