Mac Data Recovery
Last updated: September 12, 2022
Recover Accidentally Emptied Trash on Mac

How to Recover Accidentally Emptied Trash on Mac with Ease

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Emptied the Trash by mistake? Thankfully, recovering those files is simple, and you can even do it yourself.

In this article, we’ll go through several easy methods on how to recover your lost data from the Trash.

How Trash Works & Is It Possible to Recover Emptied Trash on macOS

Mac users are all familiar with the Trash folder. It is a folder on your Mac that stores all your recently deleted files, similar to how the Windows Recycle Bin works.

How Trash Works on Mac

The Trash folder is the first destination you should look into when you want to recover your deleted files. This is because when you delete a file on Mac, it instantly goes to Trash.

It is important to note that deleted files still take up space on your Mac. This is one of the reasons why people opt to empty their Trash once in a while.

Now, if you emptied Trash by accident on Mac, the macOS will mark the files’ storage space as available for use or tagged as “deleted”. As long as these files have not been overwritten with new data yet, they’re technically still stored on your device and can still be recovered.

Recovering data is all about not overwriting your deleted files and making sure you start the recovery process as soon as possible.

Is It Possible to Restore Permanently Deleted Trash Files to Their Original Location?

Recovering permanently deleted Trash files is possible. It is easy to do if you have a backup of your files via Time Machine or through third-party backup apps if you are using any. Aside from that, you can also use third-party data recovery software.

Recovering your files through Time Machine will restore your data to the location the Time Machine backup was set to. As for third-party recovery programs, you’re often given the choice to select a destination folder for your file, so you should be able to restore it to its original location.

Continue reading to find out the process of recovering permanently deleted Trash files.

How to Recover Emptied Trash on Mac

If losing files is something that regularly happens to you, you may probably have come across several data recovery software options online. Each software promises that you will be able to recover your deleted files on Mac but they vary in terms of special features, the recovery process, pricing or plans, and even the type of file that the app can recover.

For Mac, one of the most preferred data recovery software is Disk Drill. Here’s why:

  • Perfect for beginners because of its intuitive interface
  • Supports all modern Mac devices and runs on the latest macOS
  • Excellent support for RAW photos and video formats
  • It has special disk management tools that includes S.M.A.R.T monitoring. This tool constantly updates and monitors your drive for potential data loss.
  • Aside from S.M.A.R.T monitoring, it also has other extra features such as byte-to-byte backup, clean up, data shredder, and macOS bootable installation drive.
  • Capable of mobile device recovery on certain data on iOS and Android devices, which is a rare feature versus other competitors.
Want to know more about Disk Drill for Mac? Then read our full review.

Since files from an emptied Trash are still located somewhere in your hard disk but are no longer visible to the OS, Disk Drill will be able to recover emptied Trash on Mac with its advanced algorithms that can perform a quick or deep scan on your hard disk.

To start recovering files from an emptied Trash on Mac, Disk Drill recommends that you perform the recovery process using an external hard drive. Doing so will prevent overwriting the files that you intend to recover with Disk Drill.
  1. Download and install the Disk Drill app from their official website and save it on a USB stick or any external device. Click the Free Download button if you want to try the app first to test it out without any monetary commitment.
    install the disk drill app
  2. Launch the app and select the drive where your Trash folder is located.
    select a drive after launching the app
  3. Scan for lost files by clicking on Search for lost data located on the lower right part of the screen. You will be able to see the progress of the scan and you can filter the results by file type.
  4. Preview the files before recovering them to make sure you are retrieving the correct file. If you are unable to find what you’re looking for, use the Deep Scanning option.
  5. Select the files that you want to retrieve and click Recover on the bottom right corner of the screen.
    selecting a file you want to retrieve
  6. Select a new location where you want to place the retrieved file from Trash. To prevent overwriting, place it in the removable disk that you used to store Disk Drill.
  7. Click OK once you’ve selected a folder destination.
Disk Drill is nice and easy to use. You’re able to first make sure whether your files are recoverable by freely deep scanning your drives. If you happen to find your files and want to recover them, you’ll need to upgrade to the PRO version for $89 first.

How to Recover Emptied Trash on Mac Without Software

We always recommend data recovery software first because our practice shows that no other method has successfully recovered more deleted files. Additionally, these third-party programs aren’t dependent on the user to make regular backups.

But, if you want to try alternative ways to recover data from an emptied Trash, here are other methods that don’t need third-party apps.

Option A: Backups

Regularly backing up your files can save you from lots of trouble and hassle whenever situations like accidentally emptying Trash on Mac happen. There are several, simple ways to recover Trash using backups, which we will be discussing in detail below:

  • Manual Backups
  • Time Machine
  • iCloud

Unfortunately, if you didn’t save a backup of your file with either of these programs beforehand, then the alternative methods below won’t work for you.

Manual Backups

If you manually backed up your files using an external hard drive, just plug that drive into your Mac and select the accidentally deleted file that you want to use again. Then, drag the file to the desktop and you’re good to go.

You’ll also want to repeat the same process with other files that you want to backup.

Since manual backups are not done very frequently, chances are the backed-up files that you have may not be the most recent versions. This is why we recommend that you set up automatic backups using Apple or Mac’s pre-installed backup tools.

Time Machine

Time Machine is macOS’ built-in backup feature. It can create automatic backups on an hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly basis. While it is recommended to store the backed-up files on Time Machine via an external hard drive, you can still store them in your Mac’s hard drive as long as it has enough space.

Just keep in mind that when the drive no longer has any storage space left, it will automatically delete the oldest backups to make space for new ones.

To restore files from an emptied Trash on Mac using Time Machine, do the simple steps below:

  1. Launch the Time Machine app on your Mac by clicking Time Machine’s icon on the Menu bar or by using the Spotlight search bar.
    searching time machine on spotlight search bar
  2. Locate your file from the backed-up files displayed on the screen. If you are unsure of the file name, you can also preview the files before restoring them.
  3. Click Restore once you’ve found the right file, and you’re done.


The last backup solution for Apple is iCloud. If you previously linked your iCloud backup to your Mac, you can recover your files from an emptied Trash through it. Here’s how:

  1. Log in to your iCloud or Apple ID account on
    logging in your icloud or apple id account
  2. Click the Account Settings, scroll down and go to the Advanced section.
  3. Select Restore Files. iCloud will now search for restorable files.
    selecting restore files
  4. Check the boxes of the files that you want to recover or choose Select All.
  5. Click Restore Files to recover your lost files from iCloud.

Option B: Data Recovery Service

Hiring a data recovery service is our final option to recover files from an emptied Trash. It will cost you some money since you will be paying for a professional service and you will probably be asked to leave your Mac behind for diagnosis and the recovery process.

We must tell you that, chances are, they will still be using DIY software like Disk Drill to try and recover files from your emptied Trash on Mac, so why not try it yourself first? It is a small investment that comes with great benefits.

For this reason, we recommend seeking professional help as a last resort, when nothing you’ve tried so far has worked.


You can recover deleted files on Mac after emptying the Trash by accessing the backed-up files or using a data recovery software like Disk Drill.

  1. Download and install Disk Drill for Mac on an external hard drive.
  2. Launch Disk Drill and scan for lost data.
  3. Browse the results, preview the file, and click the Recover button.
  4. Choose a destination folder for your file.
Yes, you can recover deleted files on Mac using Terminal since it allows you to control Time Machine, which is Mac’s built-in backup feature. Plus, since Terminal uses a command-line interface, you can recover deleted files as long as you are familiar with the codes and correct paths.
You can access the Trash folder by clicking the Trash bin icon located on your dock. If it’s not on your dock, you can launch it by typing “Trash” on the Spotlight search bar.


Thanks to technology that’s constantly improving, it is now possible to recover accidentally emptied Trash using several methods, without having to go through technical difficulties.

Since accidents can happen at any time, it’s always best to get in the habit of regularly creating backups to avoid feeling stressed over lost files. If you failed to do a backup, a data recovery software like Disk Drill can do the work for you.

Mako Young is a writer for all things tech. He's been writing about Macs for years and has been using Macs for more than a decade. When he isn't reading about the latest news on Apple, he's busy studying cybersecurity, cryptocurrency, cloud computing, and other IT-related sectors.
avatar approver Andrey Vasilyev Approver
Andrey Vasilyev is an Editorial Advisor at onMac. Andrey is a software expert with extensive experience in data recovery, computer forensics, and litigation. Andrey has over 12 years of experience in software development, database administration, and hardware repair.
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