Ping Fm Logo
Roman Kropachek Photo
Written by:

How to Recover Deleted Files from Emptied Trash on Mac

How to Recover Deleted Files from Emptied Trash on Mac

Embarking on the quest to recover deleted trash on your Mac can be daunting, but fear not, for there are methods to retrieve your lost treasures. Whether it’s a document mistakenly removed or a purge of files you thought you’d never need again, we’ve all been there. As someone who has scoured through the depths of Mac’s file system in search of deleted items, allow me to be your guide through this journey. Throughout this article, I’ll demonstrate several techniques I’ve effectively used to recover files from the Mac’s Trash after deletion. And should you wish to delve deeper into mastering recovery methods, the article How to Recover the Emptied Trash on your Mac without Much Effort is an invaluable resource to explore.


Common Scenarios:

Accidental Deletion 🗑

  • In the hustle of everyday work, selecting and deleting the wrong file on your Mac is an all-too-common occurrence.
  • Maybe you’ve realized too late after emptying your Trash that an important document was nestled among the discarded files.
  • When the panic sets in, relax knowing there are recovery options available that can save the day, and your data.

Post-System Cleanup Regret 😰

  • After a thorough system cleanup and trash purge, you might discover that a crucial folder was mistakenly trashed and permanently deleted.
  • The sinking feeling of potentially losing precious photos or work documents is one I know all too well.
  • However, I’ve since learned that several methods can uncover those files presumed gone forever in your Mac’s file system.

Unintended Batch Deletions 😲

  • Batch deleting files for efficiency can backfire if you don’t double-check the selected items.
  • This shotgun approach to decluttering can sometimes lead to the unintentional removal of significant files or folders.
  • Fortunately, I’ve found that quick action and the right recovery tools can restore bulk-deleted items even after they’ve vanished from the Trash.

Step-by-Step Guide. How To Recover Emptied Trash On Mac:

Method 1: Time Machine Backup 🕒

  • First, connect the external drive that contains your Time Machine backups.
  • Open ‘Time Machine’ in the System Preferences or via the menu bar and navigate to the date before the files were deleted.
  • Browse your backup and find the Trash or the folder where your files resided. Select the files, and click ‘Restore’ to recover them.

Note: This method is contingent upon having a pre-existing Time Machine backup prior to deletion.

Conclusion: Time Machine is a lifesaver for reversing file deletions, but it requires the foresight of regular backups.

Method 2: Undo Option ⌘

  • If you’ve just deleted a file and immediately caught the mistake, go to the ‘Finder’ menu at the top of the screen.
  • Select ‘Edit’ and click on ‘Undo Move of [file name]’ or press Cmd + Z to undo the last action.
  • Check your folder or desktop, and the file should reappear if it hasn’t been overwritten by subsequent actions.

Note: This quick-fix only works if the deletion is immediately caught and no other actions have been taken after the deletion.

Conclusion: The ‘Undo’ function is an instant method but limited to immediate realization of the deletion.

Method 3: Terminal Command 🔍

  • Open ‘Terminal’ from your Applications > Utilities folder.
  • Type ‘cd .Trash’ and hit Enter to navigate to your Trash directory.
  • Then you can explore deleted files using commands like ‘ls’ to list items or ‘mv’ [file name] [destination] to recover.

Note: This method requires a basic understanding of command-line interface and assumes files haven’t been permanently removed.

Conclusion: Recovery via Terminal is a more hands-on approach and can be effective if you’re comfortable with command-line tasks.

Method 4: Recovery Software 🛠

  • Download and install a reputable data recovery software for Mac, such as Disk Drill or Stellar Data Recovery.
  • Launch the application and select the drive where your Trash was located.
  • Follow the software’s instructions to scan for recoverable files and select the ones you wish to restore.

Note: Some recovery software may offer free trials, but full recovery features might require a purchase.

Conclusion: Data recovery tools tend to be the most powerful solution, often able to retrieve files even after emptying the Trash.

Method 5: Check iCloud Drive 🌐

  • If you use iCloud Drive, go to and log in with your Apple ID.
  • Navigate to the iCloud Drive section and check the ‘Recently Deleted’ folder.
  • Select the files you want to recover and click ‘Recover’ to undo the deletion.

Note: Files are stored in ‘Recently Deleted’ for 30 days before permanent removal.

Conclusion: iCloud provides a decent window for recovering files if they were synced before deletion.


Youtube video to watch


Precautions and Tips:

Safeguard Your Data 🛡

  • Regularly perform backups using Time Machine or a cloud service to avoid the panic of accidental deletions.
  • Utilize ‘Command + Z’ immediately if you delete something by mistake and notice it right away.
  • Before emptying the Trash, always review its contents thoroughly to prevent the loss of wanted files.

Enhancing Recovery Chances

Having experienced the sting of data loss, I can affirm the critical importance of bolstering your chance of recovery with smart practices and tools. Beyond the methods previously mentioned, understanding the workings of your Mac’s file system can be exceptionally enlightening. When a file is deleted, it’s not immediately obliterated but rather marked as available space for new data; hence, time is of the essence when it comes to recovery.

Exploring third-party recovery tools like Disk Drill or Stellar Data Recovery can significantly improve the odds. These tools offer deep scans that can locate file remnants invisible to the user. However, be cautious to install these programs on a different drive than the one you’re attempting to recover from to avoid overwriting lost files.

Moreover, regularly clean your Mac using utilities such as CCleaner, but always review what’s marked for deletion. If something goes wrong, knowing how to navigate recovery options will serve as your safety net. Additionally, consider enabling iCloud Drive’s ‘Desktop & Documents’ folders feature, which automatically syncs and creates a recoverable copy of your files.

For those who work in environments vulnerable to data loss, investing in professional recovery services may be worthwhile. Companies like DriveSavers can perform advanced data retrieval on drives that have suffered complex issues.


In conclusion, while the journey to recover deleted trash on Mac can induce a heart-stopping moment of panic, being equipped with the knowledge and tools to address the situation is empowering. From leveraging built-in applications like Time Machine and iCloud Drive to deploying robust third-party recovery software, there is an array of solutions to turn to. Remember, the key to successful data recovery is swift action and understanding the capabilities and limitations of each method. Should you ever find yourself in dire need of retrieving lost files, revisit the guidance provided here and tackle the challenge confidently. Always back up your data, keep calm, and recovery on.


Yes, it's possible to recover files after the Trash has been emptied using special data recovery software like Disk Drill or a previous Time Machine backup, if one was set up before deletion.

Absolutely. If Time Machine was set up before the files were deleted, you can navigate to the backup point before deletion and restore the lost files.

The first step is to stop using the Mac to avoid overwriting. Then, immediately check for available backups, or use data recovery software to attempt file restoration.

No, Terminal commands typically can't recover files once the Trash has been emptied, as this action permanently deletes them from the file system.

macOS doesn't have a built-in feature to undo emptied Trash. Once the Trash is emptied, the only native option is to restore from a Time Machine backup, if available.

Professional data recovery services might be able to retrieve files, although there's no guarantee, and this can be a costly option. Check providers like DriveSavers.

Third-party recovery software, like Disk Drill, scans the Mac's drive to find remnants of deleted files and attempts to piece them back together for recovery.

To prevent future data loss, consistently back up your files using Time Machine or a cloud backup service, and consider enabling the “Put Back” feature in Trash.

It's possible to recover files from an external drive using data recovery software so long as the drive hasn't been used extensively after the data loss.

Generally, these software applications are safe to use, but there's always a risk of software conflicts, and there's no guarantee that all files will be recoverable.