How to Restore Deleted Files on Mac Using Time Machine Featured Image

How to Restore Deleted Files on Mac Using Time Machine

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Last updated: September 6, 2023

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Have you ever accidentally deleted a work document, a family photo, or a cherished memory? Regardless of what it was, losing it can be devastating. But lucky for you, Time Machine saves your data on your Mac after intervals, creates versions of it, and you can restore them from the Time Machine backed-up files. 

This guide will show you how to restore deleted files on Mac using Time Machine. So, let’s get started and recover your lost files.

Before We Begin

If you accidentally delete files on your Mac, you can restore them using Time Machine, but what if you manage them in a way that they never get lost? MacKeeper can clear out junk files on your Mac and delete duplicate files to make managing files easier and prevent accidental data loss.

What Is Time Machine and How Does It Back Up Data?

Time Machine is a backup software application developed by Apple for Mac computers. This built-in macOS feature enables you to back up your files and restore them if necessary.

Time Machine backs up files using a process called versioning, which means every time a file is changed, it saves a new copy of the file instead of overwriting the old one. It allows you to go back in time and recover previous versions of a file if necessary.

Time Machine also backs up system files, applications, and settings so you can restore your entire system in case of a disaster.

How to Find and Navigate Through Time Machine Backup Files

After enabling Time Machine, the backup process will automatically begin. Time Machine backups are stored in an external hard drive, a network drive, or a Time Capsule. You can access the backup files by connecting the external drive to your Mac or the network drive or Time Capsule.

Here are the steps for navigating through Time Machine backup files:

  1. Click the Apple icon and select System Settings.
click apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click General and select Time Machine. Alternatively, click the Time Machine icon in the menu bar if you have added it.
click on time machine
  1. Click Browse Time Machine backups. (This will only appear if you have backed up your Mac using Time Machine).
  2. On the right side of the screen, you will see a timeline displaying the backups that have been made.
  3. Use the arrows or scroll bar to navigate through the timeline to locate the backup you want to access.
  4. Once you have found the backup you need, click to open it.
  5. You can now navigate through the backup to locate the accidentally deleted files.

How to Restore Deleted Files on Mac Using Time Machine

You can easily restore accidentally deleted files using Time Machine. If you know exactly which backup, it’ll be easier to locate the backup. But if you don’t know the backup, you can always check and restore. 

Here’s how to restore deleted files on Mac using Time Machine:

  1. Connect the external hard drive or Time Capsule that contains the Time Machine backup files to your Mac.
connect an external hard drive with mac
  1. Click the Time Machine icon in the menu bar or open Time Machine from System Settings.
click on time machine
  1. Navigate through the timeline to locate the backup that contains the deleted files.
  2. Select the files or folders you wish to restore and click the Restore button.
  3. Time Machine will prompt you to confirm the restore process and ask for your administrator password.
  1. Once you confirm and enter your password, Time Machine will start restoring your files.
  2. Wait for the restore process, and the files or folders will be restored to the selected location.

Organize Your Files to Prevent Accidental Deletion of Files

Your Mac is a hub of important information and files with a vast amount of data stored on it. However, with so much information stored in one place, it can be easy to accidentally delete or misplace files, leading to a lot of frustration and potential loss.

While tools like Time Machine can help restore lost files, it’s always better to prevent accidental deletion in the first place. Below, I’ve shared some practical tips for organizing your files on your Mac to keep your important data safe and secure.

1. Use Smart Folders 

Smart Folders are a useful tool for organizing your files on your Mac. These are virtual folders that automatically gather files based on a set of criteria you define. This can include file type, date modified, keyword, or any other metadata associated with the file.

Here are the step-by-step instructions for creating a Smart Folder on your Mac:

  1. Open the Finder, click File in the menu bar, and select New Smart Folder.
click file in the menu bar and select new smart folder
  1. Click the small plus + button in the top right corner to add rules.
click the small plus button in the top right corner
  1. Set the criteria for the folder, such as file type, date created, or keyword. Click Save.
set the criteria such as file type date created or keyword click save
  1. A pop-up window will appear. Rename your Smart Folder and choose a location to save it. Then, click Save. It will automatically save all files that meet your set of rules.
click save on the pop up window

2. Sync Files With iCloud Drive

Syncing your Mac files with iCloud Drive is a great way to keep your files organized and accessible across all your devices. This is especially useful if you work on multiple devices or need to access your files while on the go.

Here are the steps to sync your Mac files with iCloud Drive:

  1. Go to the Apple menu on the top left corner of your screen and click System Settings.
click apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click your Apple ID and select iCloud.
click icloud in apple id
  1. Click iCloud Drive.
click icloud drive in icloud
  1. A new pop-up window will appear. If the iCloud Drive is not enabled, tap the Turn On button and click Done.
tap the turn on button and click done
  1. You can also click Options to select the folders you want to sync with iCloud Drive by checking the box next to each folder. Click Done when finished.
check all options you want to store in icloud
  1. Any files you save to the synced folders will automatically be uploaded to iCloud and can be accessed from other devices signed in to the same Apple ID.
  2. To access your iCloud Drive files, go to Finder and click iCloud Drive in the left-hand menu.
go to finder and click icloud drive in the left hand menu

3. Remove Duplicate Files Using MacKeeper

Managing duplicate files on your Mac can be time-consuming because it serves as a central repository for all your digital assets. Fortunately, MacKeeper can help you identify and delete duplicates on Mac using its Duplicates Finder feature.

Here are the steps to remove duplicate files using MacKeeper:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Open MacKeeper and click the Duplicates Finder tool in the sidebar.
click duplicates finder in the left sidebar
  1. Click Start Scan to start the scanning process.
click start scan in duplicates finder
  1. Once the scan is complete, MacKeeper will display a list of duplicate files on your Mac. Select an item from the list to review duplicates manually.
click an item in the left sidebar 2
  1. Alternatively, click Check All and tap Remove Selected.
click check all and tap remove selected 3
  1. Click Remove on the dialog box to confirm the deletion.
click remove on the pop up window in duplicates finder 3
  1. It will remove duplicate files, and you’ll see a completion notification on your screen. Click Finish to complete the process.
click finish to complete the process 2

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides deleting duplicates, MacKeeper can scan your Mac for malware, free up RAM, and manage login items. Read my detailed MacKeeper review to learn more about its amazing features.

Final Thoughts

Accidental deletion of important files can be a frustrating experience that results in a loss of valuable data. However, you can take the following steps to prevent this from happening in the future:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What if I can’t find the deleted files in the Time Machine backup? 

    If you can’t find the deleted files in the Time Machine backup, try navigating to an earlier backup date or searching for the files using the search function in Time Machine. If the files are still not found, it may be necessary to use third-party data recovery software.

  2. Can I restore files from an older version of Time Machine backup? 

    Yes, you can restore files from an older version of Time Machine backup. When navigating through the backups in the Time Machine app, you can select the backup from when the file you want to restore was still present.

  3. Can I recover deleted files if I don’t have Time Machine backups? 

    You can recover deleted files if you don’t have Time Machine backups using data recovery software. However, there is no guarantee of success. It’s always recommended to have a backup system in place, such as Time Machine, to prevent data loss.

Hashir Ibrahim


I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.



Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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