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4 Ways to Recover Files from Formatted Hard Drive on Mac

Home > HowTos > File Recovery Tips on Mac Updated by Nancy on May 9, 2024 | Approved by Nancy

An accidentally formatted Mac hard drive doesn't mean your data is lost forever. Whether it's a slip of the finger or a complete mishap, having all your data suddenly gone can be disorienting, especially when critical information is stored on the device. However, all hope is not lost; wanting to recover data from the formatted Mac hard drive is feasible and often surprisingly straightforward with the right knowledge and tools. Here's a comprehensive guide; from understanding how formatting affects data to exploring the tools and techniques available to how to avoid such mishaps, you'll be equipped with everything you need to save your valuable digital assets.

Understanding the Mechanism of Data Loss after Formatting

Before we explore the tools and techniques, it's critical to understand the mechanisms behind file loss. Formatting a hard drive is not the same as erasing data - it merely removes the pointers to the data. Think of it as a library where the book titles are erased from the catalog, but the books themselves remain on the shelves until new books (or data, in this case) are added. Therefore, data is still on the drive until it is overwritten.

Yet, every time we store new data on our disk after formatting, MacOS writes over these 'erased' locations, which is why quick action is crucial. In short, the golden rule for formatted hard drive recovery on Mac is to stop using it when you realize your file has been lost.

How to Recover Files from Formatted Hard Drive on Mac

There are several paths to accidentally formatted Mac hard drive recovery, each suited for different situations and levels of expertise.

Ways 1. From Time Machine

If you've been using it to back up your disk, restoring your data could be as simple as accessing Time Machine. Go to the menu bar, select it, and choose "Enter Time Machine." Then, look for the files or folders you want to restore.

Ways 2. Utilizing Data Recovery Software

Without backup, professional tools will be your best choice for recovery from an erased Mac hard drive by mistake. For best results, you can use the following three excellent ones:

A. iBeesoft Data Recovery for Mac

It is a notable solution in 2024 for those facing the daunting task of restoreing data from Mac disk after fromattting. Its user-friendly approach, coupled with powerful recovery features, makes it a recommended choice.

Here's a step-by-step guide to recover formatted hard drive on Mac:

  1. Download and install the iBeesoft recovery app on your Mac.
  2. Click the "Start" after filtering the file types.

  3. Choose the formatted drive and click "Scan."

  4. You can preview the found files once the scan is complete.
  5. Select the ones you need and click "Recover" to save them.

B. TestDisk

It is an indispensable tool for IT professionals and advanced users who must deal with complex file recovery scenarios. However, using TestDisk to recover files from erased hard drive on Mac requires familiarity with the command line. To do this, you follow the following wizard:

  1. Download it and extract the downloaded file.
  2. Open Terminal and navigate the extracted TestDisk directory using the "cd" command.
  3. Launch it by typing "sudo ./testdisk" and press Enter.
  4. Go to "Create > Formatted disk > Partition Table Type > Advanced."

  5. Select "Undelete" and press Enter to search for lost data.

  6. Click "C" and select a destination to save recovered files.

C. Exif Untrasher

It is especially useful if you accidentally formatted the removable disk and lost the pictures. Here's a guide on using Exif Untrasher to recover files from the formatted external hard drive on Mac.

  1. Download and Install the latest version compatible with your Mac OS.
  2. After opening it, click "Choose" under the "Source" option and select your accidentally formatted Mac hard drive.

  3. Click "Choose" under the "Destination folder" option and select the directory to store the recovered items.
  4. Click "Start Data Recovery" and wait for the process to end.

Tips: If all methods fail of an accidentally erased Mac hard drive recovery and your data is extremely important, seek professional help. They can specialize in complex recovery tasks that software alone cannot handle.

How to Repair a Disk that Needs to be Formatted on Mac

If your hard drive shows a message that needs to be formatted, it might be due to various issues, such as corruption, a file system not recognized by macOS or other issues. Here’s how you can attempt to repair a hard drive on your Mac:

Ways 1. Use Disk Utility

  1. Go to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.
  2. Select the problematic hard drive from the sidebar and click the "First Aid" button at the top.
  3. Click "Run" and follow the wizard to complete the process.

This will check the errors and attempt to repair them. It can also fix the external hard drive very slow on Mac.

If the above doesn’t work, reboot your Mac and hold down "Command + R" during startup to enter Recovery Mode. Once in Recovery Mode, open Disk Utility and run First Aid on the drive again.

Ways 2. Erase the Hard Drive

If none of the above steps work and you either have a backup of your data or have accepted data loss, you can format the drive:

  1. Open Disk Utility and select your disk.
  2. Click on "Erase" at the top.
  3. Choose a format. "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)" is typical for Mac-only use. For cross-platform use, "ExFAT" is suitable.
  4. Click "Erase" to proceed.

Preventative Measures for the Future

Erased Mac hard drive by mistake recovery is an indispensable skill, but prevention is always preferable. Here are measures to safeguard your data from future formatting mishaps:


Many Mac users face data loss from accidental formatting. There is a wealth of recovery solutions available to navigate this issue. Remember, the key to successful recovery is to act quickly and methodically, weigh your recovery options, and proceed cautiously. In the end, accidentally erasing the Mac hard drive, though harrowing, can often be reversed, provided you have a clear plan and the right tools.

Consider this article a roadmap to guide you through the wilderness of recovering files from a formatted hard drive on a Mac. Take preventative steps to ensure you won't be in this scenario again. You'll easily safeguard your digital assets with a balanced approach of caution and preparedness.


  • Yes, you can. Formatting a disk doesn't erase the data immediately; it merely occupies the space occupied by the files and makes new data available. If you act quickly and use the right tools, you'll likely be able to recover files from the formatted hard drive on Mac.

  • Mac data recovery software is the best method for recovering files after formatting on a Mac. iBeesoft Data Recovery for Mac, Disk Drill, or Stellar Data Recovery are popular options that guide you through the process and increase the likelihood of file recovery.

  • If you have been proactive about backing up your Mac using Time Machine, you're in luck. The Time Machine backup can restore the erased Mac hard drive. Start your Mac from macOS Recovery, and choose "Restore from a Time Machine backup," to do so.

  • If you don't have a Time Machine backup, you can still resume data with the best recovery software for Mac. As mentioned above, iBeesoft Data Recovery for Mac is a good choice for this scenario. However, note that without a backup, you may not be able to access all of your files.

  • Stop using the formatted drive immediately to increase your chances of successful file recovery. Any write activity can overwrite the space where your files were stored. Use the recovery software on a separate, healthy drive to avoid additional data loss.

  • Yes, With a tool like iBeesoft Data Recovery for Mac, you can perform a deep scan that includes every file on the disk, including system files.

  • If Disk Utility completes the reformatting process successfully and you've verified the changes, your chances of file recovery are significantly lower. However, a powerful tool like iBeesoft Data Recovery for Mac is still worth trying.