Table of Content
    1. Recover the Formatted Hard Drive on Your Mac Using Time Machine
    2. Restore a Formatted Hard Drive on Mac with Wondershare Recoverit
    3. Send Your Mac Hard Drive Disk to a Professional Data Recovery Center

I Accidentally Formatted My Mac Hard Drive. Can I Unformat It?

"HELP ME! I accidentally formatted a hard drive!" -- DoocesWild22 on Apple Community

Yes, it's possible to recover files from a formatted hard drive on Mac under the right circumstances. Mac hard drives formatting doesn't wipe your files (unless the files are overwritten by other files). When you format a hard drive on Mac, the file system of the disk is replaced with a new empty file system. Thus, the entries of all the files and directories saved on the hard drive are cleaned and they are inaccessible.

However, the disk maintains an index file, telling the computer's operating system the place that a particular file is stored. When you format the Mac hard drive, links between index and file are deleted. Those lost files are still physically intact, and you can recover formatted Mac hard drive before they are overwritten by new files.

formatted hard drive data recovery on mac

Depending on the type of formatting and the time that's passed since you've pressed the button, you might be able to recover your valuable files quickly and easily.

Are you ready for a short lecture on hard drive formatting? Here's how it goes:

  • There are two types of hard drive formatting on Mac: Erase and Secure Erase. The first one reorganizes your hard disk, making it seem empty on the surface. The good news is that all your files are still there if you want to get them back. Unfortunately, that's not the case with the Secure Erase in Disk Utility. This process involves overwriting the entire disk with data, ensuring that no previous information can be recovered.
  • Time is the second significant factor that can make or break your chances of data recovery. If you act fast to avoid data overwriting and let your data recovery software for Mac do its thing immediately after formatting, you'll have better chances of unformatting your hard drive on a Mac than if you wait days or weeks.

Now think about it. Did you run a fast or secure format? And how much time has passed? If your odds are looking good so far, stop using your formatted hard drive immediately. Every new file you add to the hard drive can overwrite a file waiting to be recovered, so be careful.

How To Recover Files From a Formatted Hard Drive on Your Mac

Essentially, there are three ways to recover files from a formatted hard drive on Mac.

  1. Lean on Mac's own backup system.
  2. Try locating your files using a really good data recovery tool.
  3. Spend this month's savings on a professional recovery center.

Without further ado, here's how to recover files from your formatted Mac:

Way 1. Recover the Formatted Hard Drive on Your Mac Using Time Machine

Whether you realize it or not, your Mac has a built-in backup feature that automatically saves your hard drive data. Yes, that includes your documents, photos, and personal diary. Automatic backups should be enabled by default unless you've changed the settings and turned it off.

If Time Machine on your Mac was up and running, follow the steps below:

  1. Click the Apple logo in the upper-left corner of the screen. When the menu drops, click on System Preferences to proceed.
    open system preferences on mac
  2. Locate Time Machine in System Preferences and click to open.
    access time machine on mac
  3. The Show Time Machine in the menu bar option at the bottom should be checked. Make sure it is.
    show time machine in a menu bar
  4. Select Enter Time Machine from the menu bar. It will show all your previous backups.
    access previous time machine backups
  5. Locate the files you want to retrieve and click Restore.
    restore data from time machine

Way 2. Restore a Formatted Hard Drive on Mac with Wondershare Recoverit

Recovering data from an active backup should be easy and quick enough, but what if you haven't been able to find any? Perhaps you disabled automatic backup when you first started using your Mac. What happens when the Time Machine lets you down? Is there a plan B you can rely on?

The answer is yes. A good data recovery software will be able to help you out.

Wondershare Recoverit - Data Recovery for Mac is one of the best data recovery tools on the market. This software can dig up lost data in countless data loss scenarios, including human error, accidental or permanent deletion, virus attack, HDD damage, software failure, and formatting. It is compatible with all popular file systems, such as APFS, HFS+, HFSX, NTFS, exFAT, FAT32, and more.

Free Download
Free Download

Wondershare Recoverit is a professional tool, but you don't need any special skills to use it. The process is simple and intuitive. Here's a rundown of recovery steps for a formatted Mac:

  1. Download Wondershare Recoverit from the official website and install it on your Mac.
  2. Launch Wondershare Recoverit and select the formatted hard drive from which you wish to recover data.
    select formatted hard drive in recoverit
  3. Wondershare Recoverit will initiate a scan of your drive.
    scan for lost data in mac formatted hard drive
  4. While waiting for the results, you can observe the progress on the screen, filter the results and pause or stop the scanning.
    filter data recovery results
  5. When the scan is finished, you can preview the files that Wondershare Recoverit was able to find.
    preview data recovery results
  6. Select the desired files and click Recover. Choose where you want to save recovered files and click Save.
    recover formatted hdd data with recoverit
icon note
Note: Do not save the recovered files to the formatted hard drive from which you are recovering data, as this could potentially lead to data overwriting.

In case you've had important videos that didn't show up with the rest of the scan results, you can initiate Advanced Video Recovery. This feature will look deeper for your lost files.

Free Download
Free Download

Way 3. Send Your Mac Hard Drive Disk to a Professional Data Recovery Center

In certain circumstances, unformatting a formatted hard drive on Mac is simply impossible. If you've used Secure Erase and you've overwritten the disk with new files on top of that, you know what we're talking about. In this case, you'll probably need some assistance from a professional.

Professional data recovery centers are not cheap, but they are usually your only option in the situations described above.

How To Recover Files From a Formatted External Hard Drive on Mac

Did you mistakenly format your external hard drive? It happens all the time. Unfortunately, the damage is often greater than when you format an internal hard drive because we usually use external HDDs and SSDs as backup devices. The burning question is – is there a solution for this?

Yes, there is, and it's the same solution we use for reformatting an internal HDD on Mac. You're already familiar with Wondershare Recoverit, so here's how to use it for an external drive:

Free Download
Free Download
  1. Download, install, and launch Wondershare Recoverit for Mac.
  2. Connect the external drive to your Mac and select it under Hard Drives and Locations > External Devices.
    start the mac data recovery software
  3. Wondershare Recoverit will start scanning your formatted external drive for files. You can watch the process and stop it or pause it whenever you want. If you only need to recover a specific file, you can filter the results by file type or keyword.
    scan files in formatted external hard drive
  4. Preview the images, videos, audio files, documents, and other data to decide whether you want to restore them or not.
  5. Select the files you want to retrieve and click Recover.
    recover files from formatted external hard drive on mac
Free Download
Free Download

How To Format Your Mac Hard Drive Without Data Loss

format a mac hard drive

Now that you've learned what formatting does to your hard drive, it's highly unlikely that you will repeat the same mistake ever again. Still, formatting can fix some of the hard drive related logical problems, but also erase all the saved files and folders in the Macintosh HD, so usually, you may not format Macintosh HD. Formatting is only performed for your certain purpose, such as:

  • To remove a deadly virus, which even can't be cleared with anti-virus software.
  • Reinstall operating system to fix boot errors or restore missing system files.
  • Replace the damaged file system or Macintosh HD structures.
  • Clear all data that you don't want from the Mac.

Formatting hard drive can indeed help fix some minor errors on Mac computer. However, it can also bring about data loss. To avoid losing important files from your Mac, some reasonable precautions should be taken.

  • Confirm if you need to format Mac hard drive over and over again.
  • Confirm if the data already existing on the hard drive can be entirely erased.
  • Format the exact hard drive you want to erase data and remove issues.
  • Back up all important data to different safe data storage devices just in case.

Bonus Part: Useful Tips to Protect Data on Mac Hard Drive

As a bonus, we're offering a few tips on how to protect your valuable data on a Mac hard drive:

Tips Description
💽 Backup your Mac hard drive regularly Important data on your computer should be backed up at least once a week. You can set up an automatic backup using Time Machine, a data backup tool, or a cloud service.
⛔ Recognize early warning signs Never ignore strange whirring and clicking signs coming from your computer. Overheating and file corruption are also critical telltale signs of a failing hard drive.
🕷 Protect your data against malware Keep your computer updated and use reliable antivirus software to protect your data from malware, virus infections, and other cyber threats.
💡 Think twice to avoid human error Don't trust pop-up windows and flashy ads offering something for free. Never download suspicious-looking files, click on links from unknown sources, and leave your confidential information online.
💦 Keep your hard drives cool and dry Keep your food and drinks away from your computer.
📝 Stop using in the event of data loss If you notice data corruption or loss on your hard drive, stop using it immediately. Every new file can overwrite existing hard drive data.
🧰 Opt for reliable data recovery tools Unsuccessful data recovery can wipe your disk clean and make it unreadable. This could be your only chance to get your data back, so use a trusty data recovery tool.


  • Can a hard drive be recovered after formatting on Mac?
    Yes, recovering lost data from a formatted hard drive on Mac is possible under the right circumstances. If you've used the quick format option and you haven't overwritten formatted files with new data, you should be able to get back lost files with a good data recovery tool.
  • How do I recover files from my external hard drive after formatting on Mac?
    Recovering data from a formatted external hard drive on Mac is a simple 5-step process:
    1. Connect the formatted external hard drive to your Mac.
    2. Download, install, and launch Wondershare Recoverit for Mac.
    3. Choose the formatted external device to start a scan.
    4. Preview the files that can be recovered.
    5. Select the files you want to retrieve and click Recover.
  • How do I recover permanently deleted files from my Mac hard drive?
    When you permanently delete files from a Mac hard drive, there are two ways you can recover them – using Mac's built-in backup feature Time Machine or with data recovery software like Wondershare Recoverit.
  • How do I format a hard drive on Mac?
    If you need to format a hard drive on Mac, follow these steps. Formatting will wipe your hard drive, so remember to back up your data before you proceed.
    1. Go to the Mac machine and open Disk Utility.
    2. Click on View > Show All Devices.
    3. In the sidebar, select the drive you want to format and click Erase.
    4. Select GUID Partition Map from the Scheme pop-up.
    5. Choose the desired filesystem from the Format pop-up menu.
    6. Type in the disk name and click Erase > Done.
  • How do I unformat a hard drive on Mac?
    You need a reliable data recovery tool to help you unformat a hard drive on Mac and recover the data you've lost in the process. Here's what you need to do:
    1. Download, install, and launch Wondershare Recoverit for Mac.
    2. Select the drive you want to unformat to initiate a disk scan.
    3. Preview the results before you recover data.
    4. Select the files you want to retrieve and click Recover.
  • Can I recover data from a formatted hard drive on Mac for free?
    The only way to recover data from a formatted hard drive on Mac for free is if you run a backup before you format a disk. As a safety measure and precaution against data loss, backup should become a part of your regular maintenance routine.


As you can see, there's a solution for (virtually) every data loss problem. The only thing you need to do is practice precaution and equip yourself with the best tools. Whether or not Time Machine fails you, a tool like Wondershare Recoverit will always come in handy in the event of data loss.

David Darlington
David Darlington May 14, 24
Share article: