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Free Data Recovery Software for Mac and Linux for Best Data Recovery

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Data recovery on Linux is not easy, and on Mac, it’s not cheap. This cyber forensic software will help you recover your lost data for free.

Mac and Linux are both highly secured OS, & they do not allow shoddy programming to access critical OS resources. Due to this reason, the programming on these platforms is a highly lucrative job.

Free Data Recovery Softwares Mac and Linux

If you are here, you may want to take a quick read at our previous article of the same series, Data-Recovery Softwares on Windows. It will give you a basic know-how of data storage and data recovery.

Data recovery is very resource intensive and complicated process, that demands great programming skills to optimize the whole process.

Consequently, there are very few “really free” softwares that will let you perform data recovery operation on Mac and Linux.


There are plenty of data recovery Softwares that are freely available on Internet & claim that they recover data.

But the truth is that there is always some catch in it. You can freely download a software but there are always ways to charge you for it.

Download PhotoRec Data Recovery Software from here

Free Software v/s Free to Download Softwares

Most Softwares will put capping on the recoverable data size. For example, you may not recover more than 200 MB or GB of data in free mode.

Then there are some vicious Softwares that will show you the recoverable data but won’t let you recover them. To recover the data you will require a purchase.

There are lots of android games that are running on the same model.

In this article, you will learn to recover your lost data on Mac and Linux.

Since the software we are reviewing are free so you may have to adjust to user experience part. But rest assured, you will get your full data, without any purchase.

Only truly free software that works on Mac, Linux and Windows for data recovery is TestDisk bundle by CGSecurity.

Data Recovery through PhotoRec on Mac & Linux

TestDisk and PhotoRec are by far the best tools for data recovery on Windows, Mac & Linux. The only shortcoming of these softwares is that they do not recover file name.

They are developed by the same developer & they both intend to recover data and do a whole lot more advanced operation on System Disk.

It was originally designed to recover lost partitions and/or make non-booting disks bootable again.
There are times when bootable drives do not boot due to a faulty configuration, viruses, bad software etc.

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TestDisk Supported Operations

TestDisk can do the following

  • Fix MBR

  • Partition Table

  • Recover Deleted Partition

  • Recover FAT32 boot sector from backup

  • Rebuild FAT12/FAT16/FAT32 boot sector

  • Fix FAT tables

  • Rebuild NTFS boot sector

  • Recover NTFS boot sector from its backup

  • Fix MFT using MFT mirror

  • Locate ext2/ext3/ext4 Backup SuperBlock

  • Undelete files from FAT/exFAT/NTFS and ext2 filesystem

  • Copy files from deleted FAT / exFAT / NTFS and ext2/ext3/ext4 partitions

The PhotoRec is used for recovering deleted photos, videos, documents, files etc.

Supported Media by TestDisk & PhotoRec:

PhotoRec and TestRec can work on following storage devices.

  • Hard Disk Drives

  • CD / DVD

  • USB Flash Drive

  • Memory Cards

  • SSDs

TestDisk and PhotoRec Supported File Systems

Following File Systems are supported by TestDisk and PhotoRec, it’s most likely that you will have FAT, NTFS, FAT32, FAT16, JFS,  ext2, ext3, ext4 file systems on your computer.

  • BeFS ( BeOS )

  • BSD disklabel ( FreeBSD/OpenBSD/NetBSD )

  • CramFS
  • Compressed File System

  • DOS/Windows FAT12
  • FAT16 and FAT32

  • XBox FATX

  • Windows exFAT

  • HFS
  • HFS+ and HFSX
  • Hierarchical File System

  • JFS
  • IBM’s Journaled File System

  • Linux btrfs

  • The Linux ext2
  • ext3 and ext4

  • Linux LUKS encrypted partition

  • & Linux RAID md 0.9/1.0/1.1/1.2

  • RAID 1: mirroring

  • the RAID 4: striped array with parity device

  • the famous RAID 5: striped array with distributed parity information

  • & RAID 6: striped array with distributed dual redundancy information

  • Linux Swap (versions 1 and 2)

  • LVM and LVM2
  • Linux Logical Volume Manager

  • Mac partition map

  • Novell Storage Services NSS

  • NTFS ( Windows NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista/2008/7 )

  • ReiserFS 3.5
  • 3.6 and 4

  • Sun Solaris i386 disklabel

  • Unix File System UFS and UFS2 (Sun/BSD/…)

  • XFS
  • SGI’s Journaled File System

  • Wii WBFS

  • Sun ZFS

TestRec and PhotoRec are free, the source code is freely available on the website if you want to study that you should go ahead and give it a go.

These softwares can recognize 300+ file formats. So basically every file format in general use is covered in this data recovery software.

How to Use PhotoRec: Recover Data on Mac and Linux

PhotorRec is a little unusual if you are not used to old school CLI interfaces. But don’t worry, it’s as easy as any GUI Interface, just there is no GUI feel.

1. Run PhotoRec executable, Download PhotoRec

Download PhotoRec from, following links and place it in a drive where you won’t be recovering any files.

For example, if you are recovering from sbm1 partition then place the software in smb2.

If you are not sure, r recovering from the same drive, just take a chance and place it in a folder you have made earlier.

2. Start Terminal in installation / extraction

Make sure you have proper permission over the drive you are recovering.

Suppose you have placed the file in a folder name usr\photorec then go to that folder and enter the following command

   $ sudo su   

Enter your password

   ~# photorec   

Hit enter and it will show you following window

3. Select Hard Drive, SSD, Media

If you have multiple disks, say two HDD and one USB then you will see three media. If you have single media attached to your system then you will see only one.

Free Data Recovery Software for Mac and Linux for Best Data Recovery
Select Disk

Use up and down keys to change options, hit enter to select.

4. Select Source Partition

Select the source partition / then navigate to source folder which you want to recover. There are basically 3 options here.

Free Data Recovery Software for Mac and Linux for Best Data Recovery
Select Partition
  • Search: next the partition that holds the lost files to commence the recovery,
  • Options:  to modify the options,
  • File Opt to modify the list of file types recovered by PhotoRec.

5.Select PhotoRec Option

Following are the definition of each option

  • Paranoid: Recovered files are verified, if files are found invalid then they are rejected.
  • Bruteforce: for recovering more fragmented JPEG files, it is a very CPU intensive operation. & you may not get desired results.
  • Allow partial last cylinder: It modifies how the disk geometry definition. If a media is partitioned then it is not a very useful option.
  • expert mode: This option allows the user to force the file system block size and the offset. Refer the PhotoRec documentation for more details.
  • Keep corrupted files: If you want to keep files even if they are invalid (corrupted) in the hope that data may still be recovered from an invalid file using other tools.
  • Low memory: For low memory systems, nowadays it is a redundant option.

6. Select Files to Recover

In FileOpts, you can enable or disable the recovery of desired file types, typical option is in the following format,

[X] Description of Format: List of formats, seprated by comma

for example

[X] custom Own custom signatures
[X] 1cd Russian Finance 1C:Enterprise 8
[X] 3dm Rhino / openNURBS
[X] 7z 7zip archive file
[X] DB
[X] a Unix Archive/Debian package
[X] abr Adobe Brush
[X] acb Adobe Color Book
[X] accdb Access Data Base
[X] ace ACE archive
[X] ab MAC Address Book
[X] ado Adobe Duotone Options
[X] ahn Ahnenblatt
[X] aif Audio Interchange File Format
[X] all Cubase Song file: .all
[X] als Ableton Live Sets
[X] amd AlphaCAM (amd/amt/atd/att)
[X] amr Adaptive Multi-Rate
[X] apa APA Style Helper
[X] ape Monkey’s Audio compressed format

The whole list of file formats recovered by PhotoRec contains more than 300 file families representing more than 480 file extensions.

7. Select File System Type

Once a partition has been selected and validated with Search, PhotoRec needs to know how the data blocks are allocated. Unless it is an ext2/ext3/ext4 filesystem, choose Other.

Free Data Recovery Software for Mac and Linux for Best Data Recovery
Select Source Partition

8. Carve the unallocated space

PhotoRec can search files from

  • the whole partition (useful if the filesystem is corrupt) or
  • from the unallocated space only (available for ext2/ext3/ext4, FAT12/FAT16/FAT32 and NTFS). With this option only deleted files are recoverable.

9. Select the Mode for output

In order to choose the directory where the recovered files should be written, go to respective option and hit enter.
• To get the drive list, use the arrow keys to select .., press the Enter key – repeat until you can select the drive of your choice. Validate with Yes when you get the expected destination.
• File system from external disk may be available in a /media, /mnt or /run/media sub-directory. Mount your destination drive if necessary.
• Partitions from external disk are usually mounted in /Volumes

Free Data Recovery Software for Mac and Linux for Best Data Recovery
Select Mode

10. Analyze Recovery

When the recovery is complete, a summary is displayed. Note that if you interrupt the recovery, the next time PhotoRec is restarted you will be asked to resume the recovery.

  • Thumbnails found inside pictures are saved as t*.jpg
  • If you have chosen to keep corrupted files/file fragments, their filenames will begin with the letter b(roken).
  • Hint: When looking for a specific file. Sort your recovered files by extension and/or date/time. PhotoRec uses time information (metadata) when available in the file header to set the file modification time
  • Post Recovery Options: You may salvage even more broken files, refer the link and you can try to recover even more from broken data.
  •  If you had to disable your antivirus during the recovery to speed up the process. If you did scan the recovered files for viruses before opening them – PhotoRec may have undeleted an infected document or a trojan.
Free Data Recovery Software for Mac and Linux for Best Data Recovery

Shortcomings of TestDisk and PhotoRec

There are two major issues with these softwares

  1. You have to use CLI (Command Line Interface for command and control), which makes it complicated to use. So most users just sway away from the CLI.
  2. Recovered files do not retain the name of the recovered file. So if you recover mypresentation.ppt, you will get something like V132444.ppt.


PhotoRec is a very advanced tool for data recovery, you should use it wisely. It is widely used by cyber forensic experts to recover lost data.

If you really like this tool, or if this tool helped you in any way you may want to visit developer’s page. If you like you may consider donating him some money as well.

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