Recovering the Lost: A Guide to APFS Data Recovery on Mac

Recovering the Lost: A Guide to APFS Data Recovery on Mac

Daniel Hall 17/06/2024
Recovering the Lost: A Guide to APFS Data Recovery on Mac

APFS, or Apple File System, is the current file system used by macOS devices since 2017.

While it offers several advantages over its predecessor, HFS+, data loss can still occur. This article serves as a comprehensive guide to APFS data recovery, outlining potential causes of data loss, exploring recovery methods, and recommending reliable tools to salvage your precious files.

Understanding Data Loss Scenarios with APFS

Data loss on APFS drives can happen due to various reasons. Here are some common culprits:

  • Accidental Deletion: A simple yet common cause, accidentally deleting files or emptying the Trash can lead to data loss.

  • Formatting: Formatting a drive erases all data on it. This can happen unintentionally or during troubleshooting procedures.

  • Drive Failure: Physical damage to the storage device, be it a hard disk drive (HDD) or a solid-state drive (SSD), can render data inaccessible.

  • Software Corruption: Bugs or glitches in the operating system or file system can corrupt data, making it unreadable.

  • Power Outages or Surges: Sudden power fluctuations can interrupt write operations, potentially corrupting files or causing data loss.

  • Encryption Issues: If you use FileVault encryption on your Mac and forget the password, recovering data becomes significantly more challenging.

Recovering Lost Data: Exploring Your Options

The success of APFS data recovery depends on the severity of the data loss scenario. Here's a breakdown of potential recovery methods:

  • Built-in Recovery Tools: macOS offers some basic recovery options. Time Machine backups, if enabled, can restore your system to a previous state, including lost files. Additionally, the Trash can hold deleted files for a period, allowing you to restore them before they are permanently erased.

  • Disk Utility: This macOS application can be used to repair minor disk issues that might be preventing access to your data. While not a dedicated data recovery tool, it's worth trying as a first step.

  • Third-Party Data Recovery Software: Several data recovery software programs are specifically designed to work with APFS drives. These tools employ advanced scanning techniques to locate lost files and attempt to recover them.

Choosing the Right Data Recovery Software

With numerous data recovery software options available, selecting the right one becomes crucial. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Compatibility: Ensure the software supports APFS data recovery and is compatible with your macOS version.

  • Features: Look for features like deep scanning, selective file recovery, preview options, and the ability to recover different file types.

  • Success Rate: Research the software's reputation and success rate in recovering data from APFS drives.

  • Cost: Data recovery software can range from free trials to premium licenses. Choose one that fits your budget and needs.

  • Ease of Use: A user-friendly interface with clear instructions is essential, especially if you're not tech-savvy.

Here are some reputable data recovery software options for APFS drives:

  • EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac

  • Disk Drill

  • iBoysoft Data Recovery

  • R-Studio

  • Stellar Data Recovery for Mac

Important Note: It's crucial to stop using the drive where you lost data as soon as possible. Continued use can overwrite the lost files, making recovery significantly more difficult, if not impossible.

Recovering Your Data: A Step-by-Step Guide

The specific steps for data recovery will vary depending on the software you choose. However, here's a general outline:

  1. Download and install the data recovery software. Important: Do not install the software on the drive where you lost data.

  2. Launch the software and select the drive or partition where you lost your files.

  3. Choose the scan type. Most software offers a quick scan and a deep scan. Start with the quick scan, which is faster, and then proceed to a deep scan if necessary.

  4. Preview recoverable files. Many software programs allow you to preview recovered files before attempting to restore them. This helps ensure you're recovering the right data.

  5. Select the files you want to recover and choose a safe location on a different drive to save them.

  6. Recover the files. The software will attempt to recover the selected files to the designated location.

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Tips for Successful APFS Data Recovery


Data loss on your Mac can be a stressful experience. Luckily, with APFS, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of recovering lost files. Here are some key tips to remember:

  • Act Swiftly: Time is of the essence! The sooner you take action, the better the chance of salvaging your data. Once you realize data is missing, stop using the affected drive immediately. This minimizes the risk of overwriting the lost files, making recovery much harder.

  • Power Down, Not Up: Avoid restarting your Mac if you suspect data loss. Rebooting can trigger processes that overwrite or further corrupt lost files.

  • Isolate the Drive: If possible, disconnect the affected storage device (external drive) from your Mac. This prevents accidental use or further writing to the drive.

  • Embrace Backups: Backups are your safety net! If you have a recent Time Machine backup encompassing the lost data, you can restore your system to a previous state and retrieve your files. Having a backup routine in place is the best way to prevent data loss catastrophes.

  • Choose the Right Software: Don't settle for just any data recovery tool. Research reputable software with a good track record for APFS recovery. Consider factors like compatibility with your Mac version, supported file types, success rates, and user reviews.

  • Deep Scan When Needed: Start with a quick scan offered by most recovery software. This is faster and might locate readily recoverable files. If the quick scan yields no results, proceed with a deep scan. This is a more thorough process that takes longer but can uncover data fragments and potentially reconstruct lost files.

  • Preview Before Recovery: Many data recovery tools allow you to preview recovered files before committing to the full restoration process. Utilize this feature to ensure you're retrieving the correct data.

  • Recover to a Different Drive: Never recover lost data back to the same drive where it was lost. This can overwrite the very files you're trying to salvage. Choose a separate drive with sufficient storage space to accommodate the recovered data.

  • Seek Professional Help (If Needed): For complex data loss scenarios, involving physical drive damage or advanced encryption issues, consider seeking professional data recovery services. They possess specialized tools and expertise to handle such situations.

  • Prevention is Key: While data recovery software is valuable, a proactive approach is ideal. Implement a regular backup routine using Time Machine or a cloud storage service. Additionally, avoid risky actions like formatting drives without proper backups and practice safe shutdown procedures to minimize the risk of data loss in the first place.

By following these tips and acting promptly, you can significantly increase your chances of successfully recovering lost data from your APFS drive. Remember, prevention is always better than cure. Implement a solid backup strategy to safeguard your valuable files for the future.

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Daniel Hall

Business Expert

Daniel Hall is an experienced digital marketer, author and world traveller. He spends a lot of his free time flipping through books and learning about a plethora of topics.

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