2021 Update: Recover Unsaved, Deleted or Corrupted PDF Files on Mac

Peter William
time January 18, 2021 Preview 10.3K
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PDF document is easy to integrate with different contents in a fixed-layout which makes it a commonly-used format. There are times that we just leave a PDF unsaved or delete the PDF files for mistake, then need to recover them back.

But how to recover an unsaved or deleted, even corrupted PDF file on Mac? Is it possible to do so? Here we will give the complete guide to do Mac PDF recovery easily and successfully.

Is It Possible to Recover PDF Files on Mac?

Yes, of course.

PDF files can be lost due to many reasons including unintentionally deleting, emptying the Trash, formatting hard drive, partition loss, corrupted operating system, infection of virus, etc. But it is still possible to recover.

When you delete a PDF file on your Mac, your Mac does not actually erase the actual data of the file. Instead, it just quickly changes the corresponding record in the file system to mark the PDF file as “deleted”. And the space of your deleted PDF file is available for use. When the system needs space to write another file, it may claim that space and store a different file in it. This is the point at which the actual data is lost.

So before your deleted or lost PDF files are overwritten by new files, they can be recovered. That’s why you should stop using your Mac when you find you PDF file missing or deleted by mistake.

Recover Unsaved PDF Files on Mac

Sometimes, we just leave our PDF files unsaved on mac, due to program crash, sudden power-off, neglect, etc. But luckily, we can use the AutoSave feature of macOS to get the unsaved PDF files for us.

# If You Manage PDF Files with Mac Preview

All macOS versions come with a free feature to save files on mac automatically. That’s to say, all the document-based apps, including Preview, iWork, TextEdit for Mac allow users to auto save files when they are working on these files on a Mac. And defaulted, the Auto-Save function is ON.

  1. First, make sure the Auto-Save is turned on your mac.
    Go to Apple Menu>System Preferences>General>Ask to keep changes when closing documents, make sure the boxed is checked.
  2. Then open the unsaved PDF with Preview to see if it is auto saved.
    If you cannot find the unsaved PDF on your mac, go to Preview>File>Open Recent, then save the PDF file on mac.open recent in preview

#2 If You Manage PDF Files with Mac Adobe Acrobat

It is much likely you are using a professional PDF tool to manage and edit your PDF files, such as Adobe Acrobat, Foxit. If your installed PDF tool builds in the auto-save fature, you are also allowed to recover unsaved PDF files on mac. Here we take Adobe Acrobat as example to show how to do the PDF file recovery.

  1. Click on any blank area of your mac to locate in Finder;
  2.  Go to the menu bar, select GO>Go to Folder;go to folder
  3. Input the path of Adobe Acrobat autosave: /Libriary/Application Support/Adobe/Acrobat/AutoSave, then click Go;adobe autosave
  4. Find the PDF files, open with Adobe and then save on your mac.

#3 Recover Unsaved PDF Files from Temporary Folder on Mac

Still, you can try to find and recover the unsaved PDF files from Temporary folder.

  1. Go to Finder>Applications>Utilities;
  2. Then find and launch Terminal on your mac;
  3. Input “open $TMPDIR” into Terminal, then press “Enter”;find pdf from tem folder
  4. Discover the unsaved PDF files and recover.

Recover Deleted or Lost PDF files on Mac

First, you’d better check your Mac Trash bin to make sure if your PDF files are permanently deleted or not. As you may have not noticed that your files are just moved to Trash bin when you delete, if you don’t continue to permanently delete in trash bin, the PDF files are still stored on your mac, you just need to select them all and right click to choose “put back”. But if you have permanently deleted them, you will need to recover permanently deleted PDF files on mac as following.

#1 The Best Way to Recover Deleted PDF Files on Mac

It’s quite a simple job to restore PDF files on Mac if you have Cisdem Data Recovery for Mac on hand. It is perfectly designed to recover lost, deleted, formatted PDF files from different kinds of storage devices, including Macs, external hard drives, memory cards and USB flash drives, etc. Furthermore, it has a bunch of key features which are listed below.

  • Recover PDF files from internal or external storage device
  • Recover files including PDF, photos, videos, audios , archives and other documents in 300+
  • 5 recovery modes to help you recover lost files in different situations
  • Preview files before recovery
  • Recovered PDF files or others can be opened and processed

Free Download

How to DO PDF file recovery on Mac with Cisdem?

Step 1Launch Cisdem Data Recovery on your Mac.

If you want to recover PDF files from external storage device, please connect it to your Mac. There are 5 recovery solutions including Basic Data Recovery, Trash Recovery, Formatted Drive Recovery, External Devices Recovery and Advanced File Recovery. Select a suitable one. You can recover Word, Excel, PPT, Text, PDF files, etc.

Step 2Choose the hard drive or external device where you store the PDF files.

Then hit “Scan” button and this app will automatically scan the selected volume and search lost PDF files for you.

Step 3Preview PDF files before recovery.

After scanning, all found PDF files will be displayed on the main window of this software. You can click each PDF file to preview. Then choose the wanted PDF files.

Step 4Click "Recover" to restore deleted or lost PDF files on mac.

Also, you can check the YouTube tutorial video here:

#2 Recover from Time Machine

Time Machine is the free utility designed to back up files from mac to external hard drives. If you have a good habit to back up your PDF files with Time Machine, you will be able to recover the deleted or lost, even previous version of your PDF files on mac.

  1. Go to Finder>Application, find and launch Time Machine;
  2. Open the folder where you save the PDF files;
  3. Use the timeline to check the PDF files backup, select the wanted one and press Space bar to preview;
  4. Click “Restore” to recover the deleted PDF files.recover deleted pdf files with time machine

Recover Corrupted PDF Files on Mac

Though many data recovery software proclaim that they can help to recover a corrupted PDF file on mac, it is not true. To recover corrupted PDF files on mac, you will need a dedicated repair tool to get the PDF file back. Here we recommend Stellar Repair for PDF.

Stellar Repair for PDF Mac can repair corrupted PDF files and recover all the objects in a PDF, including headers, footers, forms, page format, watermarks, media contents, etc. Also you are allowed to preview the repaired PDF files.

  • Step 1. Click “Add File” to import corrupted PDF files for repair;
  • Step 2. Click “Repair” to recovering the corrupted PDF files;recover corrupted pdf files
  • Step 3. Once repair finishes, preview PDF files and save to your preferred location;


The solutions are quite different when recovering unsaved, deleted or corrupted PDF files on mac. But a dedicated program is always the one brings you the best result. Also, you can have a try on the mac data recovery software whenever you fail to recover pdf files on mac with other recommended methods. And the most important is, you need to back up files on a regular basis.

Peter William
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Peter has always had great enthusiasm for writing, programming and web development. He likes writing about software and technology, his works are featured on some tech blogs or forums like Tom's Hardware, CNET, etc.

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