Mac Data Recovery
Last updated: April 14, 2023
How to Recover PDF Files on Mac

How to Recover a Corrupted/Unsaved/Deleted PDF File on Mac

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It’s common practice to create, edit, and exchange PDF files for business or personal use on your Mac. These files often contain important information that would be hard for users to recreate. If you use PDF files often, you may be faced with a lost, corrupt, or unsaved file that you need to recover.

We are going to show you several methods that allow you to recover corrupted or deleted PDF files on your Mac or MacBook. We’ll also look at ways to repair damaged PDF files and recover an unsaved or deleted PDF file on Mac using specialized software, online repair tools, or a professional data recovery service.

Causes of Corrupted/Unsaved/Deleted PDF Files on Mac

A PDF file can get corrupted, lost, or deleted for a variety of reasons. There will also be instances where you have to restore an unsaved PDF file because you were working on it and skipped the save step. Following is a list of the most common reasons that force you to recover a PDF file.

  • ⚡ A sudden power failure or system shutdown, while you are actively working on a PDF file, can result in an unsaved or corrupted file.
  • 😱 Human error can be responsible for accidentally deleting or not saving a file.
  • 🧹 Inadvertently formatting a hard drive can lead to a lot of deleted PDF files.
  • 📛 An unexpected crash of the Preview application or some other PDF editing software can leave you with unsaved, missing, or corrupted files.
  • 👾 Viruses and malware infection can cause PDF file corruption.
  • 🚫 A logically failing storage device may result in corruption and the loss of PDF files.
  • ❌ Corruption can occur from improper handling of a PDF file such as force closing the application you are using to edit the file.
  • 💣 Physical damage to the storage device storing the PDF file can result in files that are no longer accessible from macOS.

How to Restore a Corrupted, Deleted, or Unsaved PDF File on Mac

❓ Before you can attempt to repair a corrupted PDF or recover one that was not saved or has been deleted, you need to consider the underlying reason for the problem. What was the issue that caused the need to restore deleted data from a Mac?

Restoring data from a physically damaged hard drive requires a very different strategy than repairing a file corrupted by a virus. You need to see if macOS can recognize and open the storage device the lost data resides on to determine the proper recovery method.

Another factor to consider is if the data has been backed up. If so, you may be able to easily recover any missing or corrupt PDF files from a previous backup. If not, you don’t have many options except a professional recovery service if there is physical damage to the device. We recommend creating regular backups of your important data.

Use Data Recovery Software to Restore Deleted PDF Files

The most effective and efficient method of recovering lost or deleted PDF files is with a data recovery software solution for your Mac. Data recovery software takes advantage of the way modern operating systems delete data. Rather than immediately physically removing the data from a storage device, macOS logically deletes an item and marks its previously used space as being available to the operating system. Until that space is overwritten with new information, the deleted data can be recovered.

Disk Drill is a comprehensive data recovery solution that can recover PDF files as well as data from hundreds of other file formats typically found on a Mac. The tool provides a user-friendly and intuitive interface that lets novice and expert Mac users recover lost data, even from an emptied Trash bin, with just a few clicks. Disk Drill is compatible with virtually any type of disk-based storage device and employs advanced scanning algorithms that identify all recoverable data.

Use the following procedure to recover deleted PDF files with Disk Drill.

  1. Download and install Disk Drill for Mac.Download and install Disk Drill for Mac
  2. Launch Disk Drill and select the device that contained the lost files from the list of available devices.
  3. Click the Search for lost data button to begin the scanning process to find recoverable files and folders. You can use the interface to limit the search to recoverable PDF files.start scan drive with disk drill
  4. Review the files found by Disk Drill and select the ones you want to found pdf files
  5. Click the Recover button and select a safe storage location for the recovered data that is on a different storage device to avoid overwriting the recoverable recovery path for found pdf files
  6. Click Next to complete the recovery of your lost PDF files.

In addition to its excellent scanning and data recovery capabilities, Disk Drill offers users free data management and protection tools. These include the ability to find and delete duplicate files, securely shred data, and create a byte-level backup for recovering data from a failing hard drive. It’s a powerful tool wrapped in a friendly and accessible package.

🔗 View more of Disk Drill’s features to see why it’s an excellent addition to your software toolbox.

Recover a Lost or Corrupted PDF File from a Time Machine Backup

Every Mac comes with the Time Machine backup and recovery application installed by default. The availability of a viable backup may enable you to recover a corrupted PDF file on Mac from a time before the file was corrupted.

Use the following procedure to restore files from a Time Machine backup.

  1. Connect the storage media containing the Time Machine backup to your Mac.
  2. Open a Finder window on your Mac and navigate to the folder where the lost or corrupted PDF file was stored.
  3. Launch the Time Machine app by clicking icon on the menu bar.
  4. Choose Browse Time Machine Backups.Choose Browse Time Machine backups
  5. Find the corrupted PDF files you want to recover using the arrow keys and Time Machine’s interface.
  6. Select the PDF files you want to recover and click the Restore button. The files will be recovered to their original location on your Mac.Recover a Lost or Corrupted PDF File from a Time Machine Backup
⚠️ Of course, to use this method you must have a Time Machine backup. A variation of this technique works if you have backed up your Mac using an alternate method. If you are not backing up your computer regularly, you are taking a big risk that can result in the loss of a large amount of valuable and potentially irreplaceable information. You’ve been warned!

Try Online PDF Repair Services

You may be able to repair a corrupted PDF file online if you can’t open it using any of the apps on your Mac. Multiple online PDF repair services exist that enable you to recover a corrupted PDF in Chrome, Safari, or whichever browser you prefer. Popular PDF recovery services include,, and

💲 Many of these services have free options that may be all you need to repair a damaged PDF file on your Mac. In some cases, you might have to create an account or pay for additional premium features to fix the corrupted PDF files.

Using a repair service is a simple procedure that usually requires you to upload the corrupted file to the service’s website. You can typically drag and drop the item and let the service attempt to fix the corrupted PDF files. Repair results will be based on the level of corruption and the functionality of the repair service.

Here are the steps to use for the online repair service.

  1. Open the website.
  2. Click on All PDF Tools at the top of the page.
  3. Click on Repair PDF.Click on Repair PDF
  4. The repair page will open. You can drag and drop a file or select it from your computer.
  5. Select your file and click the Repair PDF button in the lower right of the corrupt pdf files and click repair pdf
  6. The tool will attempt to repair your file and inform you if it is successful.
  7. Download the repaired file to your repaired pdf file

Contact a Professional Data Recovery Service

If none of the previous methods has worked, you can get in touch with a professional data recovery service to try to recover unsaved Adobe PDF files. The expert technicians at a professional data recovery service will use advanced hardware and software techniques to clone and fix a corrupted hard drive.

This can be an expensive option but may be your only choice when faced with a damaged storage device and a lack of backups to use for recovery. If the lost information is valuable, it pays to contact a data recovery service and see what they have to offer.

😮‍💨 Here are a couple of tips when searching for a professional recovery service. A reputable service will not quote you a per gigabyte price for data recovery since each project is unique. They will also not charge you unless they can recover your data.

Restore an Unsaved PDF File with the Autosave Feature

If your machine shuts down or your app crashes and you have not been able to save a PDF file you were working on, you may be able to recover it with the software’s Autosave feature. The application has been automatically saving your work, and now you may be able to get it back.

We’ll use Adobe Acrobat Reader as an example of a PDF tool with an autosave feature. Many other PDF readers and editors have a similar function. Use the following simple procedure to use Adobe Acrobat’s autosave function.

  1. Open the unsaved PDF file you were working on when the app crashed.
  2. Click Restore when prompted by the software to open the file with the Autosave restore in Adobe Acrobat Pro
  3. Save the file with the same name as the original restored file to safe location

Best Practices for Preventing Deleted or Unsaved PDF Files on Mac

Ideally, you would never run into the problem of a lost, deleted, corrupted, or unsaved PDF file. But that’s not how things usually work. There is bound to be a problem at some point that requires you to recover an unsaved Adobe Acrobat file or restore some deleted data.

The following best practices can help you minimize the possibility that you will be faced with a lost, corrupted, or unsaved PDF file.

  • 💾 Save your work regularly to avoid having to recover an unsaved PDF file. Developing this simple habit is much more efficient than performing an unsaved PDF recovery.
  • 🧰 Using reliable and reputable software solutions when working with PDF data makes it less likely that you have to recover an unsaved Adobe Acrobat file.
  • 💽 Backing up your files is one of the best protective measures you can take against data loss. If you don’t currently create backups, you should start using Time Machine, the cloud, or another solution right away.
  • 🔋 Try to minimize power outages by using a reliable source. Consider implementing a surge protector to limit any damage from fluctuating power levels.
  • 🛡️ Install antivirus software to identify and remove viruses and malware on your Mac.
  • 🌐 Use a reliable Internet connection, especially when using cloud resources, to minimize the chance of your connection failing while working on a PDF file.
  • ☁️ Make sure iCloud autosaving is turned on so your data is automatically saved to the cloud.


We’ve shown you several ways to recover lost, corrupted, or unsaved PDF files. The method you choose is dependent on what happened to the data or its storage device. If possible, the most efficient way to recover lost PDF files is with Data recovery software.

We’ve also talked about some best practices that minimize the chances that you will have a lost or damaged PDF file. Simple habits like saving your files and performing backups regularly protect your valuable data from loss and corruption and save you a lot of time in the long run.


You can use a backup to recover an earlier version of a corrupted PDF file. You will need a backup that was created before the corruption occurred. Hopefully, there is a backed-up version of the PDF file before it had been corrupted. If not, you can try an online repair service.
You may be able to recover a document that was never saved if the application you were working in had an autosave function. If you deleted the file accidentally as you were creating it, you can try executing the Command – Z keystroke combination repeatedly to undo your last action.
A corrupted PDF file may be able to be repaired and recovered by using an online repair service if you can’t open it with PDF editing software on your Mac. In cases of extreme corruption, you may need to engage a professional data recovery service to fix the damaged file.
Unsaved PDF files may be found in your Mac’s temporary folder or the Adobe autosave location: /Library/Application Support/Adobe/Acrobat/AutoSave. You can view and access the contents stored in the Mac temporary folder by opening Terminal and entering the open /tmp command.
Jeff Cochin has spent a better part of his writing career helping users recover lost data from their personal and work devices. When not describing the best way to avoid a costly data loss, Jeff likes to spend time outside and go on short cycling adventures.
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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