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How to Recover Deleted Files from USB Flash Drive on Mac?

How to Recover Deleted Files from USB Flash Drive on Mac?

Losing crucial files from a USB drive can be a harrowing experience, especially when using your MacBook for important tasks. Fortunately, several methods can help recover deleted files, whether due to accidental deletion or corruption. Through trial, error, and successful recoveries, I’ve compiled effective techniques to restore your valuable data. This guide takes you through step-by-step methods to recover lost files from USB drive, ensuring you can regain access to your files using your MacBook.


Common Scenarios:

Accidental Deletion 🗑

  • One of the most common reasons for lost data is accidental deletion. Whether it’s an unintended drag to the trash or a mistaken keystroke, these actions can cause important files to disappear from your USB drive.

Drive Corruption 🧬

  • Corruption can occur due to improper ejection of the USB drive, power surges, or virus attacks, leading to loss of file accessibility and necessitating the recovery process.

Formatting Errors 🚨

  • Sometimes, users may unintentionally format a USB drive without backing up their files, resulting in a complete loss of data stored on the device.

Step-by-Step Guide. USB Recovery Mac:

Method 1: Check the Trash Bin 🗑

  • Immediately check your Mac’s Trash Bin for the deleted files from the USB drive, as they may still reside there.
  • Simply open the Trash Bin, locate the lost files, right-click on them, and select ‘Put Back‘ to restore them to their original location.
  • If the files are not in the Trash Bin, proceed with the following methods.

Note: This method only works if the files have been moved to Trash and haven’t been permanently deleted from there.

Conclusion: Checking the Trash Bin is a quick and straightforward recovery method but isn’t always successful if the files have been permanently deleted.

Method 2: Use Time Machine Backup ⏰

  • If you have set up Time Machine on your MacBook, you can use it to recover deleted files from the USB drive.
  • Connect the USB drive to your MacBook, open Time Machine, navigate to the date before the files were deleted, and restore the required files.
  • Review the restored files to ensure their integrity and completeness.
  • For detailed guidance on using Time Machine, visit the Apple Support page.

Note: Time Machine must be configured and running prior to the data loss to recover files.

Conclusion: Time Machine is an effective backup solution provided by Apple that can help recover deleted files if you have previously set it up.

Method 3: Utilize Terminal Commands 💻

  • Advanced users can try using Terminal commands to recover hidden or lost files from a USB drive.
  • Launch the Terminal app, enter ‘defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE’ followed by ‘killall Finder’ to reveal hidden files.
  • Navigate to the USB drive and search for the lost files. Move them back to a safe location on your Mac.
  • After recovery, revert the settings by using the command ‘defaults write AppleShowAllFiles FALSE’ followed by ‘killall Finder’.

Note: This method is only for users comfortable with macOS’s command-line interface and should be performed with caution.

Conclusion: Terminal commands can uncover lost files that are not visible in Finder, but they come with risks if not done correctly.

Method 4: Third-Party Data Recovery Software 🛠

  • There are numerous third-party data recovery software options available for macOS, such as Stellar Data Recovery, Wondershare Recoverit, and Disk Drill.
  • Download and install a data recovery software of your choice, ensuring it’s compatible with macOS.
  • Launch the application, select the USB drive for scanning, and follow the software’s instructions to recover the deleted files.
  • After the scan, preview the recoverable files, select what you wish to restore, and save them to a secure location on your MacBook.
  • Remember to use reputable software to prevent further data loss or breach of privacy.

Note: Data recovery software may not be able to recover all files, especially if they have been overwritten.

Conclusion: Third-party data recovery software can be highly effective, but research and select a trusted brand to ensure the best chance of recovery.

Method 5: Seek Professional Help 🧑

  • If the above methods fail, consider seeking help from professional data recovery services.
  • Professionals possess specialized tools and expertise to recover data from various forms of damage or data loss scenarios.
  • Find a reputable service with experience in USB drive data recovery and discuss your situation with them.
  • Look for services that offer a ‘no data, no fee’ policy to ensure you only pay if they successfully recover your files.

Note: Professional recovery services can be expensive and should be used as a last resort.

Conclusion: While costly, professional data recovery services offer the highest success rate for recovering deleted files from a USB drive.


Youtube video to watch


Precautions and Tips:

Secure Your Data 🛡

  • Always back up important files on multiple devices or cloud services.
  • Use the ‘Eject’ function before unplugging the USB drive from your MacBook to prevent corruption.
  • Be cautious with deletion and formatting actions. Confirm multiple times before proceeding with such commands.

Further Insights

When it comes to recovering deleted files from a USB drive using a MacBook, it’s essential to stay calm and avoid using the drive to increase the chances of successful recovery. Once data is deleted, it’s not immediately erased from the drive but marked as replaceable until new data overwrites it.

To prevent accidents, familiarize yourself with keyboard shortcuts and take advantage of macOS features that minimize the risk of unintended data loss. For example, setting up automatic backups with Time Machine can save you a lot of stress.

You can also consider utilizing cloud storage solutions like iCloud Drive or Dropbox for an extra layer of data protection. These services offer file recovery options and can serve as a safeguard against local data loss.

Moreover, it’s worthwhile to keep track of the latest USB standards, as advancements in technology can influence data transfer reliability and, by extension, file integrity during copying or moving processes.


In summary, there are several methods to recover deleted files from a USB drive when using a MacBook. By utilizing built-in recovery options like the Trash Bin and Time Machine, exploring Terminal commands, trying third-party software, or resorting to professional services, you stand a good chance of retrieving your lost data. Always remember the importance of regular backups and safe removal practices to minimize the risks of data loss in the future.


Firstly, connect the USB drive to your Mac. Open Disk Utility, located in Applications > Utilities. Select the drive, click 'First Aid,' and then 'Run' to start the recovery process.

Yes, if you previously used Time Machine to back up the contents of the USB drive. Connect the drive, enter Time Machine, and navigate to the date and time of the desired backup.

Disk Drill and EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard are reputable options for USB data recovery on Mac.

Recovery chances depend on how much new data has been written onto the USB drive since deletion. Less overwriting increases the possibility of successful recovery.

Sometimes, using Disk Utility's 'First Aid' feature can repair a corrupted USB without formatting. However, severe corruption may require formatting.

Always eject your USB drive properly, avoid physical damage, keep the drive away from extreme temperatures, and consider encrypting sensitive data.

Mac supports data recovery from USB drives formatted in HFS+, APFS, NTFS, FAT32, and exFAT file systems.

Yes, you can create a bootable USB by using macOS Recovery or a third-party tool like DiskMaker X to reinstall macOS or troubleshoot issues.

Try resetting the System Management Controller (SMC) on your Mac. If that doesn't help, the drive may be physically damaged or require professional recovery service.

Immediately stop using the USB drive to avoid data overwriting. Do not save new files or perform any write operations on the drive.