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4 Ways to Restore Files From an External Hard Drive for Mac

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We keep our data on external drives to keep it safe, but unfortunately, sometimes, our data gets lost. It's easy to panic as there could be important files in the lost data.

Fortunately, there are ways to recover or restore those lost files from the external drive. In this article, I'll show you four ways to restore files, and I'll take you through the step-by-step process. Let’s begin.

Main Causes of Data Loss From an External Hard Drive

There are various causes of data loss from an external hard drive. Some of them are:

  • accidental deletion or formatting of the drive
  • virus attack
  • physical damage to the drive
  • lost partition structure
  • file system failure or corruption
  • frequent connection and disconnection of the drive
  • unexpected shutdown

4 Ways to Restore Data From an External Hard Drive for Mac

Method 1: Restore Files From Backup/Time Machine

macOS offers a default native tool to recover your lost data. It is called Time Machine, and it works like a time machine by taking you to past versions of your drive.

This is the first method you can try for Mac external hard drive data recovery because you don’t need to download anything, and it is completely free. However, this only works if you have ever created a backup in the past. If you've created a backup, use this method; otherwise, move on to Method 2.

Step 1

You should have the Time Machine backup on a drive. Connect the drive to your computer.

Step 2

Go to the Finder and open the folder from where you have lost the files.

Step 3

Now, you need to open Time Machine. Click on the clock icon on the menu bar, and select Enter Time Machine from the dropdown menu.

If you don't see the clock icon, go to the Apple menu and click on System Preferences. In the new window, click on Time Machine. Click on the check box next to Show Time Machine in menu bar. Now, you can go to the clock icon in the menu bar, and you will have the Enter Time Machine option there.

Another option for opening Time Machine is to use the Launchpad:

opening Time Machine from the launchpadopening Time Machine from the launchpadopening Time Machine from the launchpad

Step 4

After opening Time Machine, you can look for the files you lost. Look for all the files and select all of them. Finally, click on the Restore button.

restore files from Time Machinerestore files from Time Machinerestore files from Time Machine

Method 2: Recover Files With Data Recovery Software

Recovering files using data recovery software is the best method as the probability of recovering the files is quite high.

Tenorshare 4DDiG is an amazing data recovery tool that can recover all your lost data. It does not matter how you lost it; you can easily recover the files within a few minutes. If you have lost your data, don’t worry; 4DDiG is there to recover your files.

4DDiG works exceptionally well on both macOS and Windows. You can use it to recover your data from internal as well as external drives. It is an all-in-one tool to recover all types of lost data.

Features of Tenorshare 4DDiG

  • 4DDiG works in almost all cases. Whether you have accidentally lost your files or there was a reason, such as a virus attack, formatted drive, corrupt files, or anything like that, you can use it to recover your files.
  • You can easily recover the internal drives of your computers and laptops. Moreover, you can also recover external drives and devices, such as USB drives, memory cards, HDD/SSD, digital cameras, music players, and drone cameras.
  • It supports 1,000+ file formats and recovers almost any type of file. You can recover audio, video, documents, emails, photos, or anything else.
  • The filter of 4DDiG helps you to select the file format you want to recover. You can also select the specific folder or search for the file you need, saving you time.
  • You don’t need to recover all deleted files; you can select a few of them.
  • It supports different file systems, including APFS, FAT32, exFAT, and HFS+.
  • There are two types of scans to recover your data: Deep Scan and Quick Scan.

Steps to Restore an External Hard Drive on Mac Using 4DDiG

Step 1 (For Mac High Sierra and Later)

If you are using Mac High Sierra or later, you need to do this step; otherwise, you can skip to the next one.

You need to disable the SIP if you want to recover files. Restart your computer and press and hold Command-R immediately after it restarts. Keep holding the keys down until you see the Utilities window.

Now click on Terminal and type csrutil disable. Press Enter. Then type reboot and press Enter.

Step 2

Download 4DDiG and install it on your computer. Open the software on your computer. It allows you to select the drive or folder that you want to recover. Select the drive with the lost files and click on Scan.

select a location to scan in tenorshare 4ddigselect a location to scan in tenorshare 4ddigselect a location to scan in tenorshare 4ddig

Step 3

The software will start scanning all your files. It will take some time, depending on the size of the drive. You need to wait for a few minutes. During scanning, it will catch all your files. You will see the deleted ones and the existing ones.

list of scanned files in tenorshare 4ddiglist of scanned files in tenorshare 4ddiglist of scanned files in tenorshare 4ddig

If you want to see or choose any specific format or type of file, you can click on File View. You will see different types of files, and you can expand them to select a particular format.

Step 4

You will have all the files after scanning. Now, select the files that you want to recover. Click on Recover and select a destination to save them.

recover files in tenorshare 4ddigrecover files in tenorshare 4ddigrecover files in tenorshare 4ddig

And that's it—your files are now recovered!

recovery complete message on tenorshare 4ddigrecovery complete message on tenorshare 4ddigrecovery complete message on tenorshare 4ddig

Method 3: Restore Files From Mac With the Trash

When you delete files, they land in the trash. It's possible that you deleted your files accidentally, and there could be several reasons why they landed in the trash. So you may find your files there, although the probability is quite low.

Step 1

You need to open the Trash folder. You will see the trash icon at the bottom; just click on it.

Step 2

All your deleted files will be there, so there will be a huge pile. You need to search for the files you need. The best way is to use the search bar and look for the files.

Step 3

Now, you need to restore those files to their default locations. If there are multiple files, select them all. Right-click on the files, and you will see some options. Click on Put Back, and the files will be restored to their original location.

restore files from trash on macrestore files from trash on macrestore files from trash on mac

Method 4: Recover Files Using a Local Data Recovery Service

If you have tried everything, the last option is to recover the files using a local data recovery service. You can contact the nearest service center or search on the web. There are plenty of service providers out there. You can select a service that is in your country—just make sure that the shipping cost is reasonable.

Data recovery service providers have advanced software and hardware recovery equipment. They can do a good job and recover your files. There are higher chances of recovery, but the cost is quite high. The cost depends on the files you want to recover, the time it takes, and various other factors.

Before selecting a data recovery service, make sure to search for information about it. Look at the reviews, experience levels, services, guarantees, and everything else. Once you are satisfied, you can take the service. Make sure the service is reliable, and the success rate is good enough. Be sure to get a complete estimate before you ship your device.

Keep in mind that if you have sensitive information on your drive, this method may not be suitable for you. The technicians can look at your data, and this could be problematic.

Bonus Tips: How to Avoid Data Loss From an External Hard Drive

Here are some tips that might help you avoid data loss from an external hard drive.

  • It's a good idea to create a backup of your important files. This way, even if you lose them, you can recover them at any time. Make a schedule to back up your important data regularly.
  • Avoid connecting and ejecting the external drive frequently. This can delete the data and harm your drive.
  • It's better to eject the drive from the computer before disconnecting it.
  • Do not format every time. Keep the number of formatting procedures as low as possible.
  • The data on external drives can be harmed by any physical damage.
  • Viruses can also delete your data. Make sure to use antivirus software and scan your drive whenever you have time.
  • When you plan to delete data from your drive, double-check everything before deleting folders. There could be important files in them.


Data on an external hard drive can be lost, but you can also recover it. In this article, we've discussed four methods of hard drive recovery for Mac, and you can choose any method you like, according to your situation.

Data recovery tools work exceptionally well to recover deleted files from an external hard drive for Mac, and most of the time, you can easily recover your data using the software. But sometimes, you need to use a local data recovery service. Before doing these things, you can check the trash and the Time Machine backup if you've ever made one.

Want to learn more about recovering data from an external drive? Watch this video:

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