Mac Desktop Empty: How to Restore Missing/Disappeared Mac Desktop Files and Icons

Brithny updated on Sep 18, 2020 to Mac File Recovery | How-to Articles

Summary

There are times when your Mac desktop files or icons disappear all of a sudden. Sometimes, you may find everything on my desktop disappeared on Mac. This page guides you to turn the icons back on, restore icons missing on Mac immediately. Learn how to restore missing desktop files and icons on Mac with EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac and other manual methods on your own.

When the desktop files and drive icons disappear on your Mac, stay calm. Accordingly, due to macOS or Mac OS X update, personal settings, and careless operations, you may find Mac desktop files and icons not sowing.

Follow through the two parts below to display your disappeared Mac desktop icons and restore the lost files with ease:

Workable Solutions Step-by-step Troubleshooting
Phrase 1. Display Missing iCons Method 1. Use Finder...Full steps
Method 2. Use Time Machine Backup...Full steps
Phrase 2. Get Missing Files Method 1. Use Mac Desktop File Recovery Software...Full steps
Method 2. Use iCloud Backup...Full steps
Method 3. Use Time Machine Backup...Full steps
Method 4. Use Stacks...Full steps
Method 5. Use Trash...Full steps

Everything on My Mac Desktop Disappeared, Help

Don't worry if you are having a similar case as listed here, you can continue reading and find the right solution to make your Mac desktop icon showing and restore all missing files on your own.

Case 1 - Everything on my desktop disappeared on Mac computer, need help!

"Hello, after saving a .xls file on my desktop, all my desktop files and folders disappeared! Impossible to find them, also my bin was empty too, nothing to find or delete. Also, I didn't do any back up in the past to restore. What's worse, some drive icons are also missing! Those files and folders are really important as they are work-related. What should I try? Please, urgent help is needed. Thanks!" 

Case 2 - Mac desktop files not showing, seemed lost, after macOS update. 

"Does someone know how to bring the lost desktop files back after macOS update? My desktop files not showing after macOS update, how do I do? Do I still have a chance to restore them?"

Why Did Everything on My Desktop Disappear on Mac?

At times you might notice that files and icons from your Mac desktop are missing or they have just disappeared. Here are the normal reasons:

  1. #1. macOS or Mac OS X update causes Mac desktop icons and items lost
  2. #2. Default settings of Finder that makes no icons and items appear on Mac desktop
  3. #3. Set files to hide on Mac
  4. #4. The false operation that delete items on Mac

It is really shocking especially for those who have stored important files, folders, and icons on the Mac desktop. However, before you assume that they are permanently gone from your Mac desktop, refer the following points to see if you can restore disappeared files and icons from the desktop.

Part 1. Show and Retrieve Missing Mac Icons

It is easy to find missing Windows icons. But when it comes to Mac, most people become confused. It's the Finder that controls the display of Mac desktop and all of its icons, including drive icons of storage devices.

Usually, when you install macOS or upgrade Mac OS X, it renders the desktop without the drive icons by default. Sometimes, misoperations cause desktop icons missing from the desktop.

Luckily, you can show the disappeared Mac desktop icons by using either of the following methods.

Method 1. Show Missing Mac iCons using Finder

By changing the Finder's default settings, you can effectively make the desktop display the missing icons again. 

Step 1. Click on the desktop or open a Finder window.

Step 2. From the menu bar, select "Finder Preferences".

Step 3. In the Finder Preferences window that opens, click the "General tab".

You'll see a list of devices that can have their associated icon displayed on your desktop.

Step 4. Place a checkmark next to the items you wish to display on the desktop. 

display the mac missing drive icon again

After this, close the Finder Preferences window. The selected items will display on the desktop again.

Method 2. Retrieve Disappeared Mac Desktop iCons from Times Machine Backup

Pre-condition: You have created a Time Machine backup of your Mac desktop before the icons and files missed.

When you lost desktop settings, you can also try to bring them back by running Time Machine backup recovery. It will bring you back to the date before Mac desktop icons disappearing.

Let's see how to retrieve the disappeared Mac desktop icons:

Step 1. Connect the external Time Machine backup disk to Mac. Enter "Time Machine" from the Time Machine menu. 

Step 2. Use the timeline or up and down arrow browse and select the backup point. 

Step 3. Press "Space" bar to preview and see whether it's the one you want.

Step 4. Click "Restore" to restore the selected file.

Restore from Time Machine backup

After this, you can view and check items like icons saved on your Mac desktop again, including the missing files.

Part 2. Recover Missing Desktop Files/Folders on Mac

There are several ways that can help to find the missing files from the Mac desktop. Check out the workable methods and follow to restore desktop files on Mac now.

Note that the former method is presented, the more effective it will be. 

Quick Fix. Check If the Desktop Files Are Hidden

Mac has a built-in application called Terminal. Using this application, you can search, delete, or modify files and folders. You can also use it to check if desktop files are hidden or missing.

Here are the steps:

Step 1. Go to Mac terminal on Mac.

Step 2. Type defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles true and press Return.

Step 3. Type killall Finder and hit Return. 

Show hidden files on Mac

This will close Mac Terminal and shows those hidden files on your Mac desktop. If this technique doesn't work, recover files from the empty Mac desktop with Mac desktop files recovery software.

Method 1. Restore Mac Desktop Files/Folders Using Mac Desktop File Recovery Software

Applies to: All levels of Mac users to restore missing Mac desktop files and folders.

Work on: Latest macOS 10.15.5 (Catalina)/10.15.4 and even older Mac OS X, like 10.9.

When your saved items lost on Mac desktop, professional Mac data recovery software - EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac can scan the hard drive to scan and find disappeared files from Mac Desktop. It can smoothly restore disappeared files from Mac desktop without any difficulties.

Many users have used this application to recover 200+ files, Keynotes, Pages documents, AbiWord files, MS Office files, archive files, PDF documents from Mac desktop. Download this effective desktop file recovery software and get the desktop files back.

Moreover, if you only need to recover a few files less than 2GB, you may try the free version of EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac. It works exactly the same as the pro version.

Steps to Restore Missing/Lost Mac Desktop Files

Step 1. Select the disk location (it can be an internal HDD/SSD or a removable storage device) where you lost data and files. Click the Scan button.

select the location where data lost and click scan

Step 2. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac will immediately scan your selected disk volume and display the scanning results on the left pane.

scan the selected disk to find lost data on your Mac

Step 3. In the scan results, select the file(s) and click Recover Now button to have them back.

click recover now button to recover lost data on your Mac

After this, you can save the found files back to your Mac desktop and use them again.

Method 2. Restore Lost Mac Desktop Files via iCloud Backup

Applies to: iCloud users who have set up iCloud to Sync Mac files, restore missing Mac desktop files from iCloud backup.

Works on: All Mac computers with iCloud backup.

If you have synced Mac files to your iCloud, you can immediately bring the lost or missing desktop files like documents back via your iCloud account. 

Here are the steps:

Step 1. Go to iCloud.com and sign in with your account and password.

Step 2. Click iCloud Settings and scroll to the bottom, click "Restore Files" under the Advanced section.

Find cloud backup

Step 3. Tick the boxes of your lost files on Mac, and click "Restore". 

Recover from iCloud

Method 3. Restore Not Showing Mac Files via Time Machine Backup

Applies to: Restore lost Mac files via Time Machine backup.

Works on: All Mac computers. 

Being similar to iCloud backup recovery, if you have created a backup of your Mac files to a Time Machine backup disk, you can also immediately bring them back on your Mac desktop.

For a detailed guide, you can revert to Method 2 in Part 1 for help. 

Method 4. Use Stacks to Find Missing Desktop Files on Mac

Applies to: Re-organize and make Mac desktop files show up.

Works on: macOS Catalina, Mojave, etc.

If you are using the latest macOS on your computer, such as macOS Catalina, Mojave, you can use Stacks on your computer to automatically organize your desktop files by file type.

When you lose or missing files on the Mac desktop, try Stacks. It may surprise you.

Step 1. On Mac desktop, right-click an empty space to bring up the Context Menu.

Step 2. Uncheck "Use Stacks".

Step 3. Repeat Step 1 again, and check "Use Stacks" this time. 

Restore desktop files on Mac using Stacks

After this, you may find the missing files back on your desktop again.

Method 5. Restore Missing Mac Desktop Files from Trash

Applies to: All levels of Mac users to bring deleted files saved on Mac desktop from Trash.

Works on: All macOS and Mac OS X platforms.

When you lost files on Mac desktop, you may mistakenly drag them into the Trash bin. Then you can try to find them in the Trash.

Here are the steps: 

Step 1. Open Trash Bin on Mac desktop, find the files that you lost.

Step 2. Drag the files you want to recover back to the desktop.

Or you can right-click on the file and select "Put Back".

Mac Trash recovery

Conclusion

On this page, we explained why do the desktop icons and saved items disappeared on Mac, and also covered several practical methods to help you find and restore the missing icons on Mac desktop.

To make everything work fine on your Mac, you need first display Mac icons using methods in Part 1. Then you can apply file recovery tips such as to let EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac help and retrieve Mac desktop files.

After finishing all the operations, your jobs are done. You can use your Mac icons and files again.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why choose EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard?

"EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is the best we've seen. It's far from perfect, partly because today's advanced disk technology makes data-recovery more difficult than it was with the simpler technology of the past, but it's fast and efficient..."PCMag

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"Recover lost files, even after deleting a partition or formatting your drive."Macworld

2. Why cannot I recover 2GB data for free?

It is recommended to check the version installed is Free or Trial because they are different versions.

Trial has data preview function but cannot save any files, while the Free version enables to recover 2 GB files. The default free space is 500 MB and you may share the product on social media to get another 1.5 GB.

3. Why cannot the recovered files be opened?

A file is saved as 2 parts on the storage device: directory info (which is comprised by file name, time stamp and size info, etc.) and data content.

If the files with original file names and folder structures cannot be opened, one possible reason is the corrupted directory info. There is still a chance to recover the data content with the RAW Recovery method in our software.

4. Why isn't it suggested to recover the files back to the original drive?

The storage structure of the lost files would be altered or damaged by any changes on the drive. If you save the recovered files back to the same drive, the original data structures and data content would be corrupted or overwritten, which causes permanent data loss. So you should prepare another disk to save the files.

5. How can I check whether my data is recoverable or not before purchase?

The Free version helps you save 2GB files, so verify the recovery quality of our product before purchase.

6. How long does it take to scan the drive?

It strongly depends on the capacity of your hard drive and the performance of your computer. As reference,most drive recoveries can be completed in around 10 to 12 hours for a 1-TB healthy hard drive in general conditions.

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