How to Recover Deleted Data from MacBook Pro: The Ultimate Guide

1809
Recover deleted data on Macbook Pro

If this is your first accidental deletion of important data from your MacBook Pro, then we have bad news for you: it probably won’t be the last. But there’s also good news: learning how to perform MacBook data recovery isn’t difficult nor expensive.

In this article, we describe several effective methods and tools that can help you recover data from your MacBook Pro hard drive in no time. We also discuss the most common reasons for MacBook Pro data loss so that you know what to watch out for in the future.

Hard Drives and SSDs in Mac

Recovering data from an SSD is much harder to do than traditional HDDs. SSDs typically come with a function called TRIM, which marks deleted data as “empty” after you delete any file. This prepares your SSD for writing new files and increases the lifespan of your solid state drive at the cost of making data recovery difficult.

Thankfully, TRIM isn’t always instantaneous and will often wait for when your MacBook Pro is doing nothing before it sweeps your SSD. If you’re fast enough, you can still disable the TRIM function on your MacBook Pro to help preserve your deleted data.

HDDs on the other hand don’t suffer from the TRIM issue and are much easier to recover files from. If you want to check as to whether or not you have an SSD or an HDD, simply follow these steps:

  1. Open the Apple menu.
  2. From there, click on About This Mac.About this Mac
  1. That will open up a window on your screen. Go to System Report.System Report
  1. On the left hand side of your screen, scroll down and look for Storage.
  2. That will show a list of your drives. Simply select the drive with your macOS installed.
  3. From there, look for Medium Type: and see if it says SSD or HDD.list of drives

If you’re still unsure as to what type your storage device is, there’s a big chance that it’s an SSD. Almost all MacBook Pros have been shipping with an SSD since 2012.

Methods to Recover Deleted Files from MacBook Pro Hard Drive

As a MacBook Pro user, you can choose between several different data recovery methods, each capable of addressing different data loss scenarios. Let’s go over the most useful methods and describe how they work and in which situations they should be used.

Method 1: Time Machine

time machine iconTime Machine is Apple’s homegrown backup software application, and it’s distributed as part of macOS. Time Machine keeps local snapshots as space permits, hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for all previous months.

If Time Machine had backed up your data prior to their deletion, then you can painlessly recover them from your Time Machine backup:

  1. Make sure your Time Machine backup drive is connected to your MacBook Pro.
  2. Click the Time Machine icon located in the Menu Bar and choose Enter Time Machine.time machine menu bar
  3. Navigate to the folder that used to contain the deleted files.
  4. Use the navigational arrows or timeline on the right to find a backup copy of the folder that contains the deleted files.
  5. Select the files you want to recover and click Restore.time machine word restore

Method 2: Data Recovery Software

disk drill iconAside from the built-in Time Machine that Apple provided us, we can also use data recovery software to recover your deleted files. In this tutorial, we’ll be using our favorite, Disk Drill.

Disk Drill is safe to use and is one of the most recommended recovery programs on the market. Recovery programs like this go through your entire drive and collect all the files that haven’t yet been overwritten. Before you start contacting a professional data recovery expert, give the steps below a try. You might be able to recover your deleted files on your own.

  1. Start by downloading and installing Disk Drill into your Mac.disk drill install mac
  2. Once you’ve installed Disk Drill, you’ll have to enter Recovery Mode. Shut down your MacBook Pro.macOs Shutdown
  1. Power on your MacBook Pro and immediately hold then press down the  and R keys. Release your fingers when you see the Apple logo. If that didn’t work for you, you can either try again or use the other alternatives from Apple.

Launching your Mac in Recovery Mode decreases the amount of data being written in the background of your MacBook Pro. This lowers the chance of your files being overwritten with new information while we scan and try to recover your files.

  1. At the Recovery screen, go ahead and log into the appropriate user of the Mac and make sure that you’re connected to a Wi-Fi or Ethernet network.
  2. From there, click on the Utilities menu from the top-left corner of your screen and select Terminal.
  3. Copy and paste the terminal command and press Enter:
sh <(curl http://www.cleverfiles.com/bootmode/boot.xml)

This will open up and run Disk Drill.

  1. With Disk Drill opened, click on your storage device or hard drive that has the data you’re trying to recover.
  2. Once selected, just click on Search for lost data at the bottom-right corner of the Disk Drill window. This will take a couple of minutes depending on the size of your storage device and the speed of your MacBook Pro.
  3. disk drill search for lost data annotatedAfter Disk Drill has scanned through your entire drive, click on Review found items and look for the files that you’re trying to recover.disk drill big sur select for recovery
  4. When you’ve located the deleted files, go ahead and select all of them before clicking on Recover at the bottom-right corner of your screen.disk drill big sur recovery button annotated
  5. You’ll be asked for a destination folder, which is where the recovered files will be sent to. If possible, try to set the destination folder to a different drive than the one it’s currently on. This is to avoid losing your data even further, in case your drive is actually failing or compromised.

If you’re a visual learner and prefer following a video, here’s a tutorial published by CleverFiles.

 

Method 3: Cloud Backup Solutions

icloud drive iconMany MacBook Pro users back up important data using cloud backup solutions like iCloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive. Such solutions help ensure recoverability by securely transferring backup copies to remote servers. If you’re among their users, you should be able to restore your data even after a critical hard drive failure.

Click the links below to learn how to perform MacBook data recovery using popular cloud backup solutions:

Method 4: Data Recovery Services

data recovery service

MacBooks are expensive computers, and the value of your lost data can be even higher. If DIY data recovery seems too risky to you, then you should consider shipping your entire MacBook to a professional data recovery center.

While the cost of professional data recovery can range wildly depending on the cause of data loss (more about common reasons for data loss in the last section of this article), the best data recovery centers offer a free evaluation, so you don’t need to worry about receiving an unexpectedly high bill.

Unlike DIY data recovery methods, professionals can recover lost data even from physically damaged storage devices because they are equipped with specialized tools and have years of experience under their belt, making them ideal for data loss situations that seem nearly hopeless.

Best Tools to Recover Data from MacBook Pro

There are multiple MacBook hard drive recovery tools that you can use to restore permanently deleted data from your MacBook Pro. We’ve already provided step-by-step instructions on how to use one of them, but we have yet to discuss its features and provide suitable alternatives, so let’s get to it.

1. Disk Drill for Mac

disk drill 4 big sur main window

Pros:
  • Powerful
  • Easy to use
  • Automatically detects and recovers lost partitions
  • Comes with extra data protection and management tools
Cons:
  • The free version can only preview recoverable files

Disk Drill for Mac is our favorite MacBook data recovery tool because it’s both powerful and easy to use. You can use it to recover over 400 file formats with a few clicks, and the tool can even automatically detect and restore lost partitions. Bundled with Disk Drill for Mac are several useful tools to help you keep your data protected and organized. The only downside is that the free version can only preview recoverable files.

2. PhotoRec

photorec destination directory

Pros:
  • Open-source
  • Completely free
  • Supports about 300 file families
  • Ships together with TestDisk
Cons:
  • Command-line user interface
  • Complicated installation

PhotoRec is the best open-source data recovery tool that runs on macOS. It’s distributed together with TestDisk, which is a very similar tool whose purpose is to recover lost partitions and/or make non-booting disks bootable again. Both tools can be installed using Homebrew. Despite what its name suggests, PhotoRec can recover more than just photos. In fact, about 300 file families are supported, including ZIP, Office, PDF, HTML, and other commonly used file formats. PhotoRec’s biggest downside is its command-line user interface.

3. Exif Untrasher

exif untrasher

Pros:
  • Straightforward and intuitive
  • Completely free
Cons:
  • Can restore only JPEG images

Exif Untrasher is a straightforward data recovery tool created by Carsten Blüm, who’s been developing software since the late nineties. With Exif Untrasher, you can quickly and painlessly locate all lost photos in JPEG format on any kind of storage device. The tool is compatible with macOS 10.10 or higher, and you can download it for free from the author’s website. Unfortunately, not other file formats besides JPEG are supported.

Is it Possible to Recover Data from a Dead MacBook Pro?

Recovering data from a dead MacBook Pro can seem a lot more difficult, since you don’t have an interface to work with. Worse, attempting an improper recovery may damage your drive even further and lead to permanent data loss.

If your MacBook’s drive is removable, data recovery is a lot easier. You can just remove it from your computer and plug it into another Mac using an adapter or docking station, and scan it with data recovery software from there.

However, recovering a permanent internal drive is a bit tricky – but with the right tools, it’s perfectly doable even for non-tech savvy users. Below are easy-to-follow guides for two safe methods to recover data on a dead MacBook. Follow along, and you should be fine.

Method 1: Use Target Disk Mode

Target Disk Mode is a useful feature that turns a MacBook into an external storage device. You can connect it to another MacBook and use Disk Drill to scan your dead MacBook as if it were a regular external hard drive.

Step 1 On the working MacBook, download and install Disk Drill.

Step 2 Connect the two Macs via your cable (you may need a Thunderbolt to FireWire adaptor just in case they use different ports).

Step 3 Now on the dead MacBook, boot into Target Disk Mode by pressing the power button and holding (T).

Step 4 The working MacBook should read your dead MacBook as an external drive. On the working MacBook, run Disk Drill and scan your dead MacBook. Then, you can proceed with recovery as normal – make sure to save your files to the working MacBook to avoid overwriting data!

Method 2: Run Disk Drill From an External macOS Drive

The second method runs Disk Drill via an external macOS drive. First, we’ll have to install macOs onto an external drive using a working Mac, then we’ll boot into that external drive and use it to scan the dead MacBook.

The following process will wipe the data from your external storage device, so perform a backup before proceeding.

Step 1 Plug in your external storage device to another MacBook (make sure it has at least 50GB or more for a clean install, plus enough storage space for your data).

Step 2 Open Disk Utility by opening Finder > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.
Finder Utilities folder with a pointer towards the Disk Utility app

Step 3 Click the sidebar button on the top right corner of the Disk Utility window, then click “Show All Devices.”
Disk Utility window with outlines highlighting the View Options button and the Show All Devices option

Step 4 Select the external drive (not just the volume) on the left sidebar, then click the “Erase” button on the top-right side of the window.
Disk Utility window with a pointer towards the Erase button

Step 5 Name your drive something like “Monterey USB.” For the Format, choose APFS and GUID Partition for the Scheme. Then, click Erase.
Disk Utility Erase dialogue box with an outline highlighting the fields for the Name, Format, and Scheme entries, and a pointer towards the Erase button

If Disk Utility won’t let you erase and format your external storage device, try running Disk Utility in Recovery Mode.

Step 6 Download the Monterey macOS installer (or whichever version you choose) from the App Store, but don’t install it yet.

Step 7 Run the installer by double-clicking its icon in Finder > Applications.

Finder Applications window with a pointer towards the Monterey installer

Step 8 Click Agree to the license terms, then select Monterey USB (or whatever you named your external drive) for the installation destination.

Step 9 Once the installation is complete, you can now boot into macOS on your external drive. Turn on your Mac, then immediately press and hold the Option (⌥) key. Release it when your bootable volumes appear on-screen. Select your bootable macOS drive and click the up arrow or press Return.

The booting process is slightly different for those using Macs with Apple Silicon – Press and hold the power button until you see the startup options window. Select the bootable macOS drive, then click Continue.

Step 10 Once you’ve booted into MacOS on your external drive, download and install Disk Drill and run it from the Applications folder as normal. Select your dead MacBook from the sidebar (which should appear as an external drive), scan it, then save the data you need onto the working MacBook.

At least one of these methods should work to extract data from a dead MacBook. Just make sure to save your recovered data onto a storage device other than the dead MacBook (such as the working MacBook) to avoid overwriting your files.