Best Data Recovery For Mac External Hard Drive

  • Best External Hard Drive Data Recovery on Mac 2021 Tested Table of Contents. List of the Best External HDD Recovery Downloads for Mac. Disk Drill for Mac. Ontrack EasyRecovery for Mac. Wise Data Recovery.
  • Aug 09, 2021 Designed with regular users in mind, Data Rescue 6 for Mac is another well-rated recovery app when it comes to the best Mac data recovery software available for Mac. Features Just like Disk Drill for Mac, Data Rescue allows you to recover data from your Mac hard drive using two recovery methods—Quick Scan and Deep Scan—and it also has a.
  1. Free Mac Data Recovery Software

The best free data recovery software for Mac available online is described below. These five applications vary in their characteristics. However, all share one commonality, they are free, and therefore useful for the casual user.

This article is fully updated and valid for macOS 11.4 Big Sur

1. Disk Drill for Mac

Disk Drill is the free data recovery app for Mac OS X. Disk Drill Basic, in addition to having previewing capabilities for recovered files, contains several other functionalities, such as Recovery Vault and Guaranteed Recovery, lost partition restoration, boot disk maker, and so on, which make it one of the best Mac data recovery software applications available.

Disk Drill works on internal and external hard drives, USB flash drives, SD cards and many other appliances that can be connected to a Mac, including iOS and Android devices.

Its last version has an extensive database of file signatures that can be restored from drives even after formatting and uses very efficient and fast scanning algorithms. Disk Drill is constantly updated and supported by its ever-growing team and covers cases of data corruption resulting from loss of power, or removal of a device without first unmounting it.

It is a 100% safe and reliable free Mac file recovery program to help you retrieve any data from Mac hard drive or any external device on Mac. Features: Apple File System (APFS) is now the default file system for the latest macOS, coming with safer data storage, faster write-and-read speed, and larger space available. This free data recovery software can recover data from Mac notebooks, desktops, hard drives, USB drives, SD cards, memory cards, digital cameras, etc. It works on internal HFS+ drives, and on FAT/FAT32 file systems used in USB flash drives and external hard drives connected to an Apple computer. Even if your Mac can’t find your external hard drive, premium data recovery software like Disk Drill can actually detect it and engage with it. To recover files from an external hard drive that won’t boot, do the following: Open Disk Drill by using Spotlight Search (CMD + Space) or by going to Finder Applications Disk Drill.

Free Features:

  • Recovery Vault is an advanced extra layer to the Trash Bin that keeps a reference to deleted data.
  • Guaranteed Recovery is a background service that saves a copy of each file to a user-specified folder. Both data protection modules substantially reduce the possibility of permanently losing critical data.
  • Data Backup feature provides users with the ability to recover lost data from a byte-to-byte clone version of the device/partition, without having to risk the original storage source.
  • In addition to that, multiple extra tools like Disk Health Monitor, Emergency Recovery Boot Drive, Time Machine Recovery, Duplicate File Finder, Mac Cleaner, are available for free.

“Disk Drill for macOS updated with native Apple Silicon Macs support” – Filipe Espósito,


Disk Drill successfully manages the balance of essential and advanced features for the casual, professional, and enterprise users alike, which makes it worth the money spent on the upgrade.

2. PhotoRec for Mac

PhotoRec is not the most powerful free Mac data recovery tool, but it has the advantage of being open source. This basically means that not only the application but also the source code is available to the public.

PhotoRec can work with OS X, Linux, Free BSD, Net BSD, Open BSD, and Windows. It can recover the most common file formats, such as JPEG pictures, MP3 audio files, OpenDocument and Microsoft Office files, PDF documents and ZIP archives. Files can be recovered from different devices such as digital camera memory cards, USB flash drives and hard disks.

Free Features:

This free file recovery Mac app uses a powerful technology known as file carving. This method consists of two steps. Firstly, it searches for the data block or cluster size. If the file system is not corrupted, this value is obtained from the superblock (ext2/ext3/ext4) or volume boot record (FAT, NTFS). If this is not possible, the app checks each sector of the device, and using the first ten files found, it calculates the block or cluster size.

Secondly, the app reads the device, block by block/cluster by cluster, checking against the different file signatures available in the app’s database, thus assembling and recuperating the available files. Though it’s unclear how many of those file signatures are known to the app.


PhotoRec is a nice tool to use when in need to recover some personal files, without having to resort to a professional application.

3. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is another one of the best data recovery Mac software applications. The developer has released three different versions: free trial, Pro and unlimited.

Free Features:

The free version is limited to a maximum of 2GB of restored data. This free data recovery software can recover data from Mac notebooks, desktops, hard drives, USB drives, SD cards, memory cards, digital cameras, etc. It works on internal HFS+ drives, and on FAT/FAT32 file systems used in USB flash drives and external hard drives connected to an Apple computer.

Easeus tool recovers file formats most commonly used in image, video, music and document files. It is mostly designed for recovering lost files due to unintentional deletes or drive formatting.


EaseUS free data recovery tool is a handy app designed for casual unintentional file deletions.

4. MiniTool Power Data Recovery for Mac

MiniTool Data Recovery for Mac can recover photos, music, videos, emails, documents, and other types of data from Mac computers or other common storage devices. The free version only offers support via email.

This data recovery software for Mac works in four different modes. The first, “Undelete Recovery”, can be used to quickly recover data lost due to accidental deletion. The second, “Damaged Partition Recovery”, recovers lost data from existing partitions. The third, “Lost Partition Recovery”, recovers lost data from lost or deleted partitions, subject to success in finding them. And finally, the “Digital Media Recovery” mode, recovers multimedia files from portable storage devices.

Free Features:

This data recovery Mac software has a personal edition that is free for use only on one computer and with a maximum restore capacity of 1MB. Is that why it’s called a Mini Tool? Possibly. The developer also offers commercial, enterprise and technician editions of the software.


MiniTool Data Recovery tool offers a valid option for the casual accidental delete, in cases that don’t involve big volumes.

5. Softtote Mac Data Recovery

Softtote’s app can recover lost files from internal and external hard drives. File types include ONLY .bmp, .jpg, .png, .tif and .mp3. It works on devices supported by NTFS, HFS/HFS+ and FAT file systems. The application has the capacity to preview file details, such as image size and creation date before recovering them.

Just like other apps in this list, this free data recovery software Mac comes with free technical support.



Free Mac Data Recovery Software

Softtote’s software can be included among the best data recovery software Mac, and even though it is not so well known, it deserves a try in case of accidental file loss, but mind the limited set of supported file types.

How to Pick the Best Data Recovery Software for Mac

Selecting the best Mac data recovery software can be a challenge since there are so many seemingly great options available. To help you narrow down available data recovery software for Mac, here are the most important selection criteria you need to focus on:

⚙️ Performance

The best file recovery software apps for Mac have been perfecting their data recovery algorithms for years to quickly and reliably find all deleted files. Since data restore is a time-sensitive task, it makes sense to select the most capable app available and get all deleted data back on the first try.

💻 Files System Support

Mac users typically format disks and volumes using Apple File System (APFS), HFS+ (Mac OS Extended), MS-DOS (FAT), FAT32, and exFAT file systems, so make sure to select a data recovery software application that supports them. If you also want to recover Windows drives, the application needs to support NTFS.

👩🏽‍💻 macOS Version Supported

In recent version of macOS, Apple introduced some pretty substantial changes intended to make the operating system safer for its users. Unfortunately, many developers of data recovery tools for Mac have yet to update their apps accordingly to support the latest versions of Apple’s operating system.

📷 File Type Support

There are thousands of file formats in existence, and no data recovery software supports every single one. However, some solutions can recover virtually all file formats you are likely to come across, and we highly recommend you prioritize them over applications that can recover only a handful of commonly used file formats.

🗂 Set of Features

While all data recovery software apps for Mac can recover deleted files, some have many extra features that make the recovery process easier and more likely to end successfully, such as the ability to preview deleted files, recover files from failing, corrupted, and formatted devices, or scan RAW and lost partitions. You may even come across recovery apps that double as capable backup solutions, giving you more value for your money.

🛒 Price

The price of file recovery software apps for Mac OS X varies greatly, and it’s definitely not true that more expensive apps are always better than those that are either cheaper or free. Especially attractive are paid data recovery apps that let you preview recoverable files, allowing you to evaluate their data recovery performance without costing a single dollar. Keep in mind that some recovery apps charge you only once for a lifetime license, while other apps charge their users on a monthly or yearly basis, which can increase their price substantially over time.

🔒 Security

Not all software applications are secure, and data recovery software is no exception to this. While you can use all the apps listed in this article without any worries, the same can’t be said about many lesser-known data recovery solutions that can be found online.

If you keep the above-described criteria in mind when selecting data recovery software for Mac, you won’t have any trouble picking the best solution available and recovering your data in no time.

The Bottom Line

We recommend going with Disk Drill Data Recovery Software for Mac, as it delivers on its data recovery odds. This awesome data recovery tool is backed up by good looks, a more intuitive user interface, and a ton of free disk tools that may become handy for any user.


Here are the best data recovery software applications for Mac in 2021:

  1. Disk Drill for Mac – best for macOS Big Sur;
  2. PhotoRec for Mac – best freeware;
  3. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac – best customer support;
  4. MiniTool Power Data Recovery for Mac – best money-back guarantee;
  5. Softtote Mac Data Recovery – best for old versions of Mac OS X.

As you can see, Disk Drill tops the list, offering excellent data recovery performance paired with an easy-to-use user interface that looks and feels as if Apple designed it themselves.

There are Mac data recovery software applications that are completely free, but most come with certain limitations and require their users to purchase a license to remove them. The cost of a Mac data recovery software license varies greatly, but the average is around $100.

Yes, there is. PhotoRec (TestDisk) is open-source data recovery software for Mac, Windows, Linux, and *BSD that you can download for free and use to recover most file formats without any limitations. However, you should know that PhotoRec doesn’t have a graphical user interface, and it doesn’t offer any extra features that require it, such as the ability to preview files before recovery.

I have deleted some important files from my external hard drive. Is it possible to recover them using my Mac?

Yes, it is. There are several methods that you can use to recover deleted files from an external hard drive on Mac. We are going to show you four different methods you can use on an Apple Mac or MacBook that can help you get back files that have been accidentally deleted from your external storage device. With any luck, you can use one of these techniques to successfully recover all the data that you thought you had lost forever.

How to recover files from an external hard drive on Mac

Here are four solutions to recovering deleted or lost files from an external hard drive.

Honorable mention: Restore from the Trash Bin

One thing that’s great about macOS is that deleted files are first moved to the Trash folder, including files deleted from an external hard drive. We know that you’ve probably done so already, but we strongly suggest you check the Trash folder one last time before exploring the three main solutions described below.

  1. Make sure the external hard drive is connected to your Mac. Each Mac storage device has its own Trash folder, so this step is critical.
  2. Open the Trash folder by clicking on its Dock icon.
  3. Locate the files you want to restore and select them.
  4. Right-click on your selection and click the Put Back option.
  5. Verify that the files have been successfully recovered to their original location.

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that your files will be present in the Trash folder, especially if the option to automatically remove items from the folder after 30 days is enabled on your system. If that turns out to be the case, then it’s time to explore other recovery solutions.

Solution 1: Restore from a backup file

The best way to recover files from an external hard drive on a Mac for free is through a backup copy you have previously created. Here are several places to look for a backup copy:

  • External storage devices: USB flash drives, memory cards, and other external storage devices are commonly used to store backup copies of important files, and there’s a chance that a copy of the files you want to recover from your external hard drive exists on one of your devices without you even realizing it. If you find it, you can simply copy your files to their original location and congratulate yourself for remembering to back up your data at some point in the past.
  • Cloud backup services: More and more users these days back up files to cloud backup services like iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive. Files stored in the cloud can be recovered from anywhere and any device because they’re located on a remote server managed by a third party. This alone makes them perfect for recovering data lost due to, for example, a hardware failure or natural disaster.
  • Native backup features: Modern operating systems are equipped with native backup features whose purpose is to help users protect important files. To be more specific, Macs running macOS 10.5 or newer come with Time Machine, and this native backup feature can be a real lifesaver if you need to recover data from an internal or external hard drive on Mac.

To restore from a Time Machine backup file, you need to:

  1. Connect the device that contains the Time Machine backup to your computer.
  2. Open a window that displays the folder which contained the deleted file. For example, if you deleted something from Downloads, open a Finder window of the Downloads folder.
  3. Open Time Machine by clicking on the clock icon on Mac’s menu bar and select Enter Time Machine
  4. Locate the items you want to restore from within Time Machine.
  5. Select an item and press the Spacebar to preview it.
  6. ClickRestore to recover the selected file or folder.

Since macOS 11 Big Sur, Time Machine also supports the APFS file system, making it faster and more reliable than was previously possible with HFS+-formatted drives. Just know that there are several requirements your backup drive must meet in order to work with Time Machine, and you can read more about them on Apple’s website.


  • The backup tool is freeware that is included with your Mac computer.
  • It recovers files that have been permanently deleted from the Trash Bin.


  • This method requires you to have created a backup of the affected files.

Solution 2: Restore with the help of data recovery software

MacOS does not erase the data from an external drive when a file gets deleted. It just removes the links that make the data accessible to the operating system and marks the space as available for future use. Until it is overwritten by new data, the original file can be recovered with the scanning techniques of data recovery software.

Data recovery software such as Disk Drill enables you to perform external hard drive data recovery on a Mac even if you don’t have a backup and the files are no longer in the Trash Bin. We will show you how easy it is to recover your lost data with this versatile recovery tool. But before we do that, let us briefly explain why we selected Disk Drill and not some other data recovery software for Mac.

Disk Drill’s features and benefits:

  • Wide file system support: NTFS, FAT, FAT32, exFAT, EXT3/EXT4, HFS, APFS
  • Multi-language user interface: English, Arabic, German, Spanish, French, Turkish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Dutch, Polish, Brazilian Portuguese, European Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Chinese, Hindi
  • Over 400 supported file types: Images, videos, audio, documents, archives, and more
  • Sophisticated recovery algorithms: Disk Drill features multiple advanced data recovery algorithms capable of addressing all common causes of external hard drive data loss, including accidental formatting, data corruption, user error, and others.
  • Stellar online reviews: With countless raving reviews from users worldwide, Disk Drill is easily one of the most well-rated data recovery software applications currently available.

As you can see, Disk Drill offers many attractive features and benefits that make it an easy choice when it comes to data recovery jobs big and small. Best of all, using it to perform external hard drive recovery on Mac could hardly be any easier.

To restore files using data recovery software, you need to:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill on your Mac.
  2. Connect the external hard drive to your computer.
  3. Launch the program and select the hard drive from the disk list.
  4. Click the Search for lost data button to scan for deleted files.
  5. Preview the found files and select those to be recovered.
  6. Click the Recover button to choose a new location to save the files that is not on the same external hard disk to avoid file corruption.
  7. Click the OK button to perform the recovery.

Of course, Disk Drill isn’t the only data recovery software that can help you recover files from an external hard drive on Mac. Also worth exploring are open-source solutions such as TestDisk. Just don’t expect the same level of user interface polish and the same usability. In fact, TestDisk doesn’t even have a graphical user interface. However, it’s completely free, and you can use it to recover an unlimited number of files from external hard drives.

Disk Drill for Windows & macOSFree Download


  • The tool recovers data no longer in the Trash Bin without the need of an available backup.
  • A user-friendly interface enables users of all experience levels to quickly restore their deleted data.
  • All types of disk-based storage are supported including internal drives, memory cards, and external hard drives.
  • You can preview the data that the tool can recover before committing to a paid license.


  • Data recovery software for Mac requires a paid license.

Solution 3: Restore with the help of your local manual data recovery service

If all of these methods to recover files from an external hard drive on your Mac have failed, you can try using a local data recovery service. You should exhaust all other options before going this route, as it is the most expensive option.

How much does professional data recovery cost? The answer to this question depends on several factors, including the exact cause of the data loss, the amount of data to be recovered, and the desired recovery timeframe. Generally speaking, more straightforward data recovery jobs cost between $100 and $1,000, while the cost of more complicated data recovery jobs can easily exceed several thousand dollars.

There are many recovery services available, so we highly recommend you do at least some research before shipping your external hard drive away. Here are several things to look for when choosing a data recovery service:

  • ✍ References: The internet has made it possible for customers to easily share their past experiences. When choosing a data recovery service, we highly recommend you read online reviews published by previous customers because they can tell you a lot of useful information that you can then use to make an educated decision.
  • 💻 Equipment and experience: As we’ve explained in this article, just about anyone can recover lost data using readily available data recovery software applications. However, the best data recovery services have certified cleanrooms and state-of-the-art equipment to also address physical damage and other problems that could make it impossible for data recovery software applications to do their job.
  • 👍 Recovery guarantee: Unfortunately, there are some shady data recovery services that wouldn’t hesitate to take your money just for telling you that your lost files can’t be recovered. To avoid them, consider only companies that are willing to provide a free estimate and return your damaged media at no charge if they cannot finish the recovery.
  • 🌎 Location and availability: Considering that great data recovery services can be found almost anywhere, there’s no point selecting one located on the other side of the world and then dealing with expensive shipping. On the other hand, there’s also no reason not to with a service located in a different state if that seems like the best choice.
  • 🌞 Recovery success rate: The best data recovery services out there proudly display their recovery success for the whole world to see on their website. In general, anything about 98% is considered to be excellent.

By keeping these essential selection criteria in mind when choosing a data recovery service, you should be able to achieve the best recovery results right on the first try.


  • May be able to recover data when other techniques fail.


  • This is an expensive option and the recovery service will often not quote a final price before investigating the drive.
  • It is time-consuming to send your hard drive to the service.
  • Your data is exposed to the technical staff employed by the recovery company.
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This comprehensive application lets you recover files from a hard drive with a few simple clicks.

Most Common External Drive Data Loss Causes

Data can be lost on an external drive for a variety of reasons:

  • Human error – Accidentally deleting files or formatting the wrong drive is the most common reason that data is lost from external storage devices.
  • Malware – Malicious software is another common cause of data loss. Infection with viruses can lead to file corruption and randomly deleted files.
  • Physical damage – Over time the physical disk performance may degrade and result in deleted files and folders.
  • Theft – External hard drives are subject to being stolen because of their portability. While no data recovery technique will resolve this issue, it should be taken into consideration when using these types of devices for important or sensitive information.

Protect your External Hard Drive From Accidental Data Loss

You can take several steps to protect the data on your external hard drive.

  • Make backup copies of the data on the external hard drive. This is considered best practice for any type of storage device. Backups are your best protection against all types of data loss scenarios.
  • Keeping an external hard drive away from potential virus infection is critically important. You may have good antivirus software running on your computer, but you don’t know about your friend’s machine. Avoid connecting your drive to any strange machine to avoid potential infection.
  • Double-check your work before performing data deletion or formatting an external hard drive. It may save you time later if you end up needing to perform a recovery.
  • Secure your external hard drive physically to keep it safe and out of the hands of a potential thief. It’s not paranoia. Someone might steal it if they got a chance.


Before performing a recovery, you need to get your Mac to recognize the drive. Try these methods:

  • Disconnect the drive and try reconnecting it. Use a different port if one is available or another computer to rule out bad interfaces on the first machine.
  • Update Finder preferences to display external drives.
  • Run Disk Utility and try to mount, verify or repair the drive.

Follow these steps to recover files from an external hard drive using the command prompt:

  1. Connect the external drive to your machine.
  2. Open the macOS Terminal
  3. Enter this command: diskutil verifyVolume /Volumes/[drive name] with the name of your external hard drive.
  4. Disk Utility will report errors if they are found. To repair the disk and recover data, enter this command: diskutil repairvolume /Volumes/[drive name].

To recover Mac formatted data from an external hard drive to a PC you need to use data recovery software. Follow this procedure to recover using Disk Drill for Windows:

  1. Connect the drive to your PC. Make sure you do NOT format the drive at this point by clicking Cancel if Windows prompts you for formatting.
  2. Download, install and launch Disk Drill.
  3. Select the drive from the displayed disk list.
  4. Click Search for lost data to scan for found files.
  5. Select the files you want to restore and a new location where they will be stored.
  6. Click Recover to restore the files to the new folder.