Fix Desktop Folder Disappeared on Mac with 10 Ways (macOS Sonoma/Ventura Support)

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Connie Wisley
November 01, 2023 Preview 30.0K Preview 2
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Folders disappeared from desktop on Mac? Or even worse, everything on desktop disappeared on Mac? Don’t panic. This article will show you how to easily recover folders disappeared from Mac desktop in 2023/2024, by listing 10 common fixes you can try, no matter your macOS is Sonoma, Ventura, Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina or older versions. There is also an extended bonus tip to recover accidentally deleted desktop folders on Mac easily.

 

Why Did Desktop Folders Disappeared on Mac? Where Did They Go?

It's uncommon but we do run into the trouble of Mac Desktop Folders Disappeared. This can be a big problem, because it leads to data loss and affects our work. Desktop folders disappeared on Mac can be caused by different reasons and here we conclude as follows:

  • File and folder properties are set to hidden wrongly
  • Folders are moved to a new location by accident
  • Folders are accidently deleted by Command+Delete
  • Incorrect iCloud sync settings
  • Run out of storage, the oldest files may be deleted for least use
  • Sudden power off
  • Forget to save the folder
  • Overwrite 
  • Malware infection
  • 3rd party security software delete the folders mistakenly
  • Settings are altered during OS update or reinstallation

Then where did these disappeared desktop folders go? Basing on the reasons we list above, they may be moved to Trash bin, to a new location, or hidden somewhere on your Mac and we need to get them back.

 

2 Ways to Recover Folders Disappeared from Desktop on Mac

With different scenarios causing disappeared desktop folders, it may require different solutions. If you are sure that the folders missing from desktop are no longer existing on Mac, you should attempt to recover them back. Let’s start with 2 recovery methods.

#1 Recover Folders Disappeared from Mac Desktop with Software

As the top option, you need a professional data recovery software like Cisdem Data Recovery for Mac to help you out!

Cisdem Data Recovery for Mac works with most data loss situations, such as lost or missing for unknown reason, permanent deletion or formatted. It provides following useful features:

  • Professional data recovery solutions for different data loss situations
  • Recover all common files formats and types like images, documents, videos, audios, etc.

  • Repair corrupted videos in mp4, mov, avi and so on

  • Support 9 file systems like APFS, ExFAT, FAT16, FAT32, HFS+, ext2 and NTFS
  • Allow you to preview files before recovery
  • Quickly search files with keyword, file size, date created, date modified
  • Provide safe, quick and read-only recovery process

Free Download macOS 10.9 or later

You can check this video to recover disappeared folders from Mac desktop or refer to those steps in the last part of this article. It supports recovering deleted desktop folders or files too.

 

#2 Restore Disappeared Folders on Mac from Time Machine Backup

If you back up your Mac with Time Machine on a frequent basis, things will be easier. In such a case, you can get back disappeared desktop folders on Mac from the available backup.

  • Step 1. Contact your Time Machine external HD to your Mac. Click the Time Machine icon in the toolbar and select Enter Time Machine.
  • Step 2. A new window pops up. In the lower right corner, you can scroll up and down the timeline and locate the latest backup made before your desktop folders disappeared.
  • Step 3. Select the folders you need to get back and click Restore.restore folders disappeared from desktop mac from time machine backup

8 Ways to Fix Folders Disappeared from Desktop on Mac

Another situation is that your disappeared desktop folders are just hidden somewhere, rather than removed from your Mac. In this case, it’s time to make them show up again and proceed to the 8 fixes below.

#1 Relaunch the Finder

This is a pretty easy and quick fix, but it actually solves the issue in some cases.

  1. Right-click the Finder icon in the Dock while pressing and holding the Option key.relaunch Finder
  2. Click the Relaunch option that appears. Your Mac will relaunch the Finder.

 

#2 Use TinkerTool

One possible cause of the problem is that the Desktop features have been disabled. One can fix it by relaunching the Finder. If relaunch doesn’t work, there is still another method, which is using a third-party app called TinkerTool. This app is designed to give Mac users access to additional macOS preference and settings. 

  1. Download and install the app on your Mac. Launch it.
  2. Under the Finder tab, go to the Finder options section. Make sure that the Disable Desktop features option is not selected.use tinkertool
  3. Click the Relaunch Finder button in the bottom right corner. That should bring back the disappeared desktop folders and other items if any.

 

#3 Search the Folder

Sometimes, the disappeared desktop folders are just moved to a new location by accidentally enabling the transfer actions with your mouse or key combination. We can search on our Mac and put the disappeared folders back to the desktop.

  1. Open Finder app and find the spotlight search box.search folder 01
  2. Input the name of your disappeared folder and choose to search on This Mac.search folder 02
  3. Then click on the folder or file name and find the new location, you can move the folder to Mac desktop again.search folder 03

#4 Show Hidden Desktop Items by Terminal

If a folder or all your Mac desktop folders disappeared because they have been hidden for some reason, you can view and find the hidden folders by using Terminal.

  1. Open Terminal from Spotlight.
  2. Type the script: $ defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles true $ killall Finder. Press Enter to make the hidden items appear.terminal

#5 Unhide Desktop Icons

The Mac desktop icons disappeared problem also occurs. There are two solutions you can try.

  • Sort desktop items. Control-click a black area. Select Sort By > Snap to Grid.sort desktop items
  • Use Finder. Got to Finder Preferences > General. Check these boxes, as shown in the screenshot below.finder preferences

#6 Deselect Desktop and Documents in iCloud Drive

In many cases, the folders disappeared from desktop on Mac issue is caused by iCloud settings. Mac makes it easy to store your Desktop and Documents folder in the cloud so that you can easily access them on all your Apple devices. It makes things convenient. However, sometimes it also brings frustrations since it could cause the disappearance of desktop items and the Desktop folder. Below is how to get back the disappeared folders.

  1. Go to System Preferences > iCloud.
  2. In the upper right part of the iCloud window, click the Options button next to iCloud Drive, which will bring up a new window.
  3. Deselect the option Desktop & Documents Folders. A message box will pop up. Click the Turn Off button.deselect Desktop & Documents Folders
  4. In Finder, click the iCloud Drive folder under Favorites. Choose the Desktop folder within it. Copy all the folders and files and paste them to your desktop. Likewise, you can do the same with the Documents folder if needed.copy and paste desktop items
  5. (Optional) You can choose to delete the Desktop folder (which is empty now) in the aforesaid iCloud Drive folder.

Also, you can choose to turn off the iCloud Drive sync.

 

#7 Disable Stacks Feature

macOS Mojave and later versions have a new feature named Stacks, to automatically group similar desktop folders and files together by categories. Once enabled, your Mac desktop folders could be missing. Here are the steps to find disappeared desktop folders via Stack.

  1. Click View > Use Stacks > Group Stacks By. Check how your files are organized.use stacks
  2. Locate and move the disappeared folders to desktop on Mac.
  3. If no desktop folders have been found, try to disable Stacks feature.

 

#8 Reinstall macOS

The last but not the least useful method to get your disappeared desktop folders back is reinstalling macOS, making everything on your Mac run properly again by purging all conflicts or problems during the reinstallation.

However, it is not easy to reinstall macOS, we need to prepare our Mac properly, back up files and follow the steps to go through the reinstalling.

  1. Make sure there is enough space for the reinstallation, otherwise, delete or transfer your files to external storage device.
  2. Back up files with Time Machine before reinstallation.
  3. Click Apple icon > Restart.
  4. Press and hold Command+R while restarting, release until you see the Apple logo.
  5. Choose Reinstall macOS xxx and click Continue.
  6. Select a drive for the macOS reinstallion.

 

Extended: Easiest Way to Recover Accidentally Deleted Desktop Folder on Mac

It would be much easier to recover deleted desktop folders on Mac, with the best option of downloading and installing a data recovery program. This method applies to restoring desktop folders moved to Trash bin, and restoring permanently deleted/trash emptied desktop folders as well.

The tool we use is still Cisdem Data Recovery, the program we recommend to recovering disappeared folders from Mac desktop as above, it is easy to use and reliable to help you gain access to deleted Mac desktop folders again.

Recover accidentally deleted desktop folders on Mac in 3 steps

  • Step 1. Download and install Cisdem Data Recovery.
    Free Download macOS 10.9 or later
  • Step 2. Open it. Go to Hardware Disk, select the hard drive where the desktop folders are deleted.select a recovery solution
  • Step 3. Click Search for lost files. Go to Path > Users > Library > Desktop. click Scan
  • Step 4. As it scans, you are able to view and preview real-time scan results. Select the Desktop folder and click Recover to restore deleted desktop folders on Mac.preview and recover

 

Conclusion

Don’t worry if folders disappeared from desktop on Mac. You can try the methods mentioned above. In many cases, it’s very easy to bring things back. When it comes accidental permanent deletion, you will need to use professional software like Cisdem Data Recovery for Mac. The software can recover data loss caused by permanent deletion, disk formatting, disk failure and other reasons. For important files and folders, it’s highly recommended to regularly back them up.

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Connie Wisley
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Connie has been writing for Mac productivity and utility apps since 2009. Each review and solution is based on her practical tests, she is aways energetic and trustworthy in this field.

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  • Bilal Khan

    I fixed it by checking whether the Desktop icon which in pinned in the finder, is actually from the same user which my current session in sig-in to. So basically you will have to again navigate to the correct user and find the correct Desktop where are you files. Best Wishes.

    0 months ago commonReply

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  • Regina

    Wow! Awesome guide! I'm disabling Desktop and Documents option in my iCloud Drive, then my disappeared folders magically show up again! Thanks for saving me from the annoying problem.

    0 months ago commonReply

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