Mac Desktop Empty: How to Restore Mac Desktop Files and Drive Icons

Brithny updated on Feb 21, 2020 to Mac File Recovery | How-to Articles


There are times when your Mac desktop files or icons disappear all of a sudden. By default, Mac OS X does not show icons for drives, CD/DVDs, iPods, and servers on the desktop. This tip lets you turn the icons back on. Then you restore missing desktop files with EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac.

When the desktop files and drive icons disappear on your Mac, stay calm. Follow through the two parts below to display your disappeared Mac drive icon and restore the lost files with ease:

Workable Solutions Step-by-step Troubleshooting
Phrase 1. Display Missing iCons Open Finder Preference > Click "General Tab" > Check to display missing items on the desktop...Full steps
Phrase 2. Get Missing Files Check if files are hidden > Use Mac file recovery software to restore lost files...Full steps

Q: "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!" 

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

Display the Missing Drive Icons Again

It is easy to find missing Windows icons. But when it comes to Mac, most people become confused. It's the Finder's job to display the desktop and all of its icons, including those for storage devices. The problem is that a default install of OS X renders the desktop without the drive icons. Sometimes, misoperations cause desktop icons missing from the desktop. Luckily, changing the Finder’s default settings for how the desktop is displayed can display the missing icons again. In fact, you can specify the desktop icons by setting the preferences in the Finder.

Click on the desktop or open a Finder window to ensure the Finder is currently the front-most application.

  • From the menu bar, select "Finder Preferences".
  • 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.
  • Place a checkmark next to the items you wish to display on the desktop.
  • Close the Finder Preferences window.

display the mac missing drive icon again

The selected items will display on the desktop again.

Get Missing Files or Folder Back from Mac

There are two ways to find the missing files from the Mac desktop. Check whether they are Hidden and recover the lost files with a professional Mac file recovery tool.

1. Check whether they are Hidden

Mac has a built-in application called Terminal. Using this application, you can search, delete or modify files and folders. In order to find hidden files or folders go to Mac terminal and type defaults write appleahowfiles TRUE. After typing, press "Enter". This will close Mac Terminal and shows those files which are hidden. 

If this technique doesn't work, recover files from the empty Mac desktop with Mac desktop files recovery software.

2. Use Mac Desktop File Recovery Software

EaseUS's Mac data recovery software can perform scanning of 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. Its success ratio is very high in the macOS and Mac OS X above 10.8. Download this effective desktop file recovery software and get the desktop files back.

The trial version is for you to download for free. It works till the last step when it finds all deleted files. The "Recover" button appears grey if it's not activated to a full version using a license key.

Alternatively, if you only need to recover a few files, it would be better to try the free version. This version allows you to recover files up to 2GB.

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


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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

"The first thing you'll notice about EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro is that its interface is very clear and uncluttered, with only a small collection of self-explanatory controls. You won't find lots of extra options hidden in a system of hidden menus, either; what you see really is what you get."techradar

"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.

About Data Recovery Wizard

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