It’s a common misconception that data recovery is always expensive. In reality, there are many free data recovery software tools for Mac available in 2022 that you can download right now and use them to recover your lost data without having to give your Mac to data recovery professionals, who are guaranteed to charge you a small fortune for their services.
In this article, we compare the top 7 best free data recovery software for Mac and highlight the pros and cons of each tool mentioned.
Table of Contents
Disk Drill for Mac is widely known as a versatile professional-grade file recovery software that delivers excellent results without making data recovery overly complicated. It has been around since 2010, making it one of the more mature data recovery software tools for Mac computers on this list. However, Disk Drill for Mac certainly doesn’t look to be nearly a decade old because its user interface is modern, easy-to-use, and extremely intuitive.
A free version of Disk Drill lets you totally evaluate the recovery results by previewing the files after scanning. If you need to recover your files, you can always upgrade to the Pro version for $89, with optional lifetime upgrades for $29. There’s also an Enterprise version for unlimited commercial recovery, and it costs $399.
- Recovers over 400 file formats
- Extremely easy to use
- Multiple recovery methods
- Extra free disk tools
- Free recovery evaluation
- File previews
- Restores the original structure of files and folders
- No option to scan individual folders
- Doesn’t support Linux filesystems
Disk Drill for Mac supports all major devices and commonly used file systems, so you can use it to recover data not just from your Mac but also from USB flash drives, external hard drives, iOS and Android devices, memory cards, or cameras.
- Recovery Vault. One particularly noteworthy free feature of Disk Drill for Mac is called Recovery Vault, and its purpose is to actively monitor your files for changes and save their metadata to aid future data recovery. With the Recovery Vault feature active, Disk Drill for Mac promises a 100% success rate during the recovery process.
- Additional Disk Tools. Besides Recovery Vault, Disk Drill for Mac comes with a whole bunch of other disk tools, including Disk Health, which monitors the health of your hard drive for any potential issues, Mac Cleanup, which looks for space hogs to help you free up available storage space, and Duplicate Finder, which makes it easy to find and get rid of duplicate files.
- Multiple Recovery Methods. Disk Drill for Mac supports multiple recovery methods, which allows it to take on data recovery jobs large and small. Quick Scan looks for signatures of known partition headers, while Deep Scan recovers lost data on the sector-by-sector basis. As their names suggest, Quick Scan takes just a short while to complete, but Deep Scan can take a lot longer depending on the size of your hard drive.
Supported OS: Disk Drill 4.6 requires Mac OS X 10.11.6+.
TestDisk for Mac is an open-source data recovery utility developed by CGSecurity, the same software company that’s behind PhotoRec. The main purpose of TestDisk for Mac is to recover lost partitions and make non-booting disks bootable again. Apart from macOS, TestDisk runs on Windows, *BSD, SunOS, and even DOS.
TestDisk for Mac is a free and open-source data recovery utility that doesn’t have a premium version. In other words, all of its features are available for free, and you can even use it for commercial purposes.
- Completely free
- Supports many file systems
- Runs on macOS, Linux, Windows, *BSD, and more
- Doesn’t have a graphical user interface
- Not great for beginners
TestDisk for Mac can undelete files from the FAT, NTFS, exFAT, ext2/ext3/ext4, HFS+, and many other file systems. The tool can easily rebuild broken file tables, boot sectors, and even make non-bootable hard drives bootable again. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to take advantage of all the features TestDisk for Mac offers because this otherwise reliable data recovery tool lacks a graphical user interface.
Supported OS: macOS ≥ 10.6 (Intel 64-bit), macOs ≤ 10.14 (Intel 32-bit)
PhotoRec is a free open source data recovery software by CGSecurity, who also developed TestDisk – another entry on this list and PhotoRec’s sister software. Macgasm readers will know that you can’t download one without the other (and both are super useful anyway).
While TestDisk undeletes files by using the file system’s metadata to locate and extract data, PhotoRec completely ignores the file system and goes through every individual data block to find the file. On the user’s end, that means that PhotoRec does a more comprehensive scan – but it may recover multiple similar files if they match PhotoRec’s database. It also takes longer.
Just like TestDisk, PhotoRec for Mac is 100% free, open-source, and has no premium version. Use it as much as you want, even for commercial purposes. However, beware of the lack of support.
- Completely free (and already comes with a TestDisk)
- Supports most file systems
- Works on all major platforms (macOS, Linux, Windows, etc.)
- Just like TestDisk, PhotoRec does not have a graphical user interface
- Due to its lack of GUI, it’s not beginner-friendly
- Both TestDisk and PhotoRec were last updated in 2019
- Lack of support
- You can’t preview files
PhotoRec can recover unlimited data for free from FAT, NTFS, exFAT, ext2/ext3/ext4, and HFS+ file systems on any storage media, and even directly from media devices like iPods and digital cameras. As of the latest update, it has already recovered over 480 file extensions including ZIP, RAW image and video files, documents, and more. Note that you’ll be interacting with PhotoRec completely through Terminal’s command line.
Supported OS: macOS ≥ 10.6 (Intel 64-bit), macOs ≤ 10.14 (Intel 32-bit)
4. UFS Explorer
USF Explorer is a commercial data recovery tool that offers users a limited free trial version. The tool employs a Windows Explorer-style user interface for easy navigation through its features to facilitate data recovery on your Mac.
The free version of UFS Explorer allows you to test the tool’s functionality and will work with files below 256 KB in size. You can easily upgrade to the paid version if you like the tool and want to recover more data.
- Supports multiple file systems and device types
- The tool is updated regularly
- Preview files before recovering them
- Quick performance
- File size limitations with the trial version
- Doesn’t have preview of files
UFS Explorer can recover lost and deleted data from a wide variety of physical devices, disk images, and virtual machines. The tool supports recovery of all major file systems used on Mac, Windows, and Linux systems and can reconstruct spanned volumes to access and recover their files.
Customizable scanning options enable a quick or longer search to uncover deleted data. Scans can be paused and the results saved for future reference. UFS Explorer can help recover files locked in undetected partitions and retrieve files from disks with bad sectors. The tool can produce a map of bad blocks while reading and imaging a disk.
Supported OS: macOS version 10.9 and above.
Data Rescue 6 is a data recovery solution for Mac that helps users recover from a wide range of data loss situations. The tool furnishes users with an attractive interface that makes it easy to recover their lost or deleted files.
The free version of Data Rescue 6 allows users to scan their disks and obtain a report of recoverable files. At that point, purchase options are displayed so users can recover the found files if they wish.
- Quick and deep scans for different recovery scenarios
- Easy-to-use interface and recovery procedure
- Clone failing drives to protect their contents
- The free version only previews recoverable files
- Doesn’t perform well with different file systems
Some of the features provided by Data Rescue 6 include the ability to save and review previous scan results, clone drives that are having hardware issues, and create a bootable recovery drive. Deep scans can recover files lost due to emptying the Trash or inadvertently formatting a drive. Quick scans can help resolve problems with the OS not booting or external devices that fail to mount. A simple recovery process lets users scan any storage device attached to their Mac and recover its lost data.
Supported OS: macOS 10.12 and later.
iBoysoft Data Recovery is a versatile recovery tool for Mac that lets you get back lost and deleted files from a wide variety of storage devices. The application can help you address a Mac that won’t boot or recover files lost from an emptied Trash bin. You can also obtain a version of the software for the Windows platform.
The free version of iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac lets you recover up to 1 GB of deleted data. You will need to upgrade to the paid version of the tool if you want to recover additional data.
- Free 1 GB data recovery
- Compatible with M1 and T2 Macs
- Quick and Deep scans for optimal recovery results
- Free scan and preview of recoverable files
- Scan results can be saved and reloaded
- The license model is expensive
iBoysoft can recover lost files from corrupted or unreadable internal or external storage devices. The tool supports the recovery of files in over 1000 different formats covering all popular media file types. It offers users a simple, three-step recovery process that scans your storage media, previews recoverable data, and recovers them to a safe location.
Supported OS: macOS all versions, Mac OS X 10.11/10.10/10.9.
Stellar Data Recovery is another well-known data recovery software that has been around for a long time. It has a modern and easy-to-use interface making it suitable for beginners. Rather than an all-in-one app like Disk Drill, Stellar offers different products depending on the device you want to recover.
Stellar Data Recovery lets users recover up to 1 GB of data for free. If you want unlimited recovery, you can upgrade to a Standard subscription ($29.99 per month). You’ll also need to subscribe to Stellar’s other apps if you want to recover mobile devices.
- Modern and sleek UI
- Easy to use for beginners
- Supports most existing file types from the most widely-used formats
- Stellar’s Standard subscription comes at a good price, but it’s still not as cost-effective as apps that offer a lifetime license.
- Preview can be a bit buggy
Stellar Data Recovery for Mac can recover most file types from APFS, HFS+ FAT32, NTFS, and ExFAT formats. It provides a simple and easy-to-understand graphical user interface, so even beginners will be comfortable with the process. Stellar can also restore data from iPhone and Android mobile devices, but you’ll need to subscribe to the corresponding Stellar products (separate from the main app unless you get the bundle).
Supported OS: macOS Catalina 10.11-10.15, macOS Big Sur 11, macOS Monterey 12
How We Tested Data Recovery Software for Mac
All free data recovery tools featured in this article were tested on a real Mac computer using a large sample of file formats. Before testing each data recovery tool, the computer was restored back to its original state to make the comparison as objective as possible.
|Software Name||Limitations||Interface||File Preview||Latest Update|
|Disk Drill||Only preview of found files||Good||Yes||March 2, 2022 (Version 4.6.380)|
|Testdisk||—||Bad||No||July 10, 2019 (Version 7.2)|
|PhotoRec||—||Bad||No||July 10, 2019 (Version 7.2)|
|UFS Explorer||Works with files 256 KB or less||Average||Yes||March 11, 2022 (Version 9.6)|
|Data Rescue 6||Only preview of found files||Average||Yes||December 28, 2021 (Version 6.0.6)|
|iBoysoft||Recover up to 1 GB of data||Average||Yes||March 2, 2022 (Version 4.2)|
|Stellar Data Recovery||Only preview of found files||Average||Yes||March, 2022 (Version 22.214.171.124)|
Free Methods to Recover Deleted Files From Mac
Mac is a great user advocate when it comes to its tools, including when it comes to securing their users’ data. Below are two methods of recovery data using free tools that already come with a Mac.
Method 1: Recover Deleted Files From Trash Folder
Whenever you delete a file, it initially goes to the Trash folder. It stays there until you delete it from within that folder or you manually empty your Trash. If you accidentally deleted your files, they’re likely to be found here.
Unremarkable for anyone familiar with computers… But did you know that Mac also creates a hidden Trash folder on external drives? Below, we’ll demonstrate recovering a file from both the local and external Trash folder.
To recover files from local Trash…
Step 1. Click the Trash icon on your dock or navigate to ~/.Trash using Finder Go (Finder > Go > Go to folder…)
Step 2. Right-click the file you want to recover, then click “Put Back.”
To recover files from Trash on an external drive…
Step 1. Open Finder and navigate to your drive’s home folder.
Step 2. Hit (CMD + Shift + >) to unhide the “.Trashes” folder. Open it, then open the “Trash” folder inside.
Step 3. Just like with the local Trash folder, right-click the file you want to restore and click “Put Back.”
Method 2: Restore Files Using Time Machine
Time Machine is Mac’s powerful backup tool that can track incremental changes to files and folders and restore any version that was recorded in the timeline. However, Time Machine requires the user to manually enable its features – so this section assumes you have a Time Machine backup available.
To restore Time Machine snapshots…
Step 1. Launch System Preferences > Time Machine.
Step 2. On the bottom of the window, tick the box beside “Show Time Machine in menu bar.”
Step 3. Open Finder, then navigate to the folder that contained your missing files.
Step 4. Near the right of the Apple menu bar, click the Time Machine button > Enter Time Machine.
Step 5. Use the arrows on the right to browse through the timeline of your folder until you find the version where your files were still intact.
The best way to recover deleted files on your Mac for free is with a backup made with Time Machine or another backup solution. All backup and recovery tools use a similar process to recover your files. The general steps are as follows:
- Connect to the storage media or online backup site storing the backup files.
- Use the tool’s interface to search for the files you want to restore.
- Select the backup version of the items for restoration.
- Perform the recovery and save the data to a new location on your computer.
Disk Drill’s free trial version lets you preview the files that can be recovered on your Mac before committing to purchasing the product. You will need to upgrade to the Pro paid version to recover the data.
However, the trial version of Disk Drill provides full access to free data protection and management tools that can help keep your information safe and maximize your disk storage space. These additional features add substantial value to Disk Drill and allow you to get comfortable with the interface before upgrading the application.
Disk Drill is the best data recovery software solution for your Mac for multiple reasons. Its intuitive interface makes it easy for any user to recover their lost files with just a few clicks. The tool supports hundreds of file formats and virtually any type of disk-based storage device.
It provides fast and reliable recovery performance as well as free data management and protection tools to help you safeguard your valuable information. You can preview recoverable data before performing a recovery to save time and make sure you are recovering the file that you want.
TestDisk is a completely free data recovery software solution for Mac but is only appropriate for recovering lost partitions. The freeware tool has a companion product called PhotoRec that can recover individual files.
The main issue with these freeware products is that they require users to interact with a command-line interface and have some knowledge about their computer’s internal storage system. Average users may find these solutions difficult to use and will obtain better recovery results using a paid data recovery application.