How to recover deleted photos and music on Mac

Deleting photos of previous memories or music you love can be a gut-wrenching experience. Thankfully, there are ways to recover deleted photos and music and to avoid losing them altogether.

Let's deal with the second point first, as prevention is always better than cure. There are a couple of Setapp apps that can help you avoid losing your precious photos and music should you accidentally delete them.

ChronoSync Express allows you to set up automatic synchronisation of specific folder on your Mac with an external drive. By including your music and photos folders in ChronoSync synchronisation, you'll ensure that if you do accidentally delete the originals, you'll still have a backup.

The other app, Get Backup Pro, allows you to backup your Mac, synchronise folders, archive files or clone your entire Mac. Again, if you include your photos and music in a backup routine, you won't have to worry about losing them if you accidentally delete them.

What if you don't have a backup, though? Thankfully, it's still possible to recover your photos and music in few clicks, using Disk Drill.

How to Recover Photo, Video and Music on your Mac

First of all, stop working on your Mac as soon as you realise that you've deleted photos or music. When you delete a file, it isn't removed from the  disk – only the reference to it in the Finder's file system is removed. If you keep using your Mac, however, eventually the file will be overwritten. It's important not to let that happen. The only thing you should use your Mac for after deleting the files you need to recover, is to run a recovery tool like Disk Drill.

Notice: It's much better if Disk Drill is already on your Mac before you delete the photos or music, because it has a couple of features that make it very easy to recover them. However, most of us don't have that foresight. You can get it from Setapp.

  1. Plug in an external storage drive. It's never a good idea to recover files to the same disk they were deleted from, so plug in an external drive or USB stick to use instead.
  2. Launch Disk Drill. When Disk Drill has launched, click Recover. It will now begin a quick scan of your Mac's disk and you'll see its main window fill up with files and folders as it finds them.
  3. Review the results of the scan. Click the menu at the bottom right of the window and choose 'Files.' You'll see list of the files Disk Drill has found. To help you identify the ones you're looking for, click the 'All Files' menu at the top of the window. If you're trying to recover photos, click 'Pictures'. If you're looking for music, click 'Audio,' Disk Drill will now filter the files in the window and only show those that match your selection.
  4. Preview files. Sadly, recovered files don't retain their name. So the only way to find the photos or music you're looking for is to preview each file one by one. For music, you should listen to each track all the way through to make sure it hasn't been damaged. If you don't listen to it all the way through, you may still be able to recover the file, but the music itself may be incomplete or have random noise instead of the song you were expecting.
  5. Recover photos and music. Once you've previewed the photos or music files Disk Drill has found and are happy that they are what you were looking for, click the checkbox to the left of the file name to mark it for recovery. When you've checked all the files you want to recover, click the location menu in the toolbar and navigate to the external storage drive and create a folder there for recovered music and photos. Choose that as the location. Click Recover and follow any instructions on screen to complete the recovery process.
  6. Rename your files. The recovered files will have names like 'file00001' which isn't very helpful. So, the first thing you'll want to do is rename them. You could do this in the Finder, one file at a time. But Renamer, available in Setapp, allows you to rename files in batches, which is much quicker. It has specific features for both photos and music files. For example, it makes it easy to put the artist and track name in the file name.

Once you've renamed your files, you can copy them back to your Pictures folder in your Home directory. If you want to edit them, Polarr, available in Setapp makes it very easy to add filters and adjust colours and lighting. Also available in Setapp, Pixa allows you to organise your photos quickly and easily and Permute makes it easy to convert them from one format to another.

Another very useful tool available in Setapp is Gemini. It allows you to scan your Mac for duplicates and similar files. Once you've recovered photos and music, it's a good idea to run Gemini. 

As well as telling you if you have duplicate files taking up space on your Mac, it will identify photos taken in the same location of the same subject and from the same angle. That way you can delete the ones you don't need and keep the rest.