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long story short: 2am, very tired, in a hurry, deleted all docs from wrong device, emptied trash.

I've been asked to recover files for someone who has mistakenly deleted all documents on their Macbook. They were attempting to clean up a usb device in preparation for backing up the macbook documents to the usb device and, well, bad things happened.

On Windows I've used the awesome GetDataBack for NTFS & FAT from runtime.org many times for this kind recovery option. Is there anything similar for Macs?

I don't trust the results for a straight up internet search of "get data back for mac" or "data recovery mac". I keep landing on sites that switch domain names when you move from "hey this software works!" pages to the download and/or purchase pages and that just looks too sketchy to me. So please just talk about software you have personal experience with.

I don't have the computer with me yet. I'm trying to find out what I can learn and prepare for before I get started. To aid in the recovery effort, if needed, I have access to Windows 7 machines, an iMac, an ubuntu linux workstation, and USB HD-SATA and laptop HD adapters.

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How did the recovery go ? –  Karolos Feb 11 '12 at 23:00
    
@Karolos, see my answer below. Thanks for the inquiry. :) –  matt wilkie Feb 13 '12 at 18:41
    
Glad to hear it worked quite well without opening the computer, even if at the end you had to resort to taking the drive out. –  Karolos Feb 13 '12 at 19:06
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Before anything, the best one can do is shut down the device and not use it any longer. Boot up in target disk mode (hold down T when turning power on) so that the drive is accessed as an external drive. You should run the recovery from another computer.

I successfully was able to recover lost files using http://www.prosofteng.com/products/data_rescue.php, but each use case is different.

In any case, the longer you use the Mac, the less likely it is to recover any data.

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If you've got a second Mac, firewire connects this really easily –  Simon Sheehan Jan 29 '12 at 2:02
    
@mattwilike: Thanks for the edit. I should have been more precise :) –  Karolos Jan 30 '12 at 12:32
    
Accepted even though I didn't use the software mentioned. Being informed of target disk mode and the advice for running recovery from another computer is a good start. –  matt wilkie Feb 13 '12 at 18:43
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Ultimately the laptop ended up going to a service shop for a more experienced hand.

Before that I used the open source and cross-platform PhotoRec (which despite the name does more than photos) by way of the Ultimate Boot CD. I recovered a great deal of files to an external 32gb usb stick. I didn't manage a complete recovery process because the laptop would keep overheating and shut down partway through. I didn't have the right tools to get the case open and put the drive into something else and lacked the time to hunt down tools.

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