It’s happened to us all. Maybe you were in a hurry moving a file. Or maybe you replaced a document with an older version by mistake. Or maybe you just plain weren’t paying attention.
If you’ve worked with computers at all, chances are you’ve accidentally overwritten or replaced files on your Mac before. And sadly, you can’t recover your old version from the trash like other deleted files.
Is It Even Possible To Recover Overwritten/Replaced Files On A Mac?
Yes, it sure is.
When you overwrite or replace a file on a Mac, you aren’t actually deleting that file. Instead, you’re just marking it okay to be overwritten by new data. And until that happens, you may be able to recover it with data recovery software.
Beyond that, backups and certain in-app features make it simple to revert your files to an earlier version, even if you did accidentally replace it with another file.
Methods to Recover Replaced Files On Mac
So, how can you recover overwritten or replace files on Mac?
There are four solutions in particular that are likely to give you the best results:
- Local Backups
- Cloud-Based Backups
- In-App Restore Features
- Data Recovery Software
Local Backup (Time Machine)
The best way to recover files on your Mac is to restore from a backup using Time Machine.
Time Machine is Apple’s built-in backup system. With Time Machine, you don’t have to worry about remembering to back up your important files. Instead, this handy feature takes care of it for you automatically. It also manages your backup data by deleting your oldest backups when your disk becomes full.
Time Machine keeps:
- Local snapshots as space permits (stored on your hard drive).
- Hourly backups for the past 24 hours.
- Daily backups for the past month.
- Weekly backups for all previous months.
To recover replaced files on Mac using Time Machine:
- Make sure your backup drive is connected and open Time Machine from the menu bar or with Spotlight (Command + Space).
- Enter Time Machine.
- Navigate through your backups using the timeline to the right, the arrows, or by clicking the previous version windows.
- Find and select your file. Then click Restore.
- If you’re replacing a newer version of the file, choose Replace. Or you can restore the previous version while keeping both versions.
Time Machine is great for regular backups. But to get the most out of it, you need to keep an external backup drive connected to your Mac throughout the day. And for some, that just might not be feasible.
Cloud backups are a helpful alternative (or supplement) to using Time Machine. These solutions store your data in an offsite location and run backups over the internet—no hard connections required.
Many people will use one of three cloud backup solutions: iCloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive.
Apple’s iCloud service securely stores your data while keeping any changes consistent across all your devices. You can also use iCloud to restore overwritten or replace files on your Mac.
To undo a replaced file on Mac using iCloud:
- Go to iCloud.com and log in to your account using your Apple ID.
- Once logged in, click Account Settings.
- Scroll to the bottom of the page and select Restore Files.
- Find the files you’d like to restore and select Restore.
Dropbox is another cloud-based file storage system. Similar to iCloud, you can configure Dropbox to automatically run backups for certain files or folders on your Mac. If you’ve done so, there are some steps you can take through Dropbox to recover any files you’ve accidentally overwritten.
To recover an accidentally replaced file on Mac using Dropbox:
- Go to Dropbox.com and log in to your Dropbox account.
- Find the file you replaced with a newer version.
- Select version history from the three-dot option dropdown.
- Find the version you’d like to restore.
- Select Restore.
- Confirm you’d like to restore this version.
- You’ll be taken back to the home page and see a success message at the top of the page.
Google Drive is Google’s cloud file storage system. It’s especially convenient if you’re using Google’s file formats like Google Docs or Google Sheets. You can also set up Drive to automatically backup and sync any changes you make on your Mac or through Drive. And luckily, they also make it easy to restore files to a previous version.
To recover replaced files on Mac using Google Drive:
- Go to drive.Google.com and log in to your Google account. Then find the file you’d like to revert to a previous version.
- Open the file and select the version history feature at the top of the page.
- Find and select the version of the file you’d like to restore.
- Click the Restore button.
- Confirm you’d like to restore the file to this version.
Built-In Apps Features
Many modern apps and programs now come with built-in features for restoring files to previous versions. If restoring from Time Machine or cloud storage options don’t work for you, try reverting to other file versions using the steps below.
Microsoft Word and Excel are two of the most widely used programs to date. Many businesses and individuals alike depend on them on a daily basis. Thankfully, there are several options for recovering deleted or unsaved Excel files and Word documents.
To undo a replaced file on Mac through Word, Excel, or other Microsoft Office apps:
- First, open the document you’d like to restore to a previous version.
- Select File from the Menu Bar. Then click Browse Version History.
- Find the version you’d like to restore from the Version History sidebar and click Open Version.
- From here, you can choose to either restore the older version or compare the differences between the two versions.
Apple’s alternatives to Word and Excel, Pages, and Numbers provide similar functionality to their Microsoft counterparts. They also offer options for recovering overwritten files.
To recover overwritten files on Mac using Apple’s native apps like Pages or Numbers:
- Open Pages, Numbers, or another Apple app.
- Find and open the document you’d like to restore to its previous version.
- Click File in the Menu Bar, then Revert To, and then Browse All Versions.
- Similar to Time Machine, you can browse through your version histories using the timeline to the right, the arrows next to the windows, or by clicking the background windows.
- Find the version you’d like to restore and click Restore.
Data Recovery Software
When you replace a file, you aren’t immediately deleting it from your disk drive. Instead, you’re just marking it as being okay to overwrite. That file actually remains intact until you record new data and subsequently overwrite it.
Think of your files as not necessarily being gone but rather invisible.
Data recovery software reads your disk drive and identifies all these invisible files. Then, you can unmark those files and restore them to normal, usable files.
Recommended Data Recovery Software: Disk Drill
We recommend using Disk Drill as your go-to data recovery software. The interface is intuitive and easy to use. The data recovery capabilities are exceptionally powerful (meaning you’re better able to restore your missing files). And there are a host of additional data protection and disk backup tools for you to use.
To learn more about Disk Drill, take a look at our in-depth review.
To recover a replaced file on Mac using Disk Drill:
- Download Disk Drill and install the application by dragging the icon to the Applications folder in the window.
- Open the program. You’ll first see a window showing you how to grand Disk Drill full disk access. Disk Drill requires this access to find your overwritten files.
- Select the drive storing your file. Then click Search for lost data.
- Wait for the scan to finish (this may take a few minutes).
- Once the scan completes, click Review found items.
- Find your overwritten or replaced file. You can preview what your file looks like using the eye icon that appears next to the file name after you select it.
- Select the file and click Recover.
- Choose the location you’d like to restore the file to and select Ok.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are just a few of the most frequently asked questions about recovering replaced files on Mac.
Overwriting or replacing files on your Mac can be nerve-wracking at first glance. And that anxiety is likely to double once you realize your overwritten file bypassed the Trash Bin entirely.
But luckily, the techniques covered in this guide let you recover your files in no time. From Apple’s Time Machine and a bevy of cloud-based options to in-app fixes and data recovery software, you have plenty of recovery solutions to choose from.