How to Restore a Replaced File in Mac OS X

by Charles Miller
notebook computer detail image by davidcrehner from

Until recently, the only insurance against the loss of data has been various laborious back-up routines. Most back-up systems are tedious and rarely foolproof. For Macintosh users, the introduction of Time Machine--as part of Mac OS X 10.5 and later operating systems--has made file back-ups a fairly-reliable automated process. Mac users can now restore lost files quickly and easily.

Step 1

Open the folder where the deleted or over-written file was stored. Close other folders and applications. In the case of an over-written file, rename the new over-written version of the file. This will allow you to place the recovered version of the file into this folder later without having to rename it.

Step 2

Click on the Time Machine icon at the top of the screen. Drag down and select "Enter Time Machine." This will take you into the Time Machine interface.

Step 3

Notice the orientation of the interface. On the right side of the screen in a chronology of back-ups dating from the present to the oldest saved backup of this folder. In the center-bottom is the date of the top displayed folder. Using the navigation arrows at the bottom-right of the screen or the "clickable chronology," navigate back to the time or date containing the version of the file you wish to restore. The folder in question now becomes the top folder.

Click once to highlight the file you wish to retrieve. Click on the "Restore" button in the bottom-right corner. This will exit Time Machine and restore the file into the current version of the folder in the "Finder."


  • When recovering an over-written file in Time Machine, the interface will give you the option of replacing the new version of the file with the old version of the file. If you select this option, you will lose the new version of the file. To avoid this and keep both versions, rename the new version of the file before entering Time Machine to retrieve the original.


  • If your Mac only has room for one internal hard drive and is not connected to a network for back-up, you can add an inexpensive external USB drive for back-ups. This is a great solution for Mac laptop users who can simply connect to the external drive when at home, allowing Time Machine to make back-ups.


Photo Credits

  • notebook computer detail image by davidcrehner from

About the Author

A professional writer since 1993, Charles Miller has written for film, television, and such publications as Ruminator and Film-For-Film. Having also worked as a producer, director, and series creator for projects involving A-level talent, he holds Bachelors of Arts in music and communications science from Washburn University and a Master of Arts in cinema production from the University of Southern California.

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