How do I recover Apple files?

Recovering lost or deleted files from Apple devices like iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers can seem daunting, but is often possible with the right tools and techniques. The exact approach depends on the type of device, the cause of data loss, and other factors. This comprehensive guide will walk you through various data recovery methods for Apple products.

How can I recover deleted files on iPhone or iPad?

If you accidentally deleted photos, contacts, messages or other data from your iPhone or iPad, there are a few ways to try getting them back:

  • Recover from iCloud backup – If you have iCloud backups enabled, you may be able to restore deleted files from your latest backup.
  • Use iTunes or Finder sync – Connect your device to your computer and restore from the latest sync. This recovers data not yet synced to iCloud.
  • Try iOS data recovery software – Specialized tools like PhoneRescue, iMyFone D-Back and iSkysoft can scan your device and recover deleted content even without a backup.
  • Jailbreak method – For advanced users, jailbreaking the device can enable data recovery apps to deeply scan the file system for erased files.

If you act quickly, you have a good chance of getting deleted data back. Don’t save new data to the device or restore to factory settings, as this makes permanent data loss much more likely.

Recovering from an iCloud backup

If you have iCloud backups enabled, you may be able to restore deleted files from a previous backup containing the lost data. Here are the steps:

  1. Go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud > Manage Storage > Backups on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Select the desired backup. Tap Restore to initiate the restore process.
  3. Your device will be restored to the state of the chosen iCloud backup – including any data that was deleted since the backup was made.

This method works well for recovering recently deleted files, as long as you have a backup from before the deletion. Enable frequent iCloud backups to maximize your ability to restore lost data.

Using iTunes or Finder to Restore

If you sync your iPhone or iPad with iTunes on a PC or Finder on a Mac, you may be able to restore from a previous sync and get your files back that way. Here is how:

  1. Connect your device to your computer via USB and open iTunes or Finder.
  2. On your iPhone or iPad, dismiss any prompts about Trust This Computer.
  3. In iTunes or Finder, look for device backups under Preferences > Devices (iTunes) or General tab (Finder).
  4. Select the desired backup containing your deleted files. Click Restore to start.

This process will restore your device state from the chosen backup. If no iCloud backups are available, this iTunes or Finder restore method provides another option for data recovery.

Using Data Recovery Software

When backups aren’t available, you may still be able to recover deleted files from your iPhone or iPad using specialized data recovery software. These tools perform deep scans of your device storage and can often retrieve data even if you have no backup.

Some top options include:

  • PhoneRescue – Recovers up to 31 types of deleted iPhone data.
  • iMyFone D-Back – Claims to recover deleted data even from iOS 15 devices.
  • iSkysoft – Works for various data loss scenarios across many iOS versions.

Make sure to research different software and read reviews to choose a reliable option. Avoid connecting your device to any computer or syncing until recovery is complete.

Jailbreak Method (Advanced)

For technically adept users, jailbreaking an iPhone or iPad can enable deeper scanning and data recovery capabilities. Special jailbreak apps like iFile and iExplorer allow manually browsing the entire iOS file system to search for deleted files. However, jailbreaking comes with security tradeoffs and voids the device warranty.

Recovering Data from an iPhone or iPad Without a Backup

If you don’t have an iCloud or iTunes backup available, data recovery becomes more challenging. However, it can still be possible in some cases using software designed for this purpose.

Recovery software often works by directly scanning your device storage at a low level to find remnants of deleted data. By avoiding syncing and saving new data, more deleted files are likely to remain intact for recovery.

Some things to try:

  • PhoneRescue for iOS – One of the best data recovery apps for iPhone and iPad, specializing in deep scanning with no backup.
  • iSkysoft iPhone Data Recovery – Claims to recover lost data from iOS devices with a high success rate.
  • Tenorshare UltData – Another advanced data recovery tool for retrieving photos, messages, contacts and more.

Performing a successful recovery with no backup requires specific data recovery software, avoiding any syncing or saving new data, and often technical expertise. But this method can bring back lost data when all else fails.

How to Recover Deleted Files and Data from a Mac

There are also several options for recovering recently deleted files from your Mac computer’s internal hard drive and external drives.

Recover Deleted Files from Mac Internal Hard Drive

If you deleted important files from the boot drive of your Mac, there are built-in protections to help you recover them before they are truly erased. Methods include:

  • Trash bin – Recently deleted files sit in the Trash allowing you to restore them.
  • Time Machine – Lets you browse backups and restore lost files via Time Machine interface.
  • Data recovery software – Tools like Stellar Data Recovery scan and recover recently deleted data.

As long as the deleted files haven’t been partially overwritten by new saved data, these methods often make recovery straightforward.

Recovering Data from External Drives

If important photos, documents or other data was deleted from an external USB drive or SD card connected to your Mac, there are several do-it-yourself recovery options:

  • Undelete software – Programs like iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery can restore recently deleted files.
  • Terminal commands – Terminal can sometimes find deleted files if storage not overwritten.
  • Avoid overwriting – Don’t save new data until recovery is complete.

Again, the key is acting quickly before the deleted data is permanently overwritten by new saved files. Don’t format the drive or continue using it until recovery is finished.

Recovering Data from a Corrupted Drive

If you are unable to access data because a drive has been corrupted, recovery gets more complicated. But there are still options to salvage your data:

  • Repair tools – Disk Utility can often fix basic corruption issues and recover data.
  • Send to a professional – For serious corruption, a data recovery expert may be able to recover data in a lab environment.
  • Data recovery software – Some advanced tools claim to restore data even from failing, corroded or crashed drives.

If corruption is severe, you may need to send your drive to a professional recovery company. But avoid this option if possible due to the high costs.

How to Recover Data from a Dead, Broken or Non-Functioning Mac

Getting data off a Mac that won’t turn on can be difficult, but there are a few potential options:

  • Try basic startup fixes – Reset PRAM/NVRAM or boot into Safe Mode to see if Mac starts.
  • Remove drive and connect externally – Use another Mac or enclosure to access data externally.
  • Professional data recovery – Labs can sometimes recover data from failed Macs but at a high cost.

Avoid any DIY repairs on the internal components of a dead Mac, as this can make professional data recovery less likely to succeed later on. Your best path is getting help from an expert service for retrieving data off the storage drive itself.

Tips for Successful Data Recovery on Apple Devices

Follow these best practices when attempting to recover lost or deleted data from your iPhone, iPad, Mac or other Apple devices:

  • Act quickly – Your chances decrease over time as data is overwritten.
  • Avoid actions causing data loss – Don’t restore or sync device or save new files.
  • Backup regularly – Enables easy restore of lost data from backup.
  • Close apps and reduce usage – Less activity means less chance of overwriting.
  • Consider environmental factors – Heat, water exposure etc. can reduce recoverability.
  • Use trusted recovery apps – Research reviews and reputation of any software used.

Staying calm, thinking through next steps, and avoiding panicked clicks can go a long way towards a successful recovery process.


While accidental data loss can be devastating, there are almost always options for recovering deleted or inaccessible files from Apple devices. Quick action to stop additional data overwriting, leveraging backups made previously, and using dedicated recovery software gives you the best chance of restoring lost data.

Always make regular backups a habit, have recovery tools ready before you need them, and follow best practices to maximize recoverability. With some effort and the right approach, you can often get back lost photos, documents, messages and other important data from your Apple gadgets.