Recover deleted files on the Mac after emptying the Trash

Trash iconHave you ever emptied the Trash only to discover some time later that you needed a deleted file that was in there? There is a way to recover files that have been deleted, even after emptying the Trash.

This method makes use of iCloud and in this tutorial a file will be deleted on the disk drive and another one on iCloud. After emptying the Trash they will both be recovered. No software is required and this is all carried out within OS X on the Mac.

1 Open iCloud Drive

OS X keeps a copy of the files stored on iCloud on the Mac and you can view the files on iCloud by opening a Finder window and selecting iCloud Drive in the sidebar.

Finder on the Mac

2 Delete a file

Drag a file to the Trash icon in the Dock or right click a file and select Move to Trash. The file is about to be deleted.

Finder on the Mac

3 Move to Trash

OS X makes sure that you really want to delete the file by asking you to confirm the action. Notice that it says that the file will be deleted on this Mac, from iCloud Drive and other iCloud devices. It is deleted everywhere.

Delete a file on the Mac

4 Empty the Trash

Of course, it is not really deleted off the disk and it is actually moved to the Trash. Right click the Trash icon in the Dock and select Empty Trash.

Empty the Trash in OS X

5 Go to iCloud

Open Safari and enter into the address box. Sign in to the website if you are not automatically signed in, using your Apple ID (iTunes Store account). Click the iCloud Drive icon to open iCloud and view the files.

iCloud in Safari

6 Delete a file

Open a folder and select a file on iCloud, then click the Trash icon to delete it. It says that the file will be deleted from iCloud Drive and all other iCloud devices. That includes the Mac.

Apple iCloud Drive

7 Go to Settings

So two files have been deleted and the Trash has been emptied. The files are gone, or are they? Hang on a minute. Click the Drive link at the top of the page and click the Settings icon.

Apple iCloud Drive

8 Restore options

Down at the bottom of the Settings page are three items under Advanced: Restore Files, Restore Contacts and Restore Calendars and Reminders. Click Restore Files.

iCloud settings

9 Recover the files

The files that were deleted from iCloud are still there! Tick the boxes and click Restore 2 Files in the bottom right corner. The files are put back in their original locations. A few seconds later they appear in Finder on the Mac too.

Restore files on iCloud

This is a useful feature if you use iCloud to store files and being able to recover deleted files after emptying the Trash could be a life saver. It is also slightly worrying because files you thought you had deleted are still there.



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