Data Recovery

How to Recover Deleted Files after Emptying Trash on macOS?

Author: Santosh Kumar Gupta | Updated on April 1, 2021| Data Recovery | Mac Data Recovery | 4 min read

Summary: Emptied your Trash folder and accidentally deleted some important files? Read this post to learn how to use Stellar Data Recovery Free Edition for Mac to recover files, which are lost permanently due to emptying of Trash on macOS Big Sur 11 or other earlier versions. The download link is shared next.

      Free Download For Mac

“Hello, friends! My MacBook Pro's internal SSD was running out of space, and I couldn't install any new app. I deleted all unnecessary items from my startup disk to fix this and then emptied the Trash folder. However, in the process, I accidentally deleted a few important files. Unfortunately, I don't use Time Machine to back up my data. Is there a way to recover my deleted data from empty Trash? Please help.”

A cleaning spree of your Mac drive can get out of hand when you empty your trash folder and end up deleting some critical files in the process. But, no need to worry! You can recover files deleted from Trash by using a free data recovery software compatible with your macOS. Before that, let's learn what happens when a file is deleted from Trash.

What Happens When a File Is Deleted from Trash?

When you empty the Trash folder on your Mac, the deleted data remains on the storage drive. But, the space occupied by it is marked as 'unallocated' or 'free.' The deleted files remain there until another data occupies that space. You can recover this ‘unallocated’ data quickly with free data recovery software for Mac. But, before you initiate the data recovery process, stop using your Mac to avoid overwriting the existing files.

For Windows users, read Recover Data from Empty Recycle Bin

Recover Deleted Files after Emptying Trash

Don’t panic if you don't have a Time Machine backup. Try a free file recovery tool for Mac to recover deleted files if you have unintentionally deleted files from Trash.

Steps for macOS Trash recovery:

Step 1: Install and launch *Stellar Data Recovery Free Edition software in your MacBook, Mac mini, or iMac.

Step 2: From the “Select What To Recover” screen, select the type of files that you want to recover, then click Next.

Customize scan then click Next
Image: Select What To Recover Screen

Step 3: From the “Select Location” screen, select the startup disk (Macintosh HD) to perform Trash recovery. The trash folder is located in the startup disk, and you need to recover data from Trash.

Select the startup drive
Image: Select Location Screen

In case you've deleted data from an external storage drive and emptied your Trash by keeping the drive connected, there is no need to select the startup disk (Macintosh HD) from the "Select Location" screen. Instead, connect the external drive and select the drive to perform Trash recovery.

Note: In macOS Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave, or High Sierra, you need to allow the Stellar Software’s extension to perform data recovery from the startup disk. Learn more.

Step 4: Toggle on the Deep Scan switch and click Scan to start the scanning process. This advanced scan mode scans your drive rigorously based on file signatures. It takes more time, but shows a complete scan result.

Step 5: After completing scanning, the software lists all the recoverable files and folders present in the drive in a tree view under Classic, File, and Deleted Lists. Select Deleted List, then navigate the folders.

Tip: To avoid rescanning the drive, save the scan information using the Save Scan feature of the software. You can use the Load Scan feature to fetch the saved scan list anytime and recover data.

Step 6: From the right pane, double-click a file to launch its preview. If you can’t preview some file types, don’t worry.

Double click a file to preview
Image: File Preview Screen

Step 7: Select the crucial files, then click Recover.  Select a different volume or an external storage drive, then click Save to start saving the recoverable files.

*Stellar Data Recovery Free Edition for Mac lets you scan the drive, preview the recoverable files, and recover up to 1 GB of files without any cost. But to recover more, you need to upgrade the software to Professional or Premium edition. Don’t worry! All Stellar Software Products have a 30-day money-back guarantee; so, upgrade with full confidence.

Watch Stellar Data Recovery Free Edition for Mac software in action:

The software can effectively recover documents, videos, photos, emails, audio, and other deleted file types from internal or external storage drives.

The software also helps you recover data from formatted external drive, Time Machine backup drive, corrupt volume, and un-mountable USB drive. It can also recover all kinds of deleted files from Trash with their original name and date timestamp.


Emptying Trash then realizing that you’ve deleted some critical files in the process is quite common. We recommend you back up your Mac by using Time Machine and avoid any logical data loss scenario. In case the backup is obsolete, corrupt, or not taken, choose a free Mac data recovery software, such as Stellar Data Recovery Free Edition for Mac. The software lets you recover all kinds of Trash deleted files with their original name and date timestamps. Also, the software is compatible with macOS Big Sur and earlier versions.

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