If you're looking for missing files after the latest Mac update, you're not alone. Though you get a perfect Mac update in most situations, updating your macOS may expose you to various troubles, such as the "Missing files after Mac update" error prompt.

Thankfully, with advanced backup and data recovery software solutions, you can retrieve your lost files after a Mac update to Sonoma, Venture, Monterey, Catalina, Big Sur, etc. Read on to learn why the Mac update deleted everything and how to recover the missing files.

Table of Content
    1. Recover Files With a Recovery Tool (Wondershare Recoverit)
    2. Check All Folders on Mac Using the Go to Folder Option
    3. Recover Lost Files After Mac Update Using Time Machine
    4. Retrieve Missing Files After Mac Update From iCloud Backup
    5. Log Into a Different Administrator Account
    6. Recover Lost Data After Mac Update Using APFS Snapshot
    7. Reinstall macOS
    8. Restore Lost Files by Downgrading Your OS Version
    9. Contact Apple Support

How Can Updating Mac Delete Files

Does upgrading your macOS delete files? Typically, a Mac update won't delete data, meaning an update won't delete your personal files and system data. If the latest Mac update deleted everything, there may be several different causes behind this:

  • Unsuccessful or interrupted macOS installation;
  • Your Mac hard disk didn't have enough free space to store the update files, so it removed your files to ensure a successful update;
  • Your Mac hard drive is corrupted or damaged;
  • The update included corrupted system files;
  • MacOS system incompatibility issue;
  • Virus or malware infection deleted your files after an update;
  • Sudden power loss interrupted the updating process and caused file loss;
  • Disk fragmentation caused data loss after an update;
  • Poor Mac performance or a system glitch;
  • You've used a guest account to update your macOS;
  • You've accidentally moved your Mac files to Trash or another location.

These causes here are just the tip of the iceberg. What matters is that you can recover the missing files after a Mac update.

9 Ways to Recover Lost Files After Mac Update

Here are the best ways to recover missing files after a Mac update.

Way 1: Recover Files With a Recovery Tool (Wondershare Recoverit)

The easiest and most reliable way to recover files after a macOS update is to use a professional data recovery tool. Rated as a Leader in Data Recovery by G2 users, Wondershare Recoverit is among the top options. It allows you to recover deleted, damaged, corrupted, and lost files, regardless of the cause.

Wondershare Recoverit
  • Recovers data from 2000+ storage media, including HDDs, SSDs, USB drives, SD cards, etc.
  • Enables recovery of data lost due to system crash, disk corruption, virus attack, and more.
  • The user-friendly interface allows you to recover data in just a few clicks.
recoverit boxrecoverit logo

Download and install the latest Wondershare Recoverit version for Mac and launch the program on your computer. Follow these steps to recover your Mac files:

  1. Navigate to the main menu and select Hard Drives and Locations;
  2. Find and click the Mac hard drive with lost files;
    select the mac drive with lost files
  3. The program will automatically scan the selected drive for recoverable files;
    scan the selected hard drive for missing files
  4. Preview the scanning results to select the files you want to retrieve. If your documents or photos are corrupted, Recoverit will automatically repair them during the preview process.
    preview the recoverable files
  5. Click Recover to get your lost files back and save them to a new location.
    choose location to save the recovered files
Free Download
Free Download

Way 2: Check All Folders on Mac Using the Go to Folder Option

It is a common situation to find all your desktop files or icons have disappeared on your Mac. This scenario is common among Mac users and happens suddenly and without explanation.

If that's the case with you, you can fix this by checking all files and folders on your computer using the Go to Folder option before attempting data recovery. This option gives you the latest overview of all files and folders on your Mac.

Here's how to use it to scan your Mac for lost files after an update.

  1. Navigate to the Apple Menu and click the Go tab;
  2. Select Go to Folder;
    use go to folder
  3. Type the file or folder's pathname to locate the missing files (try to spell as best as you can);
  4. Open the file or folder you want to recover to check the content before recovery.

If this option doesn't help find your files, the following Mac data recovery techniques might give the desired results.

Way 3: Recover Lost Files After Mac Update Using Time Machine

Time Machine is a built-in data backup and recovery utility for macOS. It can help you backup all your Mac data and files to an external storage device. In case you lose all your data to a faulty Mac update, you can use a Time Machine backup to start again.

Time Machine can back up all your files, including calendars, documents, music files, photos, video files, etc. Connect your external backup device to your computer and follow these steps to recover your Mac files after an update.

  1. Go to Finder and use the search bar to locate Time Machine on your Mac;
  2. Navigate the menu bar to Time Machine and select Browse Time Machine backups;
  3. If you can't locate Time Machine in the menu bar, navigate to Apple menu > System Settings > Control Centre > Time Machine > Show in Menu Bar;
    enter time machine
  4. Select the backup version (folders and files) you want to recover and click Restore;
  5. Follow the instructions to retrieve your files.

Way 4: Retrieve Missing Files After Mac Update From iCloud Backup

If you have set up iCloud backup, you can use one of your file copies to restore your lost files after Mac update. Log into your iCloud account and follow these steps to recover lost files from an iCloud backup.

  1. Navigate to iCloud Drive;
    enter icloud drive
  2. Click the Recently Deleted folder to see if it contains your recently deleted files;
  3. Check other folders as well (if Recently Deleted doesn't contain the files you want to recover);
    locate the missing files in the icloud drive
  4. Once you find the files you want to recover, select them and click Recover.

Way 5: Log Into a Different Administrator Account

Logging into a different user account can also help you find your missing Mac files. Sometimes, a Mac update deletes your old user account profile.

However, the home folder remains after deletion, making file recovery possible. All you need to do is add your old account back, log into it, and search for your files.

Here's how.

  1. Click the Apple icon and select Log out xxx (your username);
  2. Use your previous account credentials to log into your old account and search for the missing files;
  3. If you can't log in using your old profile, try the alternative route: Apple icon > System Preferences > Users & Groups;
    login old mac account to recover missing files
  4. Click the padlock and enter your old password to restore your old account;
  5. Log into your old account and locate the missing files.

Way 6: Recover Lost Data After Mac Update Using APFS Snapshot

Mac computers allow you to use the recovery tool to retrieve your data from an APFS snapshot. This option is similar to the System Restore option in Windows OS.

Every time your macOS receives an update, it will automatically take a snapshot of the data, files, and folders you have stored on your computer. That is if you have enabled snapshots by agreeing to the license terms.

An APFS snapshot contains the current state of your macOS, including the latest macOS version, your files, the health of the target hard disk, etc. If your hard drive is APFS-based, follow these steps to restore your macOS to the previous state using APFS snapshot.

  1. Restart your computer and press and hold the Command and R keys to enter Recovery Mode;
  2. In the macOS Utilities menu, select Restore From Time Machine Backup and click Continue;
    restore from time machine backup in recovery mode
  3. Select the APFS snapshot of the Mac startup disk and click Continue;
    select the apfs snapshot you want to recover
  4. Select the snapshot you want to retrieve your files from and click Continue;
    select the snapshot you wish to restore from
  5. Your Mac will reboot automatically when the recovery process is complete.

After your Mac restarts, look for the lost files to see if the process was successful.

icon note
Note: The APFS snapshot feature will only work if the target hard disk is formatted with APFS file system.

Way 7: Reinstall macOS

If the methods above didn't help you find your missing Mac files, you can try reinstalling macOS. The system reinstallation will perform a quick deletion of the system drive volume and erase the target file directory. However, it won't overwrite the data stored on the drive, so your original personal files will be saved.

When the latest Mac update deletes everything on your current macOS version, Mac reinstallation allows you to use the macOS Recovery system to restore your system and personal files from the previous version of your operating system.

Here's how to boot into the Options menu on Intel and Apple Silicon Macs.

Intel Macs:

Press and hold the Command + R + Power button until the Apple logo screen appears.

Apple Silicon Macs:

Press and hold the Power button until the startup options screen appears.

Follow these steps to reinstall macOS.

  1. In the Startup options window, select Reinstall macOS Monterey and click Continue;
    use startup options to reinstall macos
  2. Select the system hard drive as a startup disk and select Install;
  3. Follow the installation wizard to complete the reinstallation process.

Way 8: Restore Lost Files by Downgrading Your OS Version

Downgrading your macOS version can solve system problems in the following situations:

  • When the latest beta version contains buggy updates;
  • When a new macOS version isn't compatible with your current system settings.

If your Mac keeps deleting or losing data after installing the latest updates, revert to the previous macOS version to fix the issue and ensure system compatibility with the newest version. Since downgrading will erase all your data, you should back up all your Mac data before proceeding with this method.

icon note
Note: This method will only work if you've already backed up your data with Time Machine.

Follow these steps to downgrade to the previous OS version using macOS Recovery on Intel Mac.

  1. Shut down your Mac and turn it back on;
  2. Press and hold Shift + Option + Cmd + R to load the macOS Utilities menu;
  3. Navigate the menu to the Reinstall macOS option and select Continue;
  4. Select your startup disk and click Install;
  5. Follow the install wizard to install your macOS version;
  6. Once the process is complete, use your Time Machine backup to restore your files.

Way 9: Contact Apple Support

If nothing seems to work and you can't get your files back with any of these methods, contact Apple Support to get professional help. Submit a help ticket online, write an email, or give them a call, and a data recovery professional will look into your case and give you viable recovery options.

Summing Up

Having a full backup of your essential data and files safely stored on an external hard drive is vital before updating macOS to avoid data loss, process interruptions, system errors, etc.

If the latest Mac update causes you to lose some of your files, this article gives you the best recovery methods to help you restore the missing data and never face data loss again.

In addition, you should always have a trusted data recovery solution like Wondershare Recoverit installed on your Mac to recover your data if accidents occur during the update or the macOS reinstallation process.

David Darlington
David Darlington May 14, 24
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