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How to Recover Desktop Files Disappeared on Mac?

Wondershare Recoverit Authors

Jan 15, 2024 • Filed to: Solve Mac Problems • Proven solutions

"After updating my Mac, I was surprised to see that all my desktop files disappeared. Sadly, I have no idea why it happens? Where do my files go? Unfortunately, I don't have a backup. So, is there any way to recover files that disappeared from Mac?"

There are a lot of users who recently reported that few files from their Mac desktop are missing or they've just got disappeared. It is quite surprising for those users who have a habit of saving their important files on the desktop.

If this sounds like you, then you may probably know how much it is annoying to lose the files you need the most. In such cases, you might be looking for ways to get back your missing desktop files. The good news is that there are some effective methods that can help you to recover missing files on Mac with ease.

Here, in this article, we have mentioned several ways you can try to locate your desktop files that have disappeared somehow.

Why Desktop Files Disappeared from Mac?

When users see that all desktop files disappeared from their Mac, one question surely comes to their mind how it happens and why their Mac desktop files are missing. Well, there are a number of reasons for this situation. Here, we have covered some of them you need to know:

  1. It might be because you have chosen to keep your Desktop and Documents files on iCloud and that's why your files disappear from the desktop. If this is the case, then all you need to do is to check your iCloud settings in "System Preferences">"iCloud">"iCloud Drive" options.
  2. Sometimes, files get permanently deleted or lost due to various reasons, such as virus-attack, power-failure on your Mac. In such cases, you need powerful data recovery software for Mac to recover your permanently deleted or lost files.
  3. Maybe you have moved some files to another location, such as Trash from your desktop on your Mac and you completely forgot about it or can't remember where you've moved them. In such cases, you can try to remember or check the Trash folder because maybe you have moved files to this folder.

Well, the main concern is how to locate files that disappeared from Mac. Now, we are going to mention several methods that can help you to do that.

Method 1. Disable the File Sync with iCloud

The latest versions of macOS come with an iCloud feature that enables users to sync their Mac Desktop and Documents folders to iCloud Drive. The feature allows you to access your Mac desktop and Documents folders across different devices, which include iOS devices, other Mac, and iCloud.com.

Thus, if you have saved desktop and documents folders in iCloud Drive, then your desktop and documents folders moved to the iCloud part of your of Finder sidebar. In this scenario, all you can do to show you missing files on Mac is to disable the iCloud drive. To learn how to check iCloud drive settings to get back the lost or disappeared desktop files, follow the below steps:

  1. To start with, move to the Apple menu, and then, go to System Preferences.
  2. Now, click on iCloud and then, click on "Options" next to iCloud.
  3. Here, you need to uncheck the box "Desktop & Documents Folders" and finally, click on the "Done" button.


While you are doing the above process, you will get a warning message saying "If you continue, items will be removed from the desktop and the documents folder on this Mac and will remain available in iCloud Drive". So, here all you have to do is to continue with the process and open every desktop and documents folders that are displayed in iCloud Drive. To recover your missing files, you can simply drag them to the new empty desktop folder.

Method 2. Recover Missing Files on Mac in 3 Steps

If you are looking for an easy and quick way to recover your missing files on Mac, then data recovery software for Mac can help you to do that. Unlike common ways, the software is specially designed to help users to get back their files with ease.

1. Recoverit - The Best Software to Recover Word Files:

Whenever you experience a data loss situation, Recoverit Data Recovery Mac will help you to retrieve it. This data recovery software will come in handy even when you've never made a backup of your device. You now know how to partition Mac hard drive and unpartition it. But knowing how you can recover the lost or deleted files from the drive is also necessary.

Video Instructions: Everything on My Desktop Disappeared on Mac [Fixed Step by Step]

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2. How to Recover Lost Word Files on Mac:

Step 1: Select a Location

Launch the software and select the drive from where the data files are lost. If you don't know which drive to search, tap on the "I can't find my partition" option, and hit the Start button. 


Step 2: Scan the Location

Typically, the software will run an All-Around Recovery scan and search for the lost and deleted files on the entire drive.


Step 3: Preview and Recover

When the scan completes, the files will be listed on the screen. The software will sort out the files according to format to make the search easier. You can select multiple files at a time and have a preview at them.


Method 3. Use macOS Mojave Stacks

There is no doubt that if there is any convenient place to store and place files on Mac, it is desktop. By saving files on the desktop, you can access them easily and quickly and the best thing is that you don't have to go through various folders. But, sometimes important files present on your Mac desktop get disappeared or lost somehow.

Luckily, there is good news for users who have updated their Mac system to macOS Mojave. There is one new desktop feature added in the macOS Mojave, and it is desktop stacks. With the help of this new feature, you can easily locate your missing files on Mac. Before you learn how to locate files on Mac using macOS Mojave stacks, you need to first understand what exactly the stacks feature is?

What is Stacks?

Well, they are virtual folders that can help you to manage and corral your files on Mac. You might don't know that they have been included in macOS Dock for many years, but they are now quite helpful for users who are looking for ways to locate missing or lost desktop files.

The main concept here is "virtual folders". They are not actual directories in the file system of your Mac. All of your Mac files remain in their original locations. However, macOS Mojave stacks collect all of these files and show them to you under one expanding folder.

Thus, if you have updated your Mac to Mojave, and files present on your desktop seem to disappear, then you don't have to worry. They are probably hiding behind this new stacks feature. Here, we are going to show how you can use desktop stacks in macOS Mojave.

Turn on desktop stacks in Mojave:

  1. Go to your Mac desktop, here you need to select the "View" tab from the menu bar located at top of the screen.
  2. Next, you need to choose the "Use Stacks" option. Or you can right-click on the desktop to get this option to enable it.


Find missing files using stacks:

Once you have enabled desktop stacks new features, you can easily access the data of each stack and all you have to do is to click on its icon. Files it contains will be shown below and plus, other desktop files will be moved to the left for a temporary basis to make the room as required. If you click the stack once more, then it will get close, and also, it will return all icons to their original locations.


Bonus Tip: How to Delete Files on Mac Desktop Safely

If you have a lot of folders and files on your Mac, then you might want to delete some files in order to free up storage space on your system.

Here is the simple guide on how to delete files on Mac desktop:

  1. To start with, locate files you want to delete on your Mac.
  2. Select the files you want to get rid of them and drag them into the trash can located at the bottom of the screen. Or you can simply right-click on the selected files, and choose "Move to Trash" option from the list menu.


If there are some files you've deleted accidentally, then simply use "Command + Z" right away to undo the previous action. You also need to delete these files from the Trash folder if you want to delete them permanently from your Mac.

There is no doubt that deleting or getting rid of unwanted and useless files on Mac is quite easy and straightforward. But, sometimes you end up deleting some important files while you are trying to clean your Mac system. Luckily, there are some tips you can follow to keep your data protected on Mac. Let's give a look at all these tips and tricks:

With the help of the above-mentioned tips, you can easily protect your data and Mac too.


Hopefully, this guide helps Mac users who have reported that all my files are gone on Mac. There are good common measures to locate disappeared files on Mac. If you are unable to find your desired files even after using common methods, then Recoverit is here to help you. This data recovery tool for Mac can locate and recover lost, missing, or disappearing files within a few minutes.

Recoverit author

Sue Wayne

staff Editor

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