Accidentally Emptied Trash on Mac? Here’s How to Recover Your Lost Files

Mac, like other storage devices, is commonly used by people and businesses. However, it does not bring any different guarantee for data safety as this is majorly a human factor. Whether you are in business handling customer data or you are a student handling personal study information, data safety and integrity remain your big responsibility.

Nonetheless, computer engineers still agree that every storage device needs a data protection mechanism, just in case you lose data accidentally. That is the reason Mac Trash remains a common feature of Macintosh. Mac Trash works in a similar way as the Windows Recycle Bin and enables you to safely delete files from your machine.

Accidentally Emptied Trash on Mac? Here’s How to Recover Your Lost Files

Depending on the storage capacity of your Mac, some users may have a feeling that trash is taking up a lot of their space. This happens particularly when you have deleted a large volume of data and it continues to lie in there. At this time, you are more likely to empty the trash all of a sudden. If you did this out of frustration, there are more chances you will want to recover some files that were deleted before. That is when trash recovery becomes very important. But is it still possible? In this article, we present some solutions for recovering files after accidentally emptying Trash on Mac. Read on and you will be glad one or two solutions here can bail you out.

How Does Mac Trash Work?

As we said already, Mac Trash, a data recovery for mac, works in a similar manner as the Recycle Bin built for Windows. Built by Apple, Mac trash addresses the challenge of accidentally deleted data.               

If you have used a Windows PC before, you must have experienced the Recycle bin. All the files you delete mistakenly or intentionally are sent there. Deleted files then stay in the bin for a period of 30 days after which they will be deleted permanently by OS. Mac trash uses the same principle. 

Can I Restore Trash in Mac After It Is Emptied?

Emptied mac Trash can be recovered. This is because mac does not physically remove permanently deleted files from the drive. The system only clears the logical links used to access the files. As a result, macOS marks the spaces as “available” and can be accessed by new files.

An “available” space will be used to write new data on your Mac. Once this is done, the space is occupied by the new files and the old ones completely disappear from the drive. This is why we recommend you initiate data recovery immediately when you realize that trash has been emptied on Mac and you need to recover some files. Review the methods below or try using Mac Terminal to recover deleted files. These should help restore your files if they were not overwritten yet.

Method 1: Recover Emptied Trash with Third-party App

Data recovery using third-party software has become more common than traditional methods. This is especially due to the high success rate presented by the method. However, it is important to note that not all the apps that record high success rates. A few of them just claim to recover deleted files but will pose more danger to your data and drive.

Disk Drill by Cleverfiles is however a highly rated data recovery tool most people use to recover deleted files, corrupt data and even emptied trash. To say the least, it is the best data recovery software today!

We will show you how to recover your Mac trash using Disk Drill by CleverFiles. Before we go into the ‘how,’ here are some of the features of Disk Drill.

  • Quick and deep scan with file scanning and preview
  • Restoring for various file systems and formats like TIFF, WAV, JPG, MP3, FAT. 
  • Restores files from a wide range of storage devices, including camcorders, memory cards, cameras and more.

Now that you have a better understanding of this software, do the methods below to recover your lost files.

Step 1: Begin by downloading the software and installing it on your Mac. You should be sure to do this from the official Cleverfiles website. However, if you have a pre-installed copy of the software, proceed straight to step two.

Step 2: Now launch the software and scan for lost files.  This should take just a few minutes depending on the size of trash emptied.

Step 3: Filter the results returned by the search. You should filter only the files you need by using “Type” and “Path” options. 

Step 4: Once your files are filtered and you have previewed them to ascertain that they are the correct files you need to recover, tap “recover deleted files.”  The recovery process should then send your files back to Mac Trash. That is the original folder where the files were deleted from. However, we recommend you choose a different storage location to make your data safer. With this, you will be able to protect them from being overwritten by other files. 

Method 2: Restoring Emptied Trash using Time Machine Backup

This is the other method you can use to recover emptied trash on Mac. Time Machine, a backup solution by Mac, must be activated before it can be used to recover files. Even with an emptied trash, Time Machine still digs deeper to recover lost files for you. However, this only works if the tool was previously enabled on your Mac.

If you are sure there is a previous Time machine backup, then follow the steps below to retrieve your files.

Step 1: Launch Time Machine by tapping on the icon, choose “Enter Time Machine,” or simply search for Time Machine using the “Spotlight.”

 Step 2: Scroll the screen up and down until you can see the files you intend to recover. Press the spacebar to review them.

Step 3: Click the button “Restore” and allow the files to return to their original location. 

The process should take only a few minutes to restore your data. However, the tile taken largely depends on their size.


As you can see, it is very easy to recover emptied trash on Mac. However, to increase your success with any of the methods described, you must stop using the machine until you are able to recover lost files.