How to recover lost or deleted data from Mac external drive


‘While transferring files from external hard disk to MacBook Pro, I lost some files of the HDD. Is there a way to recover deleted or lost files from Mac external hard disk?’

Data loss is painful and often unavoidable irrespective of the Mac storage device. Mac external hard drives are more prone data loss compared to internal ones, if not handled carefully. You can lose files stored on it not just because of accidental deletion, but improper file transfer, sudden unplugging of the device during read/ write operation, corruption, overuse, exposure to heat, moisture, or dust, and other reasons.

However, luckily, there are solutions that can get back lost data from external hard drives.

Let’s jump to the methods to recover lost or deleted files from Mac external hard drive.

1. Check the Trash on Mac

Deleted files from external hard drive might be present in the Trash folder of your Mac.

To recover deleted data from Trash, connect the external drive to Mac. Now Open Trash folder on Mac. Look for the deleted files from external HDD. Right click on the desired files and click on ‘Put Back’ to restore them at original location on your external HDD.

If you have permanently deleted all the files in Trash folder, move to the next method for external hard drive recovery on Mac.

2. Use backup to recover Mac external hard drive data

If you have backup of the Mac external drive data, then no need to worry. You can easily recover the deleted files from there.

Mac offers Time Machine backup. If you have been using it, recover from Time Machine external drive. Besides, check your other backup folders on Mac, external drives, or cloud storage you might have created.

However, in absence of backup, a Mac data recovery software is the way out.

3. Try an advanced Mac recovery software

You have emptied Trash and have no data backup. In such a situation, only advanced Mac data recovery software can help. There are several Mac file recovery tools available online. Be sure to pick a secure software from a trusted brand. The software should be able to retrieve deleted files from your macOS external drive with APFS, HFS, HFS+, NTFS, or another file system. In addition, ensure that it supports the recovery of data from your external drive type and capacity.

You may try software like Stellar Data Recovery for Mac that supports recovery from Time Machine, Thunderbolt, SSD, portable HDD, Apple USB SuperDrive, Fusion drive or other removable media. It can retrieve data from formatted, corrupt, or lost partitions, volumes, or entire hard drives.

Take the software free trial

Meanwhile if you are skeptical whether the software can successfully recover from Mac external drive or not, take its free demo. There is nothing better way to ascertain a recovery software capability before purchasing. The free version scans the external drive and displays the recoverable files. Some tools also allow a preview of found files in the free demo. If you are satisfied with the results, you can confidently purchase the software.

Besides, a word of caution here. The more you wait to recover deleted data from an external drive, the greater the chances of overwriting. This reduces the possibility of successful recovery, even with the best Mac data recovery software.

Should I use a free software to recover data from Mac external drive?

There is no harm in trying a safe free Mac data recovery tool. Just that they offer limited recovery in terms of the number of files and restrict access to the software’s advanced features.

Plus, not all free recovery software stand up to their tall claims. So make sure you choose a secure software to recover lost files from external drives.

4. Seek hard drive recovery services

The external hard drive may be physically damaged, liquid/water-damaged, unreadable, or not showing in Disk Utility due to which you are unable to access its data. Such cases require a data recovery services intervention. Here software won’t work. If recovery of data on your hard drive is crucial for you, contact certified and reliable data recovery services. The data recovery experts can retrieve data from all types of failing, damaged, or corrupt Mac external drives.

To Sum Up

If the Trash folder is empty, backup is your best bet to recover deleted Mac external hard drive files. But if you find both these methods futile in your case, trust a reliable data recovery software to retrieve an external hard drive on Mac.

Meanwhile, if your Mac external hard drive is physically damaged, does not spin, has scratches on the platter, or is unreadable, contact a reliable Mac data recovery services that assure your data privacy also.


By Abhishek Dhiman

Bio: Abhishek is a Mac data recovery expert at Stellar. He writes with the intention to help people solve their macOS problems. Also, shares the latest macOS tips & tricks. He believes tech is not that complex when explained in simple language.


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