Any Free Mac App to Retrieve Data from a Formatted USB Key?

One of the hard lessons I’ve learned living in the digital age is that: you should always back up your data. In other words, never “put all eggs in one basket”.

Today’s issue is related to data recovery, a topic that could be making many people nervous.

I accidentally formatted my USB flash drive, later realized that I’ve some photos and documents yet to be backed up. I’m using an iMac (OS X El Capitan), just wondering if there is any free Mac app that allows me to recover the lost files without any restrictions? Thanks.

My first advice is – stop what you are doing immediately. That means you should avoid writing any new data or generate any new files to the USB key.

Why is that important? Because, the more you continue using the USB drive, the lower the chances are to retrieve the lost files. Disk formatting won’t get rid of the files at least for a while, but it depends on the disk volume. Check out this HowtoGeek article that explains why.

Next, you’ll need to find a third-party recovery software; it seems you’ve already tried some. Based on my limited experience, most of the programs or services in the market are not free though they do offer trials or demos for evaluation purposes.

The only free Mac app I’ve tried and worked is called PhotoRec. Don’t be fooled by its name. It’s actually a powerful file recovery program that is capable of retrieving many types of items such as photos, documents, videos, emails, archives, etc. The application can be run under Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux.

PhotoRec running on my Mac (OS X El Capitan)

The thing you may dislike is that the app is not GUI software. Instead, it’s a command line tool. If you are comfortable with tech, you’ll have no problem using it.

I have to remind you, though, that chances of recovering your files are not 100%. There is no guarantee due to the nature of the matter. But, don’t give up. You never know how much you can get back until you try.

In case you need, here are a few more useful resources you might find helpful.

Good luck!

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