The Best Data Recovery Software for macOS in 2021
Utilities • Updated on June. 30, 2020
“No matter what type of operating system is implemented, it is critical for users to employ good methods for data protection and recovery.” – Rhoda Phillips
When I started using computers, I was taught this: once you delete a file from the computer, there is no way to get that back.
Some fifteen years apart, I’m just reviewing the best data recovery software for Mac. That’s quite awesome, right?
I mean, we are talking about data recovery software made for normal users — not for the nerd community. Can we have a word about the pre-built stuff?
As you may know, macOS comes with an in-built data recovery system — Time Machine. But, the condition is that you should have made a Time Machine backup in the first place. Well, for most people, it is not the most convenient solution out there.
Another issue is that you cannot create a Time Machine backup for external drives. So, if you delete a photo from the digital camera SD card, there’s nothing Time Machine can do for you. As it happens, you will need something better for comprehensive data recovery.
- The basics to know before attempting data recovery
- Best overall: Disk Drill for Mac
- Best premium recovery: Data Rescue 6 for Mac
- Other notable Mac & hybrid options
- You’ll probably have questions about…
- The bottom line
The basics to know before attempting data recovery
In case you didn’t know, data recovery works by reconstructing deleted files. In order to do this, the software may use a variety of algorithms as well. However, you have to keep a few things intact before you use any of these data recovery software.
- If you think you’ve deleted something from your computer, check the Trash first. There’s a high chance that you can find the file/folder there.
- If you cannot find the file on Trash, stop working on the computer. If you deleted the file from a USB drive, don’t remove the drive. This will prevent making further changes to the file-system.
- Do not create new files in a particular directory. Creating new files may overwrite the chances of a successful data recovery.
- The success of data recovery also depends upon the type of drive you’re using. For instance, if you’ve got an SSD with encryption tech, recovery software wouldn’t be that easy.
- Also, if you’ve got a corrupted disk, the recovery process would be equally tough. Nevertheless, you can find powerful data recovery software for these needs.
One more thing: you have to give proper permissions to the data recovery software for the best results. Even though it can seem like a lot of things to keep in mind before even thinking of doing the data recovery – it’s not that complicated.
We understand that it might seem complicated, especially if you’re not tech-savvy. Keep on reading as you’ll find some of the best recovery software we’ve tested on Mac!
Best overall: Disk Drill for Mac
Disk Drill is free and easy to download as the installer is only about 20 MB big. The installation process is very simple. We were able to get it both downloaded and installed in just under 5 minutes.
As we all know, the first couple of hours when we experience data loss are crucial, and Disk Drill definitely doesn’t waste any time. As soon as you launch the program, it will be listing all the available drives in the impressive user interface.
It also lists the most important features that could help you in specific data recovery, so you’ll know where to head from there. In a single click, you can start the recovery, but be aware that it might take a few minutes.
For a free version of a data recovery tool – we were surprised at the compatibility offered in the free version of Disk Drill. Here’s what you can expect from it:
- Recovery, protection, and visualization of existing data
- Mac data recovery with a single button
- Preview of data available for recovery – you can only recover data you can first preview after the initial visualization of your data drives
- Ability to create bootable drives
- Mac clean up
- Ability to duplicate finder
However, there’s one thing you should know about first. Free version is good at protecting your data and helping you recover the data in case you lose it.
But if you’ve lost the data without previously using recovery protection features, you could only recover these files using the Pro version of Disk Drill.
Feature known as Recover Vault lets you quickly recover data you’re looking for, without having to recover everything, as it displays list of files and names before you even recover them (as long as they weren’t overwritten by new files).
Session Management is something we really loved in this data recovery tool. It means that you can save the details of a recovery session for later access. This is a great feature when you want to recover a big number of files from a particular storage device. However, one issue is that many files were broken.
Upon connecting our external disk drive, Disk Drill Pro immediately found the drive and discovered both the drive and its bootable Mac OS version available on there. Once we clicked “Recovery” button next to the mentioned hard drive, Disk Drill Pro took us to another page where we get to choose recovery methods, type of files we want to look out for, and even the size of the files.
What we found very useful is the “Deleted within the last” function which allows you to not only find specific file you’re looking for, but also choose a time frame when you might have deleted it to narrow the search.
We chose to find pictures, but we didn’t set the time frame – and this only left us with 15 hours of work to find all deleted pictures from our external HDD.
However, when we narrowed the search, Disk Drill Pro helped us find most recently deleted pictures in matter of minutes.
Once we found our image, we selected it and clicked recover, which prompted us a location on our Mac where we wanted the recovered file to be saved. The additional features of Disk Drill for Mac also deserve some praising.
Disk Drill offers a lot more information on your disks than a Mac can tell you on its own. This is very useful as you’ll get to know the condition and health of your disk.
Knowing the condition of your disk will help you prevent any further data loss that might be unrecoverable. With just one press of a button, you can start the clean up of a Mac. This will help remove things such as duplicated files, unused apps, and old cache files that might be taking up your disk space.
Removing duplicated files won’t only help you free up more space, but it will help you remove duplicated system files that could conflict with each other and cause you software & operating system issues. This is very useful for someone who needs to use both Mac and Windows for their work and yet doesn’t want to use another PC or Mac.
We all know the saying: it’s better to prevent it rather than have to heal it. Right?
However, we believe that Disk Drill could have focused on enhancing the recovery performance, instead of adding extra features in the free version. The Basic version is free, but you can pay $89 and upgrade to PRO version which unlocks more features that you can read more about down below!
Disk Drill Pro version requires a one-time payment of $89 and it includes additional features such as:
- Quick & Deep Scan
- Rebuild HFS+
- Lost Partition Search & more
- All storage types and file systems
As a free user – you will only get the ability to recover up to 500 MB of files. While this might be enough for most people – others might have bigger needs. The biggest difference in features is visible in both scanning ability and recovery of files. It’s true that Pro version unlocks all features.
Overall, if you’re looking to find only a couple of files, free version can be helpful. But if you’re looking to get your Mac’s health up, check the health of your whole disk, scan your all partitions, and even find any lost files – Pro version definitely pays off.
Best premium recovery: Data Rescue 6 for Mac
Data Rescue 6 from Prosoft Engineering is one of the most popular data recovery utilities for macOS. It has been designed as a comprehensive data recovery solution for Mac users.
Getting started with Data Rescue 6 is as easy as it gets. You can download the set-up from the official website and do the installation. During the installation, however, you have to provide File System permissions to this tool. Otherwise, Data Rescue 6 won’t be able to recover lost/deleted data. But this shouldn’t be something to scare you off as this is almost always required by data recovery software.
Data Rescue 6 has one of the simplest UIs we’ve seen in data recovery programs. It offers a sufficient set of information to the user but doesn’t cause confusion. Even for someone who hasn’t done recovery, it’s easy.
In all sectors, Data Rescue 6 offers the best level of compatibility.
- Recover data from a wide variety of devices, including MacBooks, iMacs, HDDs, SSDs, External Drives, SD Cards, CF Cards, Thunderbolt Drives,and FireWire Drives.
- Supports almost every file format out there too. – In our experience, we were recovering files from a USB drive that was in the APFS or FAT32 file system.
- Last but not the least, Data Rescue 6 allows you to recover more than 100 file formats, pertaining to categories like images, videos, and
In short, the compatibility aspect of Data Rescue 6 will never leave you looking for another software that can “help out” in the process of recovery.
We wanted to see how well Data Rescue 6 performs when it comes to recovering deleted files. We took the commonest scenario: when you delete an important file from your USB drive and could not find them in the Trash. And we must say, we’re impressed.
Starting the Recovery process is quite easy, you know. You can click on the Start Recovering Files button to get started. On the upcoming menu, you have to choose one of the drives. In this case, we’re choosing the drive Untitled. Now, Data Rescue 5 will ask you which type of scan you want — Quick or Deep. We’d recommend the Deep Scan, which increases the chance of getting more files. This, however, may take a few minutes. You have to keep yourself patient while the utility scans the drive for recoverable files.
In a few minutes, Data Rescue 6 showed a tree-based list of recovered files. Here, you can browse through a lot of files, based on the file format.
After reviewing and testing, Data Rescue 6 was able to recover files that I had deleted long before. It even recovered a one-and-a-half-hour-long movie, which is off the charts. Personally speaking, I was amazed at how Data Rescue could do that. I had deleted just three files for performing this test, but I was able to get back around 200 files.
Data Rescue 6 is also full of easy-to-use yet helpful features such as:
- Duplicate Recognition
There is an in-built search function that lets you find the desired files. You can find files based on the name, size, date modified, and other criteria. This is a great feature when you have a lot of recoverable files but like to find a particular document.
Data Rescue 6 also lets you clone data from a potentially dying drive to something better. You will have to connect both the devices to your Mac and use the Clone section. In a few minutes, everything would be moved.
This serves as more of a protection feature that will ensure you don’t come across any issues in the future due to the health of your current disk drive.
By default, Data Rescue 6 finds out the duplicate entries in the scan results. So, you can save a lot of space when it comes to recovery. Just so you know, the app offers an easy way to organize and access past scan details as well.
Data Rescue 6 is undoubtedly one of the best data recovery software for Mac you can get in 2020. However, there are a few things that could have been better.
For instance, Data Rescue 6 does not have multiple viewing options for the results. This would have made a lot of things easier, especially when it comes to navigation. Even now, things do work but it would have been a nice addition.
We also expected some additional features such as a Disk Health monitor. As we said earlier, data recovery can be a complex process sometimes. And, you will have to take some precautions. At this time, a disk health monitor can really come in handy.
But, to be frank, we can’t complain, since Data Rescue 6 does the job very well, especially considering that this is a paid data recovery tool.
The Standard license of Data Rescue 6 is priced at $19. Using this license, you find all your lost files for free, only pay for the files you want to recover. For unlimited system activation and drive recovery, you can get the professional license at $399. You can always check out the free trial of Data Rescue 6, but it only allows you to preview the file — not recover it.
Other notable Mac & hybrid options
Out of around 20 data recovery apps we tested, at least a few deserve a special mention. They are not the top options, but you can look at the features.
Stellar Mac Data Recovery
Stellar Mac Data Recovery is another reputed tool for recovering data from Mac devices. Compared to other software in the list, Stellar Mac Data Recovery is completely simple to use. For common users, it provides a better line of control altogether. For instance, you can select which files are to be recovered beforehand. It would help you do less filtering.
Along with this feature, Stellar focuses on even tougher recovery tasks such as data loss recovery from a hard drive failure or an OS crash.
Therefore, we highly recommend Stellar for Mac users who didn’t only lose data due to human error but have lost data due to technical issues you might not even understand.
So if you’re specifically dealing with one of these issues that might be more on the hardware side – this is a tool that can help.
Even though there’s a free trial version – we highly recommend going straight for the Premium version (paid version) since the trial version doesn’t include a lot of features and yet it limits the ones that are included.
Stellar Mac Data Recovery tool costs $89.99 (1 year) for a Professional license – but there’s also a free trial version that allows you to check out features available within the tool.
Wondershare Recoverit will easily be one of the most used data recovery software out there. It comes with an intuitive UI where everything takes place in a second.
You can launch the program, select the drive and it would start the scanning process in no time. We would not say that Wondershare Recoverit is exceptionally well at detection, even though we really loved the user interface.
It provides a quick overview of what you can recover from the drive; the instant previews are also great. Also, being a product from Wondershare, Recoverit offers decent compatibility as well. You would be able to connect almost every removable device and recover data from them. Also, data recovery dates are also impressive.
It’s a decent all-around solution for a quick recovery of smaller files.
Wondershare Recoverit is available for $79.95 and offers a limited free version.
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is the practically-free data recovery software you can find for Mac. Using the free version, you can recover up to 2GB of data, which is great. You have a cleaner way to track how the disk scanning is going on.
We really like their approach with the free version which is far better than other some other tools that don’t give you the ability to experience most features yet only to check them out before making a decision whether to upgrade or not.
From HDDs to USBs and from internal storage to SD cards, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard lets you recover data from almost every device. It also offers support for RAW recovery and Time Machine backup recovery. Considering the speedy performance we have seen overall, it’s surely an awesome choice for most people. You can always upgrade if you want unlimited data recovery.
The interface is pretty simple as well. EaseUS is really great at listing partitions and disk drives available so all you have to do is choose one of them to start the recovery process.
We’ve noticed that this tool is definitely based on the Mac OS, and unlike some other tools that support multiple OS’s, you can rest assured with EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard as it will do its best for Mac users.
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is free to use, for recovering up to 2GB. If you decide to upgrade to a Premium version, this would cost you a monthly subscription of $69.95.
This makes it to be one of the tools that are on the pricier side due to the monthly subscription system. But there’s also a lifetime use for $149.95 which we highly recommend.
Even though the price is a bit higher, the lifetime version can pay itself off in just 2 months. Yet, you should still understand that this might be a sort of an upsell that will cost you $149.95 in return for lifetime use of the software.
R-Studio isn’t one of the most known software out there – but it caught our eye because it is specially designed around the Mac OS. However, it’s also available for Linux and Windows too.
Another thing that caught our eye was its cost-effectiveness, in comparison to other data recovery tools we’ve listed.
With R-Studio, you won’t find a fancy interface. Instead, you’ll be greeted with a pretty simple and basic interface. You shouldn’t let this scare you away.
We find the navigation to be very simple and once you understand the full power of R-Studio, it won’t take long before you take advantage of some of its best features.
Behind the simple interface and navigational system, R-Studios has the ability to handle & recover files from various Macintosh specific formats such as:
Most of us are trying to recover one specific file – and if you’re trying to do the same, this tool might fit your needs.
It allows users to scan for known files and perform the raw file recovery. This type of recovery can recover files from disk, but also from various disk partitions that were formatted, changed, or deleted.
There is a free version which we highly recommend trying out as it might solve your most basic problems. But if you’re looking to unlock all powerful features of R-Studio, the upgraded version will cost you $79.99.
PhotoRec for Mac
Are you trying to recover photos or videos? Multimedia is one of the most recovered types of files – and PhotoRec is one of the rare software that only focuses on providing a solution to this problem.
It can help recover digital files from Mac directly, but it’s also great at recovering lost data from devices such as CD-ROMs, USB’s, or even external camera devices.
We have noticed that this tool ignores the file system and yet goes deeper after the underlying data to find and recover multimedia.
This is really efficient way to recover files, however, time is the essence and one of the requirements is to not save any more multimedia on the hard disk drive to increase the chances of recovering your multimedia files.
The interface is very basic and you shouldn’t expect much out of it. However, it’s very simple to navigate and find your way inside the tool.
What’s worth mentioning is that this tool is free, and there’s a way to donate if you found this tool helpful.
We think that this tool is pretty efficient, it has a lot of potential, but it could be updated more often and include a bit dated interface.
You’ll probably have questions about…
Does the free version of data recovery software work?
If you’re still wondering whether free data recovery tools work – just have a look at our number one choice. It’s free software that has a premium (paid) version too, right? This means that there are free versions of data recovery software that can really help with recovery and get the job done.
However, not all free versions are the same. While some companies provide an efficient free version that doesn’t require an upgrade to a paid version – others don’t work this way.
Some tools offer a trial version which is far simpler than a free version and it has fewer features and benefits. The sole purpose of this type of recovery tools is to help showcase some of the features and make the users go premium.
If you are on a budget and are looking for a free version – we highly recommend sticking with a free instead of a trial version.
But if you don’t mind going for a paid version of a software, the trial version could give you a great insight into how the tool works before you make the payment.
So the long story short – yes, a free version is effective and can get the job done, but you have to carefully choose them.
How to improve chances for a successful file recovery?
Since the success of date recovery mostly depends on the condition of the Mac and its disk – it’s important to act quickly after you notice that you’re missing data.
Luckily, recovery tools were able to keep up with the technology and make the recovery process far more efficient.
One of the most important tips is to stop adding and saving more data on your Mac after you notice that you’re missing documents.
Because this could result in overwriting the previous files (or deleted files) and make the recovery harder.
The second most important tip is to choose the correct type of search. Most recovery tools provide you a choice. You can either choose the place where you’d like to perform the search or a type of file you’re looking for.
The recovery process can be long and slow, but limiting the search will always provide better results.
What should data recovery software come with?
Most data recovery software is very simple to use and they’ll feature an intuitive & simple interface that anyone can follow. This is important because you only want a clean & efficient software that is easy to learn.
However, additional instructions are almost always provided with this type of software so the users are able to get the best successful recovery rate.
Even though we’ve listed many recovery tools that are made to help users deal with the same thing – not all of them work in the same way.
It’s important to find a software that will support type of a file you’re looking to recover. Along with that, you should also think of the devices you’d like the data to be recovered from (if it’s not just your internal storage drive).
Another important thing that should come with a recovery tool is the security. Security features will help you evaluate your disk’s health and ensure that you don’t lose any data in the future due to a mechanical failure.
No one likes waiting for a long time – so being able to scan your hard disk and preview lost files before recovering only the ones you need is very useful.
Lastly, but not least important is the support. If you ever occur any problems during the recovery process, you would want a supportive customer service that will help you resolve any issues.
Not all tools are the same, but these are some of the aspects we considered when we made up our list of the best recovery tools you can use on a Mac.
The bottom line
So, you have seen our top picks and the major contenders we came across. We have surely selected a piece of software that you can rely on when it comes to data recovery on macOS.
As far as Disk Drill is concerned, it’s the perfect combination of the intuitive user interface, top-class performance, and stability. There are others, like Data Rescue 6, who offer advanced Pro features, but we always prefer functionality over style.
Most free software will help you get the job done and successfully recover the files. In fact, as you could notice, our number one choice is a free version with a possibility to upgrade to the Pro version. Pro versions are highly effective, and we highly recommend trying out free versions first. If they don’t seem to get the job done – you could always try Pro and Premium (paid) versions.
It’s important that you also wisely select the type of search and even select the tool correctly as some recovery tools specialize in a certain type of file recovery. Our tips can also help you learn what to do and what not to do when you notice that you’re missing data.
And remember – it’s far better to prevent data loss rather than recover data. So you should also think ahead and pay attention to your disk health and data security.