How to Restore Deleted Downloads Folder on Mac: All You Need to Know

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Restore deleted downloads folder

There are multiple situations where your downloaded files can go missing – and in some cases, even your entire Downloads folder can disappear from your Mac. Don’t panic. MacOS typically makes it difficult for your files and folder to be suddenly deleted, and the more likely scenario is that they were just misplaced.

This article goes through all existing methods to locate your missing or misplaced files, search every possible location for your Downloads folder, and restore deleted downloads in the case of actual data loss. Read on.

How to find downloads on a Mac

You can usually access Downloads on Mac via your user folder. So where is the Downloads folder on a Mac? Its exact path is Macintosh HD > Users > (username) > Downloads.

We listed down 6 different methods to access downloads on Mac. Methods 1 through 6 assume that the default Downloads folder hasn’t been changed, while method 7 examines whether changes have been made to the default settings for downloaded files. Read on.

1. Dock

By default, you can find your Downloads folder on your Dock – it’s situated near the end on the right by the Trash folder icon. This makes it easy for users to quickly access their downloaded files.

apple dock with an outline highlighting the downloads folder

If you can’t find your Downloads folder there, it’s likely that you accidentally dragged it into the nether. Fortunately, it’s easy to restore it. Here’s how:

Step 1Open Finder by clicking its icon on your Dock.
finder icon

Step 2On the Apple menu bar, click Go > Computer, and navigate to Macintosh HD > Users > “username” – replace “username” with your actual username.

Step 3Drag the downloads folder down to your Dock, preferably near the Trash folder where it was originally located.
finder folder with an outline highlighting the downloads folder with a pointer towards the dock, instructing readers to drag it there

2. Finder > Go

The second fastest way to find your Downloads folder is by using Finder’s Go function.

finder go menu with an outline highlighting the downloads folder button

The Finder > Go menu will always show the Downloads folder. However, if your Downloads folder is completely gone from Finder, it’s possible that you dragged it away from your Home folder, and accessing it from the Go menu or Go function will pull up an operation error. Here’s how to restore it:

Step 1Open Finder.

Step 2On the Apple menu bar, click File > New Smart Folder.
finder file menu with an outline highlighting the new smart folder option

Step 3Locate your Downloads folder and double-click it. Make sure that it’s the folder with the familiar Downloads icon.
new smart folder window with an outline highlighting the downloads folder

Step 4Click “Save.”
new smart folder save prompt

Step 5On the popup window that appears, use the dropdown menus to name the folder and set its location to your user folder.
new finder folder prompt for choosing name and location

3. Finder Favorites

By default, your Downloads folder is listed by Finder under your Favorites.

finder downloads folder with an outline highlighting the downloads shortcut in the sidebar

If your Downloads folder is missing in the Finder sidebar, it’s likely because of the same reason that it would go missing from the Dock – it’s simply a case of accidental dragging. Here’s how to restore it:

Step 1Open Finder.

Step 2On the Apple menu bar, click Go > Computer, and navigate to Macintosh HD > Users > “username” – replace “username” with your actual username.

Step 3Drag the downloads folder to your sidebar, preferably under the “Favorites” section.
Mac user folder with a pointer from the downloads folder to the sidebar, instructing readers to drag it there

4. Manually Navigate to the Downloads Folder Using Finder – Home

If your Downloads folder is missing in the usual shorthand locations, you can manually navigate to it via your Home folder. To locate your lost Downloads folder on Mac, do the following:

Step 1Open Finder.

Step 2On the Apple menu bar, click Go > Home.
Mac finder go menu with an outline highlighting the go function

Step 3Locate your Downloads folder.
Mac home folder with an outline highlighting the downloads folder

5. Manually Navigate to the Downloads Folder Using Finder – Computer

If you somehow can’t access your Home folder, you can navigate to your Downloads folder through your Computer folder. Here’s how:

Step 1Open Finder.

Step 2On the Apple menu bar, click Go > Computer.
finder go menu with an outline highlighting the computer folder

Step 3Navigate to the following folders: Macintosh HD > Users > “your username” > Downloads. Replace “your username” with your actual username. For example, the path on my MacBook would look like this: Macintosh HD> Users > lex > Downloads.
Mac downloads folder with outlines highlighting the download folder and the folder path

6. Use Spotlight Search

If you can’t find your Downloads folder by navigating through Finder, you can use Spotlight Search to locate it and then figure out where it is.

Step 1Open Spotlight Search by pressing (CMD + Space), then type “downloads” in the search field.
spotlight search with "downloads" typed into the search field

Step 2Beside the search bar on the top right corner of the window, click the ellipsis button (…) and click “Get Info.”
downloads folder with the ellipses menu opened and an outline highlighting the get info option

Step 3Find the “Where” property in the Get Info window to find the current location of your Downloads folder.
downloads get info window

7. Check Safari Preferences

MacOS typically does not let you mess with the actual “Downloads” folder unless you’re willing to use the Terminal to force the system to do so – however, you can change the default folder destination for your downloaded files. If your downloaded files are missing, this could be the problem. Here’s how to check:

Step 1Open Safari by clicking its icon on your Dock.

Step 2On the Apple menu bar, click Safari > Preferences…
safari menu with an outline highlighting the preferences option

Step 3Select the “General” tab, and find the setting for “File download location” near the bottom of the window. Click the dropdown menu beside it, then examine whether it’s still set to the default “Downloads” folder. You can easily change the default location from here if you want to.
safari preferences window with an outline highlighting the file download location option

How to Recover Files Deleted From Downloads Folder

It’s one thing if you accidentally misplaced your Downloads folder on Mac and changed the default location for your downloaded files. It’s another thing entirely if your files are actually missing due to something like a software issue, virus attack, or improper formatting. To recover deleted files on Mac, you’ll need a data recovery tool. We’ll be using Disk Drill to demonstrate how to do this.

Step 1Download and install Disk Drill.

Step 2Launch Disk Drill by opening Finder > Applications > Disk Drill.
Mac applications folder with an outline highlighting the disk drill app

Step 3Select the drive where your downloads were located, and click “Search for lost files.”
disk drill drive selection window

Step 4Allow Disk Drill to complete the scanning process or browse through the files it already found. Then click “Review found items.”disk drill window showing file categories with a pointer towards the review found items button

Step 5Preview your files by hovering your mouse pointer beside the file name and clicking the eye button.disk drill file list window with a pointer towards the preview eye button

Step 6Check the boxes beside the files you want to recover. Once you’re satisfied with your selection, click “Recover.”
disk drill file selection window with a pointer towards a checkbox beside a file

Step 7Choose the destination for your recovered files, and click “OK.”

Disk Drill Basic for Mac does not offer free data recovery, but it offers free unlimited file preview – this is really important for confirming that you can recover files using software. If you can’t, any further DIY recovery attempts may damage the drive further and result in data loss. In this case, you’ll need to send your drive to a professional data recovery center.

FAQ

Conclusion

MacOS makes it pretty hard to lose your Downloads folder, but it does happen. It’s even more common to lose downloaded files, especially on older machines. It’s a good idea to know all the locations where the Downloads folder is typically located, and to be familiar with tools that recover deleted folders and files on Mac just in case you are experiencing actual data loss.