How to recover deleted files from iCloud on your Mac

Posted:
in General Discussion edited September 2018
If you've deleted a critical file from iCloud, if you know where to look, you can save your bacon. Only, Apple makes it hard to find on Macs -- and impossible on iOS. AppleInsider lost some files for you.




You can't expect Apple to do everything -- but, still, there are missing features that make you slap your forehead. Recovering deleted files from iCloud is one of them, even though what it does well, it does really well.

Just explain this to us. We are supposed to use iCloud for everything and many of us have paid to get more than the miserly 5GB space we're provided for free. It's supposed to just work and that we never need to think about it.

Yet if you've deleted a file by mistake then there is nothing on your Mac to tell you that you may be able to get it back. Worse, there is actually no way to do it on iOS at all.

Enter iCloud.com

There you are with your expensive Apple device and you could as well go to a friend's PC. For to recover or restore any deleted files from your iCloud space, you have to use a browser and log on to iCloud.com.

Main page of iCloud.com


We've wondered who ever goes to this site and we're still not sure. It is a brilliant piece of work that includes fully-functioning versions of Pages, Numbers and more which you can use right there on the site. So we have, for instance, used Keynote on it when we only had access to a PC and an internet connection.

Yet that was one time in years. And this is the second.

Click on the Settings icon and then scroll down to the bottom of the page that appears.

Hidden features

At the bottom left, there are options including the one we want: Recover Files. Click on that.

Finding the restore files option in iCloud.com


The restore feature on iCloud isn't fast but after a while it will display a list of all the deleted files that you can recover. It's a little bit of a pain, though: it lists your file names in a large font and so spaced out that you can only see a very few files at once.

Also, it defaults to showing you the files in the order they were deleted, so that the oldest one is at the top. This is good, this is more than good: the oldest files are the ones that are going to be permanently deleted the soonest.

Sorting and searching the list of deleted but recoverable iCloud files


Alongside each file name there is a red count of the days left before that permanent deletion.

Since you're probably doing this recover a specific document instead of just looking out of curiosity, it's handier to change this view to showing you items sorted by name instead.

There is a third option: sort by size. Only, this sorts from the smallest to the largest and there's no way to change that.

Bring em back alive

Click on the tick box next to any or all the documents you want to recover and then choose Restore.

Restoring a file from iCloud


It doesn't look as if iCloud is doing anything at all but it does recover the files -- and it puts them back where they were before they were deleted.

Where is iOS

If you've never tried before, have a look what happens when you go to iCloud.com on your iPhone or iPad. You get a special page listing some options, you don't and you cannot get the regular iCloud.com view on iOS.

Consequently you can't recover documents from iCloud on your iOS device -- or not most of them, anyway.

This whole process is like the way iOS handles photos and videos. When you delete one of those, it goes into a Recently Deleted folder. It's out of sight but available -- for about 30 days.

That's what iCloud.com offers you for all your deleted files, whatever they are, and it is a boon. And also a complete mystery why you have to go to iCloud.com and what exactly Apple thinks you should do on iOS.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    Yes, it's possible to recover files from iOS! When we try to access iCloud.com using Safari on iOS, the system gives us a message telling we should use an iOS app (Settings, Find my iPhone or Find my friends) but there is a way to display the whole site. Click on Sharing icon and on the second lines, click on « Request Desktop Site ». Tadam! You get the same interface as on Mac OS!
    randominternetpersonmacpluspluschasmmacxpressfirelockdysamoriabadmonk
  • Reply 2 of 11
    Errr, it works fine on iPad if you use "request desktop site" in Safari. At least it does on my 12.9" Pro. Edit: ah, Denis beat me by a couple of minutes with the same info.
    edited September 2018 macplusplusmacxpressdysamoriabadmonk
  • Reply 3 of 11
    Great tip. I wish I knew of this a few years ago when my wife cleaned up the files "on her iPad" by deleting a bunch of shared documents. (The worst part of this was that as I went onto each other device I would see the deleted files for a second before the device synced up with the cloud, so I could feel the pain of loss more than once.)
    macplusplus
  • Reply 4 of 11
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,766member
    Consequently you can't recover documents from iCloud on your iOS device...
    Works fine in Chrome for iOS. There is a three dot link menu on the bottom right where one of the selections is "Request Desktop Version". From there it works just like described in the article. Go to the settings app, scroll all the way to the bottom left and select "Restore Files".
    edited September 2018 macplusplusdysamoria
  • Reply 5 of 11
    Ironically, today I deleted a folder from iCloud and looked up a way to recover it. I found the exact same way as stated in the article but not all deleted files where present. To be more precise, about 10% of the files I deleted today were visible. So.. what happened to the other 90%? 
    I can say that Dropbox solves this problem way more elegantly (or at leastwhen I last checked a year ago) For once Apple's motto, it just works, doesn't really work for me.

    last note: I am not sure how to interpret the following on the bottom of the page "SUPPORTING APPLICATIONS will put deleted files into recently deleted." So what happens to unsupported applications? 




    edited September 2018 dysamoriavolcan
  • Reply 6 of 11
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,152member
    dsudorion said:
    last note: I am not sure how to interpret the following on the bottom of the page "SUPPORTING APPLICATIONS will put deleted files into recently deleted." So what happens to unsupported applications?
    You're misinterpreting the term "supported applications" there. What Apple means is that all iOS applications that store their data in iCloud will use the standard "recently deleted" methodology. If you put something in iCloud Drive that doesn't come from an app that normally uses iCloud (at least as an option) for saving files and then deleted it, then they might not be in Recently Deleted and are probably gone for good (from iCloud).
  • Reply 7 of 11
    Great tip. I wish I knew of this a few years ago when my wife cleaned up the files "on her iPad" by deleting a bunch of shared documents. (The worst part of this was that as I went onto each other device I would see the deleted files for a second before the device synced up with the cloud, so I could feel the pain of loss more than once.)
    How about turning wi-fi off and then opening the file in another device?
    dysamoria
  • Reply 8 of 11
    Good tip. Reminds me of the time I was an Apple At Home Advisor for iOS. A client had somehow deleted voice mails that were the only recording she had of her late father's voice. She was distraught, but as a new employee I had no idea how these files could be recovered. In fact I had been taught that they were gone permanently.  However, I kicked her up to a Tier 2 rep to be sure.  Bedfore hander her off, I spoke with the Tier 2 guy and he said "Oh no problem, we have backups." I made the Scooby Doo sound and expressed my amazement.  The next day I went back to review the case (I was not supposed to do that) and found that her files had been restored.  Seemingly, Apple does not really want people to know things are backed up and how easy it can be to restore them.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 9 of 11
    There's a much easier solution than iCloud.com for iOS users — the Recently Deleted data source in the Files app! From there you can recover or permantely delete files from iCloud and orher Files-supported data sources like Dropbox and Google Drive (N.B. I've only tested recovery with iCloud documents, but it's supposed to work with others).
  • Reply 10 of 11
    dshanah said:
    There's a much easier solution than iCloud.com for iOS users — the Recently Deleted data source in the Files app! From there you can recover or permantely delete files from iCloud and orher Files-supported data sources like Dropbox and Google Drive (N.B. I've only tested recovery with iCloud documents, but it's supposed to work with others).
    This. And time machine?
  • Reply 11 of 11
    chasm said:
    You're misinterpreting the term "supported applications" there. What Apple means is that all iOS applications that store their data in iCloud will use the standard "recently deleted" methodology. If you put something in iCloud Drive that doesn't come from an app that normally uses iCloud (at least as an option) for saving files and then deleted it, then they might not be in Recently Deleted and are probably gone for good (from iCloud).
    Well, that doesn't make any sense now does it? The randomness of files (of the unsupported kind) staying in the recently deleted is just way too unpredictable..

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