Mac Data Recovery
Last updated: September 12, 2022
How to Recover Replaced Files On a Mac

Is It Possible To Recover Overwritten Or Accidentally Replaced Files On A Mac?

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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.

💡 Protecting yourself against accidentally overwritten or replaced files requires you to backup your data regularly. Creating backups may seem like a waste of time until you need to recover a file that you inadvertently overwrote. Take the time now to save a lot of time and stress later.

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.

Note: If you are attempting recovery because you have saved a file using a name that was already in use, we recommend renaming the new file before proceeding. This will help you avoid overwriting the new file when you recover the original one. Make sense? This way you will end up with two distinct files, which is what you wanted in the first place.

Method #1. 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.

  1. Connect the storage media containing the Time Machine backup to your Mac or MacBook.
  2. Open a Finder window in the folder that previously stored the file that has been overwritten or replaced.
  3. Open the Time Machine application by clicking the clock icon located on the Menu bar.Open the Time Machine application
  4. Navigate through the backups using Time Machine’s features to locate the version of the file you want to recover.
  5. 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.
  6. Click Restore to complete the recovery. It will be recovered to its original location.Click Restore to complete the recovery

Method #2. 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.

  1. Go to and sign in with your account credentials.
  2. Click on Account SettingsClick on Account Settings
  3. Under the Advanced tab on the bottom-left, click on the Restore Files on the Restore Files option
  4. Find the files you want to recover and check the boxes to the left of their name or Select All to restore everything available.
  5. Click on Restore Files.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.

  1. Connect to the cloud storage service or device that holds your backup.
  2. Use the tool’s search facility to identify the files you want to retrieve.
  3. 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.
  4. Use the tool’s interface to complete the recovery.Other online backup solution Dropbox

Method #3. 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.

  1. Open the File Menu selection in Pages or Numbers.
  2. Click on the Revert To option.Click on the Revert To option
  3. You will be presented with options to browse for the version of a file you want to restore.
  4. Select the version and click on the Restore button to perform the recovery.Select the version and click on the Restore button

If you are using Microsoft Office, you can use the following procedure to recover an overwritten file on your Mac.

  1. Open the file that has a previous version you may want to recover.
  2. 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.
  3. If you’re using Office 2016 or 2019 for Mac, select File > Browse Version File Browse Version History
  4. 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 version word

Method #4. 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.

  1. 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.install disk drill
  2. Launch the app and select the disk or partition with the lost files.
  3. Click the Search for lost data button to scan the device for files that can be recovered.Click the Search for lost data button
  4. 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.preview found files
  5. 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 the Recover button to initiate the recovery
  6. Click OK after selecting the storage location to complete the recovery.choose recovery location
💡 We also have a more detailed article on recovering deleted files on a Mac and an overview of some of the best data recovery tools for Mac.


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!


Overwritten files do not go to a special folder or repository in the way deleted files end up in the Mac Trash bin. The physical space is made available to the operating system and in some cases is immediately overwritten by new data.
Yes, it is possible to recover a replaced folder on a Mac. The techniques described above for using backups and data recovery software can work for a folder as well as individual files. You can also read our detailed guide on recovering deleted folders on macOS.
Without a Time Machine backup, you can still recover overwritten files on your Mac. If you are using a different backup method, such as iCloud, you can use that tool to restore the overwritten items. You can also try data recovery software which can get the files back if they have not already been physically overwritten by new data.
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
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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