How to Recover Deleted Files From SD Card on Mac

Accidental deletion of files on an SD card is a common occurrence that can happen to anyone. Not everyone knows how to handle this situation effectively. This article provides a guide on recovering deleted files from an SD card on a Mac, offering insights into reliable recovery strategies. Learn how to approach data loss with confidence and regain access to your important files.

Is it Possible to Recover Deleted Files from SD Card on Mac

When you delete files from an SD card on macOS, they are not immediately lost forever. If you delete files while the SD card is connected to your Mac, the files move to the trash, allowing for a simple recovery. However, if the files were deleted from an SD card using a camera or another device, such as a Windows PC, they bypass the trash and are directly marked for deletion, though they still occupy the physical space until overwritten. This setup keeps the door open for recovery using specialized software, but several factors critically impact the likelihood of successfully restoring your files.

  • Type of Data Loss: The nature of the data loss—accidental deletion, formatting, or corruption—plays a significant role in recovery possibilities.
  • Time Elapsed Since the Loss: The sooner you attempt recovery after data loss, the better the chances of successful recovery, as ongoing usage can overwrite the data you aim to restore.
  • 💾 SD Card Usage Post-Deletion: Continuing to use the SD card after data loss can severely diminish recovery prospects, as new data can overwrite the deleted files.
  • ✂️ Support for TRIM on Digital Cameras and SD Cards: Some digital cameras and SD cards support the TRIM command, which actively erases files and makes recovery impossible once it’s triggered.
Understanding these factors helps set realistic expectations for the recovery process and guides you in taking immediate and effective action to maximize the chances of retrieving your valuable data.

Immediate Steps After Data Loss on a Mac SD Card

When you realize that you’ve lost data on your SD card, the steps you take next are crucial in determining the success of your recovery efforts. Immediate action can significantly influence the outcome, helping to ensure that your files remain recoverable.

  1. 🛑 Stop Using the SD Card: Cease all write operations on the SD card. Continuing to use the card for storage or even accessing it can overwrite the data you want to recover.
  2. ⬆️ Safely Remove the SD Card: Disconnect the SD card from your device properly, avoiding any abrupt removal that might cause further damage or data corruption.
  3. 🛡️ Keep the SD Card Safe: Store the SD card in a secure, dry place to avoid physical damage and environmental factors that could compromise the data recovery process.
  4. 👀 Enable Read-Only Mode: When you’re ready to recover the files, activate the read-only mode on the SD card to preserve its current state completely.
    However, if you use a file system recovery tool such as TestDisk, keep the SD card unlocked so that you can write the file system back to the SD card.

By taking these initial steps, you establish a solid foundation for the recovery process, greatly enhancing the chances of successfully restoring your lost data.

Check Your Trash Bin to Recover Deleted Files from SD Card on Mac

When you delete files from an SD card that’s connected to a Mac, the files aren’t permanently lost immediately; instead, they’re moved to the Trash. This provides an easy and immediate option to recover your files without the need for additional software. Here’s how you can restore them:

  1. Open the Trash: Click on the Trash icon in your Dock. This will open the folder containing all recently deleted files.
  2. Locate Your Files: Browse through the contents of the Trash to find the files you’ve deleted from the SD card. You can search by file name if you remember it, or sort the files by date deleted to help locate them more quickly.
  3. Restore the Files: Once you find the files, you can restore them by right-clicking on the file and selecting “Put Back,” which will move the files back to their original location on the SD card. Alternatively, you can drag the files from the Trash to your desktop or another folder on your Mac.put back files from trash bin to sd card

This method is quick and effective but only works if the Trash has not been emptied since you deleted the files from the SD card. If the Trash has been emptied or the files aren’t there, you’ll need to consider data recovery software like Disk Drill or PhotoRec, as described in the following sections.

How to Recover Files from an SD Card on Mac Using Third-party Software

Recovering lost files from an SD card on your Mac requires powerful tools that can navigate the complex data structures and recover the data intact. In this guide, we focus on two such tools—Disk Drill and PhotoRec. Each of these applications was specifically chosen for their effectiveness in recovering deleted files from an SD card on a Mac. PhotoRec stands out due to its free access and robust performance, making it a go-to option for those who need a reliable but cost-effective solution. On the other hand, Disk Drill is renowned for its comprehensive recovery capabilities, offering a user-friendly interface that caters to both novice users and professionals alike.

While Disk Drill allows for free scanning and previewing of recoverable files, it’s important to note that recovering files requires an upgrade to the Pro version. This investment, however, can be invaluable for recovering critical data across various loss scenarios.
You can read our ranking of the best SD card data recovery software for Mac and choose the program you like.

The following sections will provide detailed step-by-step guides on how to use both Disk Drill and PhotoRec for recovering your lost data from SD cards on a Mac, giving you all the information you need to choose the right tool for your situation.

Method 1: Recover Deleted Files from SD Card With Disk Drill on Mac

Disk Drill for Mac is a comprehensive data recovery software that stands out for its extensive capabilities and user-friendly design. The following features make Disk Drill a preferred choice for macOS users:

  • Supports Multiple File Systems: Disk Drill can recover data from a variety of file systems, including exFAT, FAT32, APFS, and more, making it highly versatile.
  • Extensive File Signature Support: With the capability to recognize almost 400 file signatures, Disk Drill can retrieve a wide array of file types.
  • User-Friendly Interface: Disk Drill features a well-designed interface that includes options for previewing a large number of file types, facilitating easier identification and recovery of data.
  • Free Version Availability: Users can download a free version of Disk Drill, which allows for full scanning and previewing of files. This enables users to test the software’s functionality thoroughly before deciding to purchase the Pro version for actual data recovery.

These advantages position Disk Drill as an ideal recovery solution, combining ease of use with powerful recovery options to effectively address a variety of data loss situations on Mac. Recover deleted files from SD card with following steps:

  1. Secure the Connection of Your SD Card: Ensure that your SD card is securely connected to your Mac using a card reader. Verify that the card is recognized by your system, open Disk Utility and see if it is displayed with the correct size.
  2. Download and Install Disk Drill: Navigate to the official Disk Drill website, download the Disk Drill software for Mac, and install it by following the provided instructions.Install Disk Drill for macOS
  3. Launch Disk Drill: You can launch Disk Drill by using Spotlight search or by finding it in the Applications folder within Finder.
  4. Select Your SD Card: Once Disk Drill opens, it will display all connected storage devices. Select your SD card from the list of drives and click on ‘Search for lost data’ to start the scanning process.Select SD card and start scan
  5. Review Found Items: After the scan completes, click ‘Review found items’. In the Existing tab, you’ll see data currently on your SD card; clicking on a file will display a preview in the right panel. The Deleted or Lost tab contains recoverable deleted files. If the files were found by signatures, you will find them in the Reconstructed found data in Disk Drill
  6. Recover Your Files: Select the files or folders you wish to restore and click ‘Recover’. Choose to save the recovered files either on your Mac or an external drive—but not back on the SD card, as this may overwrite your data. Use the ‘Choose destination’ button to select a specific folder. Click ‘Next’ to start the recovery of the files that disappeared from your SD card.Select recovery location for files in Disk Drill

By following these steps, you should be able to effectively recover your lost data using Disk Drill for Mac. Remember, while Disk Drill allows free scanning and previewing, recovery of files requires an upgrade to the Pro version.

Method 2: Recover Files from SD Card for Free with PhotoRec on Mac

PhotoRec is a formidable tool in the arsenal of data recovery solutions, particularly favored for its technical prowess and versatility. The following benefits make PhotoRec especially appealing:

  • Cost-free: PhotoRec is completely free, making it accessible to everyone without financial commitment.
  • Supports a Wide Range of File Signatures: It can recover numerous file types due to its comprehensive support for different file signatures.
  • File System Independence: PhotoRec ignores the file system, focusing instead on underlying data signatures, which makes it effective even with severely corrupted or unrecognized file systems.
  • No Need to Install the Application: You can run PhotoRec directly after extracting it, which simplifies the process and reduces potential risks of overwriting data on your system.
  • Includes TestDisk: PhotoRec comes bundled with TestDisk, a powerful tool that specializes in repairing and recovering file systems, enhancing its utility.

This combination of features positions PhotoRec as a highly effective tool for recovering files under a variety of challenging conditions, providing users with a robust solution for their data recovery needs. Here’s how to use PhotoRec to recover data from your SD card:

  1. Download and Extract PhotoRec: Visit the official PhotoRec website to download the software package. Extract it on your Mac. Alternatively, PhotoRec can also be installed via Homebrew.Install testdisk via Homebrew
  2. Open Terminal: Navigate to Applications > Utilities on your Mac and open Terminal.
  3. Navigate to PhotoRec directory: In Terminal, use the ‘cd’ command to change directories to where you extracted PhotoRec. Type ‘cd [path-to-PhotoRec-folder]’, replacing ‘[path-to-PhotoRec-folder]’ with the actual path. If you installed PhotoRec via HomeBrew, just skip to the next step.
  4. Run PhotoRec: Type ‘./photorec’ (or ‘sudo photorec’ if you install PhotoRec via HomeBrew) in the terminal and press Enter to start the program. Enter your Mac’s password if prompted for administrative privileges.
  5. Select Your SD Card: PhotoRec will display a list of connected storage devices. Use the arrow keys to select your SD card and confirm your selection with the on-screen prompts.Select SD card in PhotoRec
  6. Choose File Types to Recover: PhotoRec allows you to specify which types of files to recover, enhancing the efficiency of the recovery process by focusing on specific file types.Select file types for recovery in PhotoRec
  7. Start the Recovery: Follow the prompts to select the location on the SD card where the files were stored and begin the recovery. PhotoRec will save the recovered files in a directory on your Mac, as specified during the setup.PhotoRec recovery process

While PhotoRec’s interface is more technical and lacks a graphical user interface, its effectiveness in recovering deleted files from challenging scenarios is exceptional. In addition to PhotoRec, there is another tool called TestDisk, also available for free, that complements the data recovery process by focusing on repairing damaged file systems. Unlike PhotoRec, which recovers files based on their data signatures, TestDisk works by restoring the functionality of a damaged system. It does this by fixing the boot sector or restoring the partition table, which are crucial components for accessing the full file system on the SD card. This makes TestDisk particularly useful for situations where the SD card is not just missing files but also has issues like a corrupted partition table or damaged boot sector that prevent normal access.


To recover photos you accidentally deleted from your SD card, you can use data recovery software like Disk Drill or PhotoRec. Both tools offer the capability to scan your SD card and recover deleted files, including photos. Follow the step-by-step guide provided in this article for using either software to maximize your chances of recovery.
Yes, you can still recover files from a corrupted SD card. Recovery depends on the extent of the corruption and whether the data has been overwritten. Using recovery tools like Disk Drill or PhotoRec, which can handle file recovery from corrupted file systems, increases your chances. If the file system is severely damaged, using TestDisk (bundled with PhotoRec) to repair the file system before attempting recovery might be necessary.
Recovering deleted files from an SD card on a Mac without software can be challenging and is generally not recommended because it increases the risk of data loss. However, if you recently deleted the files and have not emptied the Trash, you may find them there. Otherwise, using recovery software is the safest method to retrieve deleted data without causing further damage.

To increase your chances of successfully recovering deleted files from an SD card, follow these tips:

  • Stop using the SD card immediately: Continuing to use the SD card can overwrite the data you want to recover.
  • Use a reliable recovery tool: Employ a trusted data recovery software like Disk Drill or PhotoRec to perform the recovery.
  • Handle the SD card carefully: Avoid physical damage and protect the SD card from extreme temperatures and static electricity.
  • Enable read-only mode: If possible, turn on read-only mode on the SD card to prevent any changes while attempting recovery.

These steps help maintain the integrity of the deleted files and improve the likelihood of a successful recovery.

If you have accidentally formatted your SD card, don’t worry—data recovery is still possible. The first step is to stop using the SD card immediately to avoid overwriting the data. Then, use a reliable data recovery software such as Disk Drill or PhotoRec, which are designed to recover data from formatted storage devices. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Install recovery software on your Mac.
  2. Connect the SD card and launch the software.
  3. Select the SD card and start a scan.
  4. Preview and save recoverable files to your Mac.

Following these steps should help you retrieve most, if not all, of your data from a formatted SD card.


This guide has provided detailed instructions for using both Disk Drill and PhotoRec to recover lost data from SD cards on a Mac. By understanding the unique features and following the step-by-step processes of these tools, you are equipped to handle data recovery tasks effectively. As data loss can occur unexpectedly, having these tools ready and understanding their capabilities are key to managing potential data recovery situations.

Oleksandr Lukashyn is a QA specialist at InsanelyMac, ensuring technical accuracy across content for macOS, iOS, and iPadOS. He recently began writing articles himself, drawing on his expertise to explain complex topics. Team members rely on him for clear explanations and solutions to technical problems.
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