Losing your files can be a heart-wrenching experience, especially if you’re using your Mac for professional reasons.
Despite that, you can still try to recover data from an SSD on your Mac. In this article, we’ll talk about some third-party services you can use to recover your data as well as the differences between SSD data recovery and HDD data recovery.
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SSD Data Recovery vs Hard Drive Data Recovery
Before we start recovering files from your SSD, let’s cover some of the basics of data recovery.
What Happens When You Delete Your Files?
Deleting your files doesn’t entirely mean getting rid of them from your hard drive or SSD.
Your computer has a GPS that tracks all the locations of your files, sort of like Google Maps. When you search for a file, that GPS tells your computer where it’s located. When you delete a file, you don’t delete the data of that file. Instead, you delete the location of the file from the GPS. And so, when you look for your files, your computer doesn’t know where it is and considers it deleted or “not there”.
So when is your data completely deleted?
The only time your files are completely deleted is when it’s either completely replaced by another file or if your SSD or hard drive deliberately erases all the unused data. For hard drives, this sometimes happens when you defragment an HDD. For SSDs, this happens because of a process called TRIM. More on that later.
Other reasons like a corrupted or damaged SSD will make data recovery much more difficult, but not impossible.
Hard Drives vs SSDs
Solid state drives (SSDs) might be faster, becoming cheaper, and have more advantages than traditional hard drives (HDDs), but it’s much harder to recover data on an SSD. This is because HDDs store data in a physical disk and don’t erase deleted files quickly. So, when you need to recover a deleted file, you can just look at the same location it was previously recorded at and check if it’s still there.
The same principle used to apply to SSDs as well until TRIM became a standard practice.
TRIM is a built-in command that prepares your SSD for writing new files every time you delete a file. Instead of the SSD checking the index to see if the data in a specific area has already been deleted, the TRIM method immediately marks deleted data as “empty”. This increases the lifespan of your SSD and makes it much faster overall.
The problem with that is that all the files you delete are immediately emptied out because of TRIM, making it harder to recover data.
How to Disable TRIM
If your files were only recently deleted, you can still disable the TRIM feature on your SSD to make sure your files don’t get wiped. Here’s a quick guide to disabling TRIM on your Mac.
Step 1. Open up the Terminal app.
Step 2. Copy and paste the command “sudo trimforce disable” and press Enter.
Step 3. A bunch of important notices and warnings will pop up. You can either read through it or just skip the formalities and press type Y and hit Enter to proceed.
Having TRIM disabled might make recovering deleted files easier, but it will eventually slow down your SSD and even shorten its lifespan. To enable TRIM again, just repeat the steps above but use “sudo trimforce enable” instead.
When is it Possible To Recover Data from SSD on Mac?
Generally speaking, the only time it’s possible to recover deleted files from an SSD on a Mac is if the SSD has not yet been through TRIM.
Thankfully, your SSD doesn’t always immediately go through the TRIM process. Some SSDs use a queued TRIM feature that only trims your storage when the Mac is idle. So as long as the file has only been deleted recently, there’s a chance you can still recover those files back.
How to Recover Data from SSD on Mac
You can recover data from your Mac in two ways: doing it yourself and paying a professional. There are dozens of reliable data recovery programs out there, so much so that it’s worth a shot to try and retrieve your own files yourself.
If that doesn’t work, you can always refer to the trusted data recovery services we’ve mentioned below.
Method 1: Data Recovery Software
For the self-help method, we’ll be recovering data from the SSD on your Mac using a third-party application called Disk Drill.
This is one of our favorite SSD recovery tools for file recovery, since it’s quick and reliable. If you want to check out other programs, you can check out our top 10 list of data recovery tools for Mac.
Here’s how you can try and recover data from the SSD on your Mac:
Step 1. Let’s start by downloading Disk Drill onto your Mac. Go ahead and open the Disk Drill website and click on Free Download.
Step 2. Once it’s downloaded, just double-click on Disk Drill to begin installing the program. It should take between a couple of seconds up to several minutes to install Disk Drill to your device, depending on the speed of your Mac.
Step 3. When it’s done installing, you’ll be asked to move Disk Drill into your Application folder via a pop-up interface. Drag the Disk Drill icon to the folder to complete the entire process.
Step 4. After that, you can now launch Disk Drill through the Applications folder, your Dock, or Spotlight.
Step 5. With Disk Drill open, click on the SSD you want to scan and recover data from.
Step 6. There are several types of recovery methods you can choose from, but we recommend using the All recovery methods option.
Step 7. Click on Search for lost data to begin the recovery process. This will take several minutes to maybe half an hour, depending on the size of your SSD and the speed of your Mac.
Step 8. After completing the scan, you’ll be shown a data recovery report with all the files that were recovered from your SSD. You should be able to review all the deleted and even corrupted files that were found on your SSD from there. Just click on Review found items at the bottom-right corner of your window.
Step 9. On the new window with all your recovered files, look for the data you want to recover. Once you’ve located the files you want to save, click and highlight them, then click on Recover at the bottom-right corner of your screen.
You’ll be asked for a destination folder, which is where your recovered files will go.
If you were able to successfully recover data from your SSD, congratulations! Thankfully you were able to make it in the nick of time. For those of you who always want to keep some form of backup for your files, we suggest using Apple’s Time Machine feature.
If you’re working on a corrupted SSD, you may want to do a clean reset and reformat it to preserve its health. Corrupted SSDs are salvageable, but if Disk Drill says that your SSD is about to fail, then you’ll have to replace the disk through a certified Apple repair shop. Go ahead and check if your Mac is still under warranty so that you can either get it replaced, or fixed at a discounted price or for free.
Method 2: Data Recovery Services
Aside from that, you can also try your hand at data recovery services as an alternative method.
You can either apply for help through online or local data recovery centers. Granted, the online option will take much longer since your Mac still has to be shipped over to the servicing office. Here are some key considerations to take when browsing for a data recovery service:
- Make sure the data recovery center is partnered with Apple.
- Make sure the data recovery process does not void your warranty.
- Look for a center that doesn’t charge you if they can’t recover your data.
- They’ll offer to evaluate your Mac for free.
We’ve done some research and can recommend these data recovery companies:
Ask for a free quote from all three websites first so you can evaluate the price before making a commitment.
Signs of SSD Failure
There are several signs that your SSD is failing.
SSDs have a limited lifespan and will need to be replaced, generally after five years or so. However, if you’re the type to constantly delete and add hundreds of gigabytes of data every day, then your SSD’s lifespan might be cut short.
Here are some clear cut symptoms that you should be looking out for:
- You can’t read and write new files into your drive.
- Your Mac runs much slower.
- Apps frequently freeze and crash.
- Kernel panic happens all the time.
Now, these signs are also similar to a corrupted SSD, so you’ll have to confirm that it’s failing by checking your SSDs health. We already have a detailed article about how you can do just that, so here are 3 ways to check your SSD’s health.
Cloning Your Failing SSD to Increase Chances of Data Recovery
If your SSD is indeed failing, then you should create a byte-by-byte copy of your hard drive to preserve your data as much as possible until you get your SSD replaced. This will help in recovering your files later on.
To start, you’ll need an external hard drive or SSD that’s clean and empty. We’ll be completely erasing the contents of that hard drive, so make sure it doesn’t have any important data before you start.
Here’s how you can erase and prepare your external drive for the byte-by-byte backup:
Step 1. Plug your hard drive into your Mac.
Step 2. Open up the Disk Utility app.
Step 3. Look for your external hard drive and click on the Erase tab from the top tabs. The format will automatically be set to Mac OS Extended and the scheme to GUID. You can leave those as is.
Step 4. Name the backup drive something distinct, like “Backup Clone”.
Step 5. Finally, click on Erase.
This process will take only a few minutes, maybe even less, depending on the speed of your Mac and the external hard drive and its size. In the meantime, you can download Disk Drill as this is the app that will create the byte-by-byte copy of your hard drive.
Once your external hard drive is ready, let’s start cloning your drive.
Step 1. Install Disk Drill by opening the installation app and dragging Disk Drill’s icon to the Applications folder.
Step 2. Launch the Disk Drill app and look for the Byte-to-byte Backup option at the left-hand side of your screen.
Step 3. From there, look for the SSD in your Mac and click on Create backup.
Step 4. Choose the name and location of where you want to store your backup. In this case, you’ll be using the external hard drive we just cleaned.
Step 5. Lastly, click on Save and just wait for the backup process to finish.
When that’s all done, you should get your failing SSD replaced as soon as possible to avoid future problems. You can always restore your files back into your Mac with the backup you just made later on.
Recovering files from an SSD is unfortunately much more difficult than their HDD counterparts. However, there are a ton of SSD data recovery programs out there, so try as much of them as you can to recover your data. If you don’t have any luck with that, you can always try professional data recovery services.
Don’t forget to check your SSD’s health, so you can make sure you won’t have any problems with corrupted files and a failing SSD later on.