How can I recover deleted files from a flash drive on a Mac for free?

I accidentally deleted some important files from my flash drive while using my Mac. I’m looking for a free method to recover them. Can anyone recommend reliable software or steps to help me out? Thanks!

How to Recover Deleted Files from a Flash Drive on a Mac for Free: A Detailed Guide

Hey there! I totally understand how stressful it can be to accidentally delete crucial files from your flash drive while using your Mac. Good news is, there are several methods and tools that can help you with recovering those files, and many of them don’t cost a penny. I’ll walk you through different ways to do this. Hopefully, by the end of this, you’ll have your files back safely.

Method 1: Check the Trash Bin

Sometimes, when you delete files on a Mac, they end up in the Trash Bin first. This step might seem too simple, but it’s easy to overlook.

  1. Open the Trash Bin: You’ll find the Trash Bin icon on the dock. Click on it to open.

  2. Look for Your Files: Browse through the files and see if the ones you deleted from the flash drive are there.

  3. Restore Files: If you find your files, right-click on them and select “Put Back.” This will restore the files to their original location, which in this case might be your flash drive.

Method 2: Use Time Machine Backup

If you have Time Machine backups enabled, recovering files can be a breeze. However, this will only work if you had a backup already in place before the files were deleted.

  1. Connect Your Backup Drive: Connect the drive where your Time Machine backups are stored.

  2. Enter Time Machine: Click on the Time Machine icon in the menu bar and select “Enter Time Machine.”

  3. Navigate to Your Files: Use the timeline on the right to go back to a date before you deleted the files. Navigate to your flash drive and look for the files.

  4. Restore Files: Select the files and click “Restore.”

Method 3: Use Free Data Recovery Software

Disk Drill

When it comes to data recovery software, Disk Drill stands out as a reliable and user-friendly option. They offer a free version that can recover up to 500MB of data on Mac, which might be enough depending on the size of your deleted files. Here’s how you can use it:

  1. Download and Install Disk Drill:

  2. Connect Your Flash Drive: Plug in the flash drive from which you want to recover deleted files.

  3. Launch Disk Drill: Open Disk Drill from your Applications folder.

  4. Select Your Flash Drive: In the Disk Drill interface, select your flash drive from the list of available drives.

  5. Scan for Deleted Files: Click the “Search for lost data” button. Disk Drill will perform a scan to find deleted files.

  6. Review and Recover Files: Once the scan is complete, browse through the recoverable files. Select the ones you need and click the “Recover” button. Choose a location to save the recovered files, preferably not on the flash drive to avoid overwriting any data.

Pros of Using Disk Drill:

  • User-Friendly: Disk Drill is very intuitive and easy to use.
  • Comprehensive Scanning: It offers thorough scanning options to find even those hard-to-locate files.
  • Free Version Available: Recover up to 500MB of data for free, which is a significant amount for many users.


  • Limited Free Recovery: Only up to 500MB is free, which might not be enough if you have a large amount of data to recover.


Another excellent free tool is PhotoRec. It’s a bit less user-friendly than Disk Drill but offers robust recovery capabilities.

  1. Download and Install PhotoRec:

    • PhotoRec is part of the TestDisk suite.
    • Download the Mac version and extract the files.
  2. Open PhotoRec:

    • PhotoRec runs in a Terminal window. Open Terminal and navigate to the folder where you extracted PhotoRec.
    • Type sudo ./photorec to start the program.
  3. Select Your Flash Drive:

    • Navigate through the menu to select your flash drive. Use the arrow keys to select, and press Enter.
  4. Choose a Partition:

    • Choose the partition type where you’ve lost your files (usually FAT32 for flash drives).
  5. Choose File Options:

    • Choose the file types you want to recover. By default, PhotoRec will try to recover all file types.
  6. Select a Destination:

    • Choose a destination folder where you want to save recovered files. It’s better not to save them back to the same flash drive.
  7. Start Recovery:

    • Press C to start the recovery process.

Method 4: Use Built-in Terminal Commands

If you’re comfortable with using Terminal, there are also some built-in Mac commands you can try, though they are less likely to be successful for deleted files from external drives.

Using diskutil and fsck

This method is more about fixing minor errors in the file system, and it might not always recover deleted files. Yet, it’s worth a try.

  1. Open Terminal: Launch the Terminal app from Applications > Utilities.

  2. List All Volumes: Type diskutil list to display all connected drives.

  3. Locate Your Flash Drive: Note the identifier for your flash drive, something like /dev/disk2s1.

  4. Run the Repair Command: Type sudo fsck_exfat -d /dev/disk2s1 replacing /dev/disk2s1 with your actual disk identifier. This checks and repairs the file system.

Important Tips When Trying to Recover Files

  1. Stop Using the Flash Drive: Once you realize files have been deleted, stop using the flash drive immediately. Any new data written to it could overwrite the deleted files, making recovery impossible.

  2. Act Quickly: The sooner you attempt to recover your files, the higher your chances of successful recovery.

  3. Backup Regularly: Once you’ve recovered your files, start a habit of regularly backing up your data. Use external drives or cloud services to ensure you don’t face this issue in the future.


There you have it, a detailed guide to recovering deleted files from a flash drive on a Mac for free! Checking the Trash Bin and using Time Machine are quick first steps. If those don’t work, try using Disk Drill, which is highly effective and easy to use. And for those who want a 100% free software, PhotoRec is a reliable albeit more technical option. Remember, the key is to act promptly and avoid using the flash drive until you’ve recovered your lost data. Good luck, and I hope you get your files back!

If you found this guide helpful and managed to recover your files, do share your experience or any additional tips you may have. It could help others facing the same dilemma. Happy recovering!

Hey there!

Ugh, I feel you—accidentally deleting stuff is the worst! Been there, done that. :confounded: But no worries, you can still get those files back. Here’s what you can do:

1. Check Your Trash:
Believe it or not, sometimes deleted files from external drives end up in your Mac’s Trash. So, go ahead and take a peek there. Just right-click and select “Put Back” if you find them.

2. Disk Drill Time:
When Trash doesn’t have your back, Disk Drill can be your knight in shining armor. It’s free for basic recovery. Download it from here and follow the instructions. It’s pretty straightforward.

3. Terminal Command (For the Brave):
If you’re feeling techy, open Terminal and type:

sudo testdisk

You might need to install it first via Homebrew if you haven’t yet. It’s a bit more hands-on, but it’s free and powerful.

4. Preventive Measures (Next Time!):
Once you get your files back, save yourself this headache by regularly backing up your stuff. Time Machine is your new BFF!

Good luck, and may the data gods be with you! :rocket:

Catch ya later!

P.S. Try not to delete anything important next time, sheesh! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: