Recovering Data from a Replaced Folder on a Mac

Posted on January 7, 2013 by


Your Problem:  You accidentally replaced an important folder with lots and lots of important files with a similarly named, but much lesser folder from your flash drive or other data device with lesser files.  Suddenly, that important folder with lots and lots of important files is gone and all you see is that similarly-named folder with the inferior files from an inferior time in your life.

Short Answer:  Disk Drill Pro, choosing the option to do a Deep Disk Scan.  Disk Drill Basic is free to download and its Deep Disk Scan functionality is free as well.  It takes approximately 4 1/2 hours to do this, at least it did for my 750 GB Macbook Pro 2012.

At least for doc, docx, and pdf documents, personally, I was able to preview what it might be able to recover back.

Then, if upon previewing the files you lost, it appears you can actually recover the files you want back, you can choose the “Recover” option.  Choosing the “Recover” option means you’ll have to upgrade to Disk Drill Pro, which means your wallet/card will be relieved of $90.


  • Not really a tech guy who understands the logic of why and how this works.  I was just searching frantically for solutions
  • Your files probably won’t come back named as you named them, they will simply be:  “file000…[ext]”
  • Because my files won’t come back, I’m not sure if I’m missing anything or not still.  I have a sneaking suspicion that I might be, but I can’t tell because I have what I need.
  • I’m not sure yet if it works for video, photos, though there was certainly an option for that.  I’ll update whenever I do.

Long Answer/My Story:

I was trying to clear room on a USB drive to give to a friend for her trip to Italy.  I was trying to put helpful stuff on that USB drive that included information on the language and other travel-related stuff.

On my main computer, a Macbook Pro, I created a folder on the Desktop that I called “Blue Drive” to save all the information that was on that drive.

As I was trying to clear room on the USB Drive, I was also being hurried to go somewhere.

I chose the option “Select All” for everything that was on the USB drive and dragged it to what I thought was the newly-created folder on my Macbook Pro Desktop titled “Blue Drive.”  I thought that dragging the contents of the USB Drive would copy everything on the USB Drive to that “Blue Drive” folder without any incident.  Normally, that happens, right?

And as you can guess, this time there was an incident.

Turns out that I somehow missed the “Blue Drive” folder and had actually been uploading to my Macbook Pro Desktop.  I got a lot of [at-the-time] annoying dialogue pop-ups that I simply clicked through, including merge and replace this file or that folder: there was just too much to handle especially when being in a hurry.

In the midst of this hurried importation, I had realized that on the USB Drive, I had a folder called “Math” in that USB drive and a folder on my desktop also called “Math” on my Mac Desktop.  Without realizing it, I just replaced some 1000 pdfs, docs, and docxs of my research, with about 15 or 20 old pdfs!

Fuck.  Lesson learned instantly about backing up important information and the names of desktop folders.

But, as I was to find out, a pretty expensive lesson.

I wasn’t extremely worried because I did have a good amount of my material on my External Hard Drive, and I did have extra folders with my research.  However that External Hard Drive was only good for material done up to last September of 2012.  As of this writing, January 2013, it had been 4 months since I backed up, which meant 4 months of accumulated research material was gone.  While it wasn’t too bad, it still sucked a lot and had me searching for hours.

I spent a few hours in a desperate Google search for a solution.  Had to get the right keywords to get the precise solution.

What popped up were tons of forums and question and answer threads.

I realized a few things:  a deleted file is fairly easy to recover with all the programs out there.  However, an overwritten file is hard to retrieve and the Mac should be closed immediately from which perhaps a data specialist or data program maybe could help.

For my problem, recovering files from a folder that had been replaced with files from a similarly named folder, there was some hope.  I got additional insurance from here and here.

I had no choice but to try some software programs that had been mentioned:  DiskWarrior, Disk Drill, Data Rescue.  I spent  considerable time vetting down the choices to these particular programs, then acquiring demo versions of each.  Probably took two hours to do all of this searching and downloading.

DataWarrior, I attempted first.  I didn’t know how to use it.  It had been mentioned as a solution in one thread.  I clicked on the “Files” tab, and marked the 2 checkboxes.  I scanned it for 20 or so minutes, I wasn’t sure what happened.  I didn’t think I could get my files back, it would probably require me rebuilding my directory, and I wasn’t really sure how that was to be done.

Data Rescue 3 seemed to be the most-mentioned solution on message boards.  I tried, and had to use my external hard-drive to do its “Quick scan.”  The motion of its scanning certainly was entertaining.  It took about 20-25 minutes.

At the end of the scan, I clicked on my folder “Math”, hoping to re-unite with all my research material from the past 4 months and beyond.

I was disappointed to see nothing.

Regrettably, I didn’t try to see whether its “Deep Scan” was more effective than the solution that I ended up going with.  [Update:  Jan 8, 2013, I tried to do the “Deep Scan” yesterday, did it for about 7 hours before my External Drive got interrupted and had to start over again. It said it would take 20+ hours, might try again some day, but doesn’t seem worth it now that I spent most of yesterday finding, searching, and acquiring back what was lost)

I finally tried Disk Drill. 

Chose the “Recovery” option, selected my hard-drive, and chose the option for a “Deep Scan.”  Within 20 or so minutes, I was able to look through some of the files that had been deleted, most of them being pdf. I chose the option Within the last day.

I looked at the PDF files retrieved through the preview.

Sure enough, there were 650+ pdf files that only hours earlier were sitting placidly, unharmed on my desktop, only they were renamed “file000…pdf” instead of their original names.

I had to wait an additional 3 more hours before the deep scan completed, but I was already sure that I was going to buy the pro version.  I waited those three hours, re-named a bunch of those re-birthed files.  I woke up in the middle of the night, relieved that I was able to get what appears to be all if not the most important files, re-naming the pdfs and falling in love again with my research.

Disk Drill worked, not to perfection, or optimally, but hey I’ve got my stuff back.

On a sidenote, while reading the message boards and trying to fix this problem, here’s why I decided to write this post:

I got annoyed at the legions of techno-moralizing idiots out there with nothing better to say than “you should’ve backed up with Time Machine.”  Yeah, thanks assholes that still doesn’t solve my problem.

If you hop upon this, you’re likely searching for a solution.

Hopefully they develop reverse overwriting technology in these systems.

Here’s to hoping your (and my future) data replacing/overwriting problems get resolved.

And I wouldn’t be doing my quasi-tech duty if I didn’t say, in the future, back that shit up (though there probably should be a better design if there are plenty of people with the same problem)!

Posted in: How To