How to Recover Deleted Files in a Mac OS X Terminal

by Ashli Norton
hi tech keyboard closeup image by Mograph from

When using your Mac, you may find it necessary to perform a quick cleanup by deleting old files from your document folders, for example, or from the desktop. Following such a cleanup, if you realize that you deleted a few files that you didn't want to delete and need to recover them, there is a way. File recovery is simple using the Mac OS X terminal.

Step 1

Power on your Mac.

Step 2

Click on your "Applications" folder to navigate to the Mac OS X Terminal.

Step 3

Click on the "Utilities" folder.

Step 4

Double-click on "Terminal" to open the application.

Step 5

Type in the following Terminal command: "cd .Trash" (without quotation marks).

Step 6

Hit the "Return" key on your Mac.

Step 7

Key in the name of the file you would like to recover using the following format "mv xxx ../" (without quotations). Replace the "xxx" part of the format with the full name of the file you deleted and now want to recover.

Step 8

Hit the "Return" key on your Mac.

Step 9

Type "Quit" (without quotations) in the Terminal window.

Step 10

Press the "Command" and "F" keys simultaneously to launch the "Finder" window.

Step 11

Enter the name of the deleted file in the search bar at the top right part of the window.

Step 12

Click on the file you found in Finder and drag it onto your desktop or the location you wish to save the file.

Click on the red "X" in the Finder window to close the window.


  • Always back up your Mac to ensure your files remain safely on your computer.
  • Enter the Terminal commands exactly. Entering them incorrectly will not yield a successful file recovery.


Photo Credits

  • hi tech keyboard closeup image by Mograph from

About the Author

Ashli Norton is an Atlanta-based writer and software firm co-founder who has published articles since 2007. Her work has appeared on various Web sites, including eHow and she specializes in writing about Macs, mobile technology, web software, and green living. Norton is an editor for an online tech blog and is earning a Bachelor of Science in public policy from the Georgia Tech University.

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