Most Mac users have, at one time or another, been faced with the prospect of losing data because a file has been overwritten or accidentally replaced. Fortunately, if you have taken the proper precautions and regularly back up your system’s data, you may be able to recover the lost files with a little bit of effort. But in cases where you do not have a backup of the overwritten data, it may be impossible to get it back. For this reason, we strongly suggest that you start backing up your Mac if you aren’t doing so already.
Why do Files Get Overwritten on a Mac?
A file can be overwritten on your Mac for a few different reasons. Knowing why files get overwritten may help avoid experiencing this annoying and potentially disastrous issue.
- 🧰 Files get overwritten from within applications when you make changes to an original item and then save it. Some apps provide features that allow you to recover overwritten versions of a file to a limited extent. We will talk about these later in the article.
- 💾 Files can also get overwritten due to user error in saving a file with a name that has already been used. Some apps may warn you about this and ask if you want to replace the item. Once the item has been replaced, it may or may not be physically overwritten by new data.
After a file has been physically overwritten, the only way to recover accidentally replaced files on your Mac is with backups. If the file has not yet been physically replaced, data recovery software may be able to get it back.
Methods To Recover Replaced Files On Mac
Let’s talk about the methods that can be used to recover accidentally replaced files on Mac systems. We will also talk about when data recovery software can work and why it is not always a viable way to recover an overwritten file.
. Recovering Using Local Backups Made with Time Machine
Time Machine is the built-in Mac backup and recovery tool that should be used by virtually all owners of Apple computers. All it takes is a removable hard drive connected to your Mac’s USB port to store the backup data. If you have backed up the file or files that you have overwritten, the following procedure can be used to attempt a recovery.
- Connect the storage media containing the Time Machine backup to your Mac or MacBook.
- Open a Finder window in the folder that previously stored the file that has been overwritten or replaced.
- Open the Time Machine application by clicking the clock icon located on the Menu bar.
- Navigate through the backups using Time Machine’s features to locate the version of the file you want to recover.
- Select the file or files for recovery. You can preview the file by pressing the Space Bar to ensure you are recovering the correct data.
- Click Restore to complete the recovery. It will be recovered to its original location.
. Recover Replaced Files on Mac with iCloud or Other Online Backups
You can use iCloud to back up your data files automatically which gives you another method of potentially recovering replaced items. iCloud stores deleted files for 30 days before removing them permanently, giving you a window during which you can try to undo the replace file activity you performed on your Mac.
- Go to iCloud.com and sign in with your account credentials.
- Click on Account Settings
- Under the Advanced tab on the bottom-left, click on the Restore Files option.
- Find the files you want to recover and check the boxes to the left of their name or Select All to restore everything available.
- Click on Restore Files.
It’s possible that when you overwrite an original file, it is still in the iCloud backups. It’s certainly worth a look.
Other online solutions that can be used for backups like Dropbox and Google Drive have unique characteristics that influence your recovery method. In general, the following steps are needed to recover data from these backups.
- Connect to the cloud storage service or device that holds your backup.
- Use the tool’s search facility to identify the files you want to retrieve.
- Select the files you want to recover. You should choose a new storage location for the recovery if possible to avoid more unwanted file overwrites.
- Use the tool’s interface to complete the recovery.
. Recovering Overwritten Files with Application Features
Some of the applications you use to create files have features built into them that assist in recovering an overwritten file. We are going to look at how to get this done using popular spreadsheet and word processing applications that run on your Mac.
Apple Pages and Numbers both have an easily accessible feature that allows you to go back to a previous version of a document. This enables you to restore a file that you have inadvertently overwritten. Just use the following simple steps.
- Open the File Menu selection in Pages or Numbers.
- Click on the Revert To option.
- You will be presented with options to browse for the version of a file you want to restore.
- Select the version and click on the Restore button to perform the recovery.
If you are using Microsoft Office, you can use the following procedure to recover an overwritten file on your Mac.
- Open the file that has a previous version you may want to recover.
- If you’re using Microsoft 365 for Mac, select the name of the document on the title bar of the application, then select the Browse Version History option.
- If you’re using Office 2016 or 2019 for Mac, select File > Browse Version History.
- Select a version to open it in a separate window. You can now save it to another name and have both the original and new versions of the file available.
. Using Data Recovery Software to Recover Overwritten Files on Mac
Data recovery software may be able to help you if the file has not been physically overwritten by new data. The original file may still be physically present on the storage device but is logically inaccessible by the operating system. If that is the case, a reliable data recovery software, like Disk Drill, may be able to recover it for you.
Use the following procedure to attempt the retrieval of overwritten or replaced files using data recovery software.
- Download and install Disk Drill for Mac. Don’t perform the download and installation on the device that contained the data you want to recover as this risks further overwriting or corrupting the files.
- Launch the app and select the disk or partition with the lost files.
- Click the Search for lost data button to scan the device for files that can be recovered.
- Review the list of recoverable items and preview them to be certain they are what you want to restore. Select the files you want to recover.
- Click the Recover button to initiate the recovery. You will be prompted to select a safe storage location that is not on the same disk or partition as the data you are recovering.
- Click OK after selecting the storage location to complete the recovery.
The most important point you should take from this article is that an overwritten file can be recovered. The best way to protect yourself is with a robust backup strategy, but if that fails, data recovery software may be able to help. Good luck getting those files back!