How to Recover Emptied Trash on Mac Without Software

Joel Mason

Mac, Tutorials

Have you accidentally emptied the trash on your Mac and lost important files? Don’t panic!

In this tutorial, we will guide you through the process of recovering emptied trash on your Mac without using any software. Follow these steps carefully to retrieve your precious data.

Step 1: Stop Using Your Mac Immediately

If you have just emptied your trash and realized that you need to recover some files, it is crucial to stop using your Mac immediately. Continuing to use it can overwrite the deleted files and make them unrecoverable. The more you use your Mac, the higher the chance of permanent data loss.

Step 2: Check Time Machine Backup (If Available)

If you have enabled Time Machine backup on your Mac, there’s a good chance that your deleted files are still backed up. Connect your Time Machine backup drive and follow these steps:

  1. Open a Finder window by clicking on the Finder icon on the Dock.
  2. Navigate to the location where the deleted file was originally stored.
  3. Click on the Time Machine icon in the menu bar and select “Enter Time Machine”.
  4. In Time Machine, use the timeline on the right-hand side to go back to a date before you emptied the trash.
  5. Locate the deleted file and click on “Restore” to bring it back to its original location.

Step 3: Use Terminal

If you don’t have a Time Machine backup or if it doesn’t contain the files you need, you can try using Terminal commands. Follow these steps:

  1. Open Spotlight search by pressing Command + Spacebar and type “Terminal” in the search bar. Press Enter to open Terminal.
  2. Type the following command: cd ~/.Trash and press Enter. This command will navigate you to the hidden Trash folder.
  3. Next, enter the command: ls -a and press Enter.

    This will list all the files and folders in the Trash directory, including hidden files.

  4. If you can see your deleted file listed, you can use the “mv” command to move it back to its original location. For example, if your file is named “important.docx”, use the command: mv important.docx ~/Documents/. Replace “~/Documents/” with the appropriate path of your desired location.

Step 4: Use a Third-Party Data Recovery Tool (If Necessary)

If Steps 2 and 3 didn’t help you recover your emptied trash, it might be time to consider using a third-party data recovery tool. There are several reliable options available for Mac, such as Disk Drill, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard, and Prosoft Data Rescue.

  • Disk Drill: Disk Drill offers a user-friendly interface and powerful data recovery capabilities. It can recover various file types from different storage devices.
  • EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard: EaseUS is another popular choice with a straightforward recovery process.

    It supports a wide range of file formats and storage devices.

  • Prosoft Data Rescue: Prosoft Data Rescue focuses on deep scanning and advanced recovery algorithms. It is suitable for complex data loss scenarios.

Select one of these tools based on your requirements and install it on a separate drive to avoid overwriting the deleted files. Follow the instructions provided by the software to recover your data.


Accidentally emptying the trash on your Mac can be a distressing experience, but there are ways to recover your deleted files without using any software. By following the steps outlined in this tutorial, you can increase your chances of successfully retrieving your valuable data. Remember to stop using your Mac immediately, check Time Machine backup (if available), utilize Terminal commands, and only resort to third-party data recovery tools if necessary.

Always make sure to regularly back up your important files to prevent data loss and consider using cloud storage or external drives for added security. With a cautious approach and the right tools, you can minimize the impact of accidental file deletions on your Mac.

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