It doesn’t matter how careful you are or how robust your backup strategy is—you’re never completely safe from data loss. The good news is that the best data recovery software for Mac OS X makes it possible to recover from most data loss situations without any advanced skills or specialized equipment. The only part that’s difficult is knowing which software solutions are actually the best, and our ranking is here to help.
Finding the best data recovery software for Mac is difficult for three main reasons:
The last point explains why it’s common to see one review site praise a data recovery software application and then see another review site give the same application the lowest rating possible.
You could, of course, download dozens of file recovery tools and test them yourself, but that would be extremely time-consuming—not to mention that you should always strive to recover your data on the first try. Experimenting with dubious software while missing important files could have disastrous consequences.
We believe that the best way to find reliable data recovery software for Mac is to read an unbiased comparison such as this one and use your judgment to decide which application can meet your own needs the best.
Here are some of the criteria we take into consideration when comparing available solutions:
The result of our extensive research is a ranked list of the best data recovery software for Mac, with the pros and cons of each application.
The best data recovery software for Mac can save the day when the situation seems utterly desperate, but it can’t address every single data loss situation that you may experience.
When data recovery software can help:
When it’s impossible to recover data using software:
NOTE: Generally, lost data can be recovered for as long as they are physically present on the storage device (=not overwritten) and the storage device itself is in good working order. To increase your data recovery chances, minimize the use of the affected storage device and use the best recovery software available. For more information, read our detailed guide on how to recover deleted files on Mac.
After testing dozens of data recovery software for Mac, we were able to narrow them down to just 10 top applications, and here’s the final list.
Disk Drill Data Recovery for Mac is easily our favorite file recovery software for Mac because it blends usability with impressive data recovery capabilities, something both regular home users and IT professionals can appreciate.
The latest version of Disk Drill for Mac is fully compatible with M1 Macs, and it can recognize over 300 file types, including documents, images, audio files, videos, and archives. Many recoverable files can be previewed directly inside the app, so selecting the right files for recovery is easy.
Bundled with Disk Drill for Mac is an entire collection of useful tools whose shared purpose is to help users better manage their data and prevent its loss. For example, there’s a disk health monitoring, byte-to-byte backup utility, duplicate finder, and even a disk space analyzer.
Besides Mac hard drives and various external storage devices, Disk Drill for Mac can recover iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, making it exceptionally versatile.
DiskWarrior describes itself as the most advanced repair and data recovery tool, and we agree with at least the first half of the statement. Its bread and butter is the reconstruction of damaged directories that cause error messages such as “Invalid node structure” and “Keys out of order.”
With a simple click, DiskWarrior can rebuild the entire directory and make inaccessible files accessible again by fixing issues with file paths, permissions, invalid plists, and more. Its data recovery capabilities are somewhat less impressive, which is understandable considering that it focuses on file system repair and optimization.
What can’t be easily excused, however, is the fact that it doesn’t support Apple File System (APFS) disks. That’s bad news because APFS is the default file system of all modern Macs. Hopefully, Alsoft, the developers of this Mac recovery software, will add APFS support soon.
R-Studio for Mac is powerful data recovery software that can recover files from APFS, HFS+, HFS, FAT, NTFS, ReFS, UFS1/UFS2, and Ext2/Ext3/Ext4 partitions. The latest version supports Mac with Apple’s M1 chip, but it also runs on older Macs with Intel, PowerPC G5, or PowerPC G4 processors.
Aimed at more advanced users and data recovery professionals, R-Studio for Mac has a number of features that regular home users are unlikely to appreciate. A good example is the built-in hex editor, which can be used to view the binary data that constitutes computer files. R-Studio for Mac can also recover files over a network or from damaged RAID arrays, create disk images, and display the S.M.A.R.T. status of a storage device.
All these capabilities don’t come cheap, though. The version that supports network recovery costs $179.99, which is twice as much as most competing software. Fortunately, there’s a more affordable version that has fewer features, so you can choose the one that best meets your needs.
If you have an older Mac and are looking for an easy-to-use Mac data recovery software, then Data Rescue for Mac isn’t a bad choice at all. The application is compatible with all Intel-based Macs running macOS 10.15 Catalina and older (up to macOS 10.12).
When you launch the application, you’re presented with the main window showing just four options. The first two options let you start recovering files and view previous scan results, the third option allows you to duplicate a potentially failing drive, and the last option lets you create a recovery drive so you can safely recover files from your main drive.
Data Rescue for Mac supports two main scanning modes: Quick Scan and Deep Scan. The former takes just a short while to complete because it utilizes existing directory information, while the latter uses advanced recovery techniques to find every recoverable file.
DM Disk Editor and Data Recovery is a relatively unknown Mac data recovery software application that may surprise you with its data searching, editing, and recovery features. The application can run on just about any operating system, including macOS, but its creator recommends Mac users to perform data recovery jobs from a different operating system whenever possible.
If you don’t let that deter you from giving DMDE for Mac a try, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by its support for NTFS, FAT12/16, FAT32, exFAT, Ext2/3/4, HFS+/HFSX, ReFS, and APFS file systems, its capable data recovery algorithms, and its support for national file names, just to name some of its features.
Unlike many other similar software applications, the free version of DMDE for Mac can recover lost files, but there are two limitations that you need to keep in mind. First, you can only recover files from one directory at a time. Second, you can’t recover more than 4,000 files in one go.
EaseUS is a name with a lot of weight and recognition behind it, and its data recovery software for Mac, called EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac, has received many raving reviews over the years. The latest version runs on macOS Big Sur and older (up to Mac OS X 10.9), and it brings to the table a number of advanced functionalities to address all kinds of data recovery scenarios.
One feature that stood out, is the ability to recover lost files directly to cloud storage services, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive. This feature solves the problem that happens when you want to recover data from your main system drive but don’t have any other storage device where you could store them.
Besides a long feature list, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac boasts a three-step data recovery process that makes it accessible even to users who have no previous experience with data recovery.
Stellar Data Recovery for Mac is a newbie-friendly data recovery tool for macOS Big Sur and lower. It offers full support for APFS, HFS, HFS+, FAT, and NTFS drives, and it is one of only a few tools of its kind that can recover any file format.
That’s right, Stellar Data Recovery for Mac lets you define your own custom file types to extent the already long list of supported file formats. All you need to do is enter the file format header and include at least 10 sample files.
Stellar Data Recovery for Mac can successfully recover files even from Macs that display the spinning beach ball of death thanks to its ability to create a bootable recovery drive. All these and other features are designed with regular users in mind, so it doesn’t take much effort to figure out how to use them.
PhotoRec for Mac is certainly one of the more intimidating data recovery software applications featured in this article. The main reason for this is the fact that it doesn’t have a graphical user interface—at least not by default. Users who are not comfortable with the terminal sometimes avoid PhotoRec entirely, and that’s a huge shame because it has a lot to offer.
To start with, it can recover hundreds of file formats from all kinds of storage devices, and it uses read-only access to avoid causing more harm than good. Best of all, PhotoRec is completely free and unlimited. The application’s source code is publicly available, so you could theoretically modify how it works.
There’s an optional graphical user interface for PhotoRec, called QPhotoRec, which makes the software much easier to use, but it lags behind in terms of functionality.
From a distance, it may seem that TestDisk for Mac is the same data recovery software as PhotoRec for Mac. That’s somewhat true because both applications can be used to recover lost data, but TestDisk can do even more. It can recover lost partitions and/or make non-booting disks bootable again.
Just like PhotoRec, TestDisk is intended to run in the Terminal app, so make sure to carefully read the official guide before you start messing with it. The good news is that the guide does a great job of explaining how the software works in a step-by-step fashion, and there are also plenty of instructional videos online.
The easiest way to install TestDisk on modern Macs is with Homebrew, a package manager for macOS. Homebrew itself can be installed with a single command, and it then takes just one extra command to install TestDisk.
Lazesoft is a completely free data recovery software for Mac that lets you recover an unlimited amount of data without paying a single dollar. Of course, you can’t reasonably expect a completely free data recovery software application to rival premium software in terms of features and usability.
Indeed, Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery is anything but attractive, and it doesn’t even support the APFS file system, which is what all newer Macs use by default to store data on internal storage devices. The only file systems it does support are HFS/HFS+, FAT, FAT32, NTFS, and EXFAT.
Free technical support is provided via email and the personal handling it actually tries to answer all questions quickly and comprehensively. All in all, we would recommend Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery to users who are attempting to recover files that are not critically important and do so without paying any money.
Data recovery software for Mac uses sophisticated algorithms to find files that are still present on the storage device where they were located before their deletion but are no longer accessible from macOS. Depending on which software application you choose, you should be able to recover everything from documents to multimedia files from any Mac-compatible storage device, both internal and external.
Read more: How to recover deleted files from an SD card
In many cases, the only difference is the amount of data that you can recover. That’s because many vendors offer limited versions of their paid data recovery software solutions to give users a chance to try them out before spending any money. Such applications usually let you scan your storage device to see if your files can be recovered, requiring you to purchase a license to actually recover them.
Yes, using reliable and trustworthy data recovery software on your Mac is completely safe. We say reliable and trustworthy because there are some data recovery applications that have more in common with malware than helpful software. It goes without saying that such applications should be avoided at all costs. Instead of wasting time on software that doesn’t do what it promises to do, stick with the top 10 best Mac data recovery software applications described in this article.