How to Recover Deleted Files from SD Card on Mac

Accidentally formatting the wrong SD card or deleting an important file doesn’t have to lead to permanent data loss. In this article, we explain several techniques and solutions that make it possible to recover files from an SD card.

Because of their compact dimensions, affordable price, and growing storage capacity, SD cards have become one of the most commonly used storage devices in the world. They can be found in everything from digital cameras to smartphones to security cameras. As a result of their widespread usage, there are many people who have experienced SD card-related data loss. The good news is that solutions to recover from it exist, and Mac users can choose between quite a few of them.

Way #1: Recover Deleted Files from an SD Card Trash

Deleting the wrong files by accident on a Mac computer isn’t the end of the world it may seem to be at first. That’s because deleted files are first moved to the Trash folder, and they stay there until the Trash folder is emptied. Before that happens, you can recover them with ease! Here’s how:

  1. Click the Trash icon at the right-hand end of the Dock.
  2. Find your files and select them.
  3. Right-click any of the selected files and choose the Put Back option.
Recover Deleted Files from an SD Card Trash

If you can’t find your files after clicking the Trash icon at the right-hand end of the Dock, then we recommend you unhide the actual Trash folder located on your SD card:

  1. Launch Finder and navigate to the root directory of your SD card.
  2. Press Command + Shift + . (dot).
  3. Open the .Trashes folder and go to Bin.

All files that have ever been deleted from the SD card should be located in the Bin folder on the SD card, and you can simply move them to any location you want to recover them.

You can also display the content of the .Trashes folder using a simple Terminal command:

ls /Volumes/nameofSDcard/.Trashes

You can then move files from the folder using the mv command. Keep in mind that these and other commands can be used to display and manipulate the content of the .Trashes folder only when the Terminal.app has Full Disk Access in the security settings.

Unhide SD Card Trash folder on Mac

Note: Deleted files will remain in the .Trashes folder until you empty the main system Trash, format the SD card, or safely eject it. Once that happens, the files will become permanently deleted and recoverable only using SD card recovery software.

Can Permanently Deleted Files be Recovered from an SD Card?

Yes, permanently deleted files can often be recovered from the SD card on which they were stored (including files that are no longer present in Trash and files that have been formatted) —but not always.

When a file becomes permanently deleted, such as when you empty the Trash folder, the file doesn’t immediately disappear from the storage device. The operating system only updates the file system to mark it as permanently deleted, but the actual data physically remains on the SD card until new data is written to the same location on the flash memory chip.

Before that happens, you can use an sd card recovery software to analyze the SD card and retrieve permanently deleted files. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to know exactly when overwriting will happen, so it’s best to begin data recovery as soon as possible.

SD card connected to Mac

What About Corrupted Files and Physically Damaged SD Cards?

Files may become corrupted for a variety of different reasons, including system crashes, power outages, software bugs, and malware. When corruption occurs, the affected files may be impossible to open, or they may disappear completely—it all depends on the type and extent of the corruption.

Mac data recovery software can identify corrupted files that are still physically located on the flash memory chip and recover them. Just know that the recovered files may be partially damaged.

What even the best SD card recovery software can’t do is recover files from SD cards that have been physically damaged. A professional data recovery center may be able to repair the damage or extract data from the flash memory chip directly, but that’s only because professionals have access to sophisticated equipment.

Recover files from a damaged SD card on Mac

Way #2: Use SD Card Recovery Software

As we’ve explained in the previous section, permanently deleted files can be recovered using SD card recovery software applications. Such applications are available from a number of different vendors, each offering a slightly different mix of features, usability, and compatibility—at prices ranging from free to expensive.

For the purposes of this tutorial, we will use an SD card recovery software called Disk Drill. Here’s why:

  • You can download Disk Drill for free and use it to preview all recoverable files.
  • Disk Drill is a native Mac application that supports the latest version of macOS running on Mac computers with Apple silicon.
  • Using Disk Drill, you can recover hundreds of file formats from all storage devices that can be recognized by your Mac.
  • Included with Disk Drill are several useful tools that you can use to manage your files and prevent data loss.
  • Disk Drill has received countless positive reviews from professional reviewers as well as regular users.

Includes your data recovery chances: You can greatly increase your data recovery chances by avoiding writing any new data to the SD card you want to recover. Better yet, use the Lock switch on the left side of the SD card to prevent your SD card reader from writing new data to the card.

How to Recover Deleted Files from an SD Card Using Disk Drill

Disk Drill makes it easy to recover deleted files from an SD card in a few simple steps:

Step 1 Connect the SD card to your Mac

For Disk Drill to do its job, your SD card must be recognized by your Mac computer. Hopefully, it will show up automatically in Disk Utility when you insert it into your memory card reader. If not, then you first need to figure out the cause of the SD card not showing up on Mac and fix it.

Step 2 Download, install, and launch Disk Drill

You can download Disk Drill from its official website, and install it just by dragging the application icon into the Applications folder.

When you launch Disk Drill for the first time, macOS will check for malicious software, which is something that happens with all applications that don’t come from the App Store. You will then go through a brief initial setup process whose purpose is to configure basic diagnostics & usage settings and give Disk Drill the permissions it needs to do its job.

Recover Deleted Files from an SD Card Using Disk Drill

Step 3 Scan the SD card

To scan your SD card, all you need to do is select it from the list of available storage devices and logical volumes and click the Search for lost data button. Disk Drill will automatically run all recovery methods in the optimal order.

Step 4 Preview & select deleted files

Disk Drill can preview recoverable files, and we highly recommend you do so before you add any file to your recovery queue. When a file can be successfully previewed, it means that the file is not corrupted and can be recovered.

Restore Deleted Photos from an SD Card Using Disk Drill for Mac

Step 5 Recover selected files from an SD card to a safe location

To recover selected files to a safe location, click the Recover button and specify a safe recovery destination. Essentially, you can choose any directory that’s not located on the SD you’re currently recovering.

How to Recover Deleted Files from SD Card on Mac — FAQs

Can I recover deleted files from a CF card?

CompactFlash (CF) cards are, just like SD cards, flash memory mass storage devices, and they’re used primarily in digital cameras. Because they rely on the same technology, you can recover them using readily available data recovery software solutions.

Is it possible to recover RAW photos from an SD card?

Yes, it’s possible to recover RAW photos from an SD card, but only if you use a data recovery software application that can recognize them, such as Disk Drill.

What is the best SD card recovery software?

As a Mac user, you can choose from multiple SD card recovery software solutions. These are the best tools currently available according to our experience:

  1. Disk Drill for Mac - best for photo & video recovery
  2. PhotoRec for Mac - best freeware
  3. R-Studio for Mac - best customer support
  4. DMDE for Mac - best for advanced users
  5. UFS Explorer for Mac - best for corporate use