How to Recover Permanently Deleted Photos and Other Files from Mac

2019-07-05 04:29:25 / Posted by Rosa Reyes to Recover Follow @ Rosa

It’s happened to most of us. You deleted some photos accidentally and then realized you needed them back. If it went to the Mac Trash, it's easy to restore. But things can be totally different if you have emptied the Trash. That being said, you can effortlessly recover permanently deleted photos from Mac using professional data recovery software. This guide will show you how to recover files that have been deleted for good from Mac, with or without software.

Recover permanently deleted files from Mac with software

If you delete a photo on Mac by moving it to Trash, you can effortlessly undelete it. If you control-click the photo in Trash and select Delete Immediately (or Empty Trash), it (and other items in Trash) will be gone for good. In such a case, you can recover files using data recovery software. 

Why is it possible to recover permanently deleted photos and other files by using software?

As a matter of fact, permanently deleted files are still on your Mac, and you only lose access to them. They will remain recoverable until they are overwritten by other data. Data recovery tools are designed to find them and bring them back. Recovery process should be performed as soon as possible. Once you realize the need to get back deleted files, be sure to stop writing new data to your Mac. Otherwise, data recovery will become impossible.

Cisdem Data Recovery for Mac is able to detect and recover permanently deleted files such as photos (PNG, JPG, GIF, PSD, BMP, RAW, etc.), music files (ACC, MP3, M4A, FLAC, etc.), movies (DV, MKV, MOV, etc.), archives (ZIP, TAR, RAR, 7Z, etc.), emails and other files on Mac, external hard drive, USB flash drive, SD card and other storage devices. It works for almost all data loss scenarios.

  • Move files to Trash and select Delete Immediately
  • Empty the Trash
  • Delete files immediately and skip the Trash
  • Permanently delete photos from Photos app
  • Upgrade your macOS, which causes data loss
  • Format your drive by mistake
  • And so on...

It enables you to recover permanently deleted files such as photos in three easy steps.

Step 1Select a data recovery solution

Download and install Cisdem Data Recovery. Choose the data recovery solution that suits your situation the most, say, Trash Recovery. Advanced Data Recovery is the most powerful one and will probably be a bit time-consuming.

five data recovery solutions

Step 2Scan for lost files

Once you click a solution, it will take you to the Where did you lose your files window. Select the drive on which you have permanently deleted the files. Click Scan.

scan for deleted files

Step 3Preview and recover

As the scan goes on, it will list the real-time scan results. In the left panel, you can filter files by specific file types and formats. For example, to recover permanently deleted photos, select Photo and the specific formats if needed. You can also enter filenames in the Search box in the upper right corner to quickly locate files. Preview and select the items you want to get back. Click Recover. Once the process is completed, you can find your files in Finder.

preview and recover photos

If you are looking for a free solution, freeware tools like PhotoRec are available. It supports common file systems like FAT, NTFS and exFAT. When you open it on your Mac, it will open a Terminal window. If you don’t feel confident with Terminal, then you can just ignore the tool. In some cases such as RAW photos recovery, it won’t completely recover all the files, and you may lose a little bit of data.

Recover permanently deleted files from Mac without software

You can easily recover permanently deleted photos and files on Mac for free without third-party software if Time Machine backup is available.

Step 1. Connect to your Mac the external hard drive you use with Time Machine.

Step 2. From the top menu bar, click the Time Machine icon and select Enter Time Machine

Step 3. In the lower right corner of the screen, you can scroll back and forth in search of the data and time when you last did a backup. In Finder, navigate to the folder from which you inadvertently deleted needed files, say, some important family photos. Once you locate the photos, select them and click the Restore button. The photos will be restored to your Mac’s hard drive.

recover permanently deleted files on Mac from Time Machine backup

This solution is quick, easy and free. However, there are a few downsides.

  • It doesn’t work if you have never used Time Machine.
  • The result will probably be unsatisfying if you don’t make backup frequently.
  • If, unfortunately, the external hard drive is corrupted or failing, the backup will become unavailable.

Other common photo deletion scenarios and ways to recover

Above are the common solutions to recover permanently deleted photos from Mac. There are also some other common scenarios where you want to get deleted photos back.

Recover deleted photos in Photos app

If you control-click a photo in Mac’s Photos app and then click Delete 1 Photo, it will go to the Recently Deleted album. To undelete it, you can go to the top menu bar and select Edit > Undo Delete Photo.

undo delete photo

To restore items from Recently Deleted, open the album, select one or multiple photos you want to get back and click the Recover button in the upper right corner.

recover photos from Recently Deleted album in Photos app

Note that Recently Deleted only keeps the photos you’ve deleted for 30 days. And 30-day-old deleted files will be permanently removed.

Recover deleted photos from Trash on Mac

Step 1. Go to Trash.

Step 2. Select the photos (or other types of files) you want to restore. Control-click on highlighted items.

Step 3. Click Put Back.

restore deleted photos from Mac Trash

Sometimes, when you highlight several files, the Put Back option won’t appear. If so, you can try to put them back one by one.


Although it’s possible and even easy to recover permanently deleted photos, videos, audios, documents and other files on Mac, it would have been better if data loss has never happened. One of the best practices is to backup your Mac using Time Machine on a regular basis. Also, it’s important to protect your hard drive and other storage devices from being corrupted.

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