How to Recover Files Disappeared from Mac?

Updated on February 5, 2020

Mac users may get startled when their Mac files disappear from desktop, download folders, Macintosh HD and even from the trash folder.

If you’re facing the problem of files not showing up on Mac hard drive, then don’t panic. The files are not lost forever; it's possible to recover your files by making some changes to your Mac settings.

But before that, let’s understand as to why the files disappear from Mac. The following are some of the reasons:

Reasons for Disappearance of Files on Mac!

iCloud Drive Sync Settings

The first reason why documents disappear from Mac could be your iCloud Drive Sync Settings. It is likely that you have checked the option of keeping Desktop and Document files on the iCloud Drive and then clicked on ‘Continue’ while setting up iCloud Drive. The result of this is your desktop and document files are synced to the iCloud Drive and then removed from your Mac computer, and that is the reason your files have suddenly disappeared from the Mac. But rest assured, your files are safely stored and accessible through iCloud Drive interface. (However, what if you hadn’t enabled (or weren’t using) your iCloud? Follow next;)

Hidden Files on Macintosh HD

Many times, unintentional settings can cause your crucial files to become hidden. In such cases, while you might not be able to view your files, they are still very much present on the Mac. Here are the steps to unhide hidden Mac files by using Terminal:

  1. From Finder -> Applications -> Utilities, open Terminal
  2. In Terminal, type defaults write AppleShowAllFiles YES
  3. Hit Enter
  4. Now press the Option / alt key and then right-click on the Finder icon in the dock
  5. Click on Relaunch

By using these steps, you can quickly unhide all hidden files on Mac.

Accidentally Deleted Files

The biggest reason behind the sudden disappearance of Mac files is their accidental deletion. While accidental deletion can happen when you are emptying the Trash (manual or automated) or when your unsaved files are lost due to sudden power outages, intentional deletion can also sometimes take place when you select many files and delete them at once, without taking a backup.

Read More - Resurrect Data from Empty Trash on macOS

Once you’ve understood the reason as to why your files have disappeared from Mac, you can try the following solutions to make your files visible again.

Solutions to “Files Suddenly Disappeared from Mac” 

First) Through iCloud

macOS Mojave and High Sierra/Sierra allow you to save files and folders in iCloud Drive. If you’re using any of those OS and iCloud, the documents saved in iCloud can stay up-to-date and can be accessed through all your Apple devices and on If your desktop files have disappeared on Mac and you have saved those files & folders on iCloud Drive, they will be moved to the iCloud section of your Finder Sidebar. You can follow these simple steps to recover your lost data:

  1. Go to Apple menu > System Preferences > iCloud.
  2. Click Options.
  3. Uncheck Desktop & Documents Folders.
  4. Click Done.
Second) Through Finder

Almost all users are familiar with the use of Finder in macOS. It helps you organize your files, but if you can't find your required file/folder/documents, the reason could be that you haven’t turned on the Desktop and Documents setting. In such a case, there is a chance that the folder containing your important files may have been set as ‘hidden’ by Finder Preferences. You can check it through the following steps:

  1. Open the Finder in macOS.
  2. Click Preference.
  3. Choose the Sidebar tab and tick "Documents."
Third) Through Stack

Stacks’ is another new feature in macOS Mojave. It will automatically organize your files on the Desktop so that your desktop is free of clutter. If you’re using that feature, your files may appear "lost," but actually, they’re just grouped by macOS Mojave. You can go and find the folder in which your files have been grouped inside and recover them as follows:

  1. Select View on the top of your desktop and check Use Stacks.
  2. Click Group Stacks By and see in what way your files were grouped.
  3. Find your lost/missing files and move them to the place you want.
Fourth) 4. Software for Recovering Disappeared Files on Mac 

If you're unable to recover your disappeared files on Mac by using any of the above methods, the last option is to use a specialized data recovery software for Mac

You may try the free demo of Stellar Data Recovery Professional for Mac, powerful DIY software for recovering deleted files from Mac, lost/deleted Mac volumes, etc. 

The tool is 100% safe, so you can download and try it free, without any hesitation or worry. With a 30-day money-back guarantee on licensed version along with 24x5 free technical support, it’s a great option to recover your disappeared files on Mac. 

So what are you waiting for? Free download the software and give it a try today!