Recovering Encrypted Files with FileVault: Expert Advice and Techniques

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Written By Michael Gilmer

Michael, a content curator at File Recovery Mac, excels at simplifying complex IT concepts into easily digestible chunks. Michael's expertise lies in IT, data recovery, and all things "techy."

SUMMARY: accidentally lost data on a FileVault-protected Mac? This article guides you through recovery steps, including disabling FileVault, using Time Machine, Target Disk Mode, and Data Recovery Software. Reputable software options like Disk Drill and professional services are outlined. Whether through self-recovery or professional assistance, the article empowers users facing encrypted data loss with practical insights for successful retrieval.

Recovering Encrypted Files with FileVault: Expert Advice and Techniques

Accidentally losing access to your data on a FileVault-protected hard drive can be a stressful experience. However, with the right knowledge and tools, it is possible to recover your valuable files.

In this article, we will explore the steps and techniques to successfully recover data from a FileVault hard drive, helping you regain access to your important information.

Explore the steps and techniques to recover data from a FileVault hard drive and regain access to your important information.

What is FileVault


FileVault is a data security feature available on macOS that provides full disk encryption for users’ files. Its primary purpose is to protect sensitive data stored on a Mac startup disk from unauthorized access. By implementing strong encryption algorithms and key lengths, FileVault ensures data confidentiality and integrity.

FileVault employs the XTS-AES-128 encryption algorithm, which is a symmetric encryption standard. XTS-AES-128 dynamically encrypts every block of data on the disk, adding an additional layer of security. The encryption key used in FileVault is 256 bits long, making it highly secure and difficult to crack.

When FileVault is enabled, it encrypts all the data on the Mac’s startup disk in real-time, on-the-fly. This means that any data written to disk is automatically encrypted, and any data read from disk is automatically decrypted. To turn off FileVault encryption for data recovery, users need to enter their administrator password and follow the instructions provided.

FileVault is supported on several versions of macOS, including macOS 10.3 and above. It is a built-in feature that can be accessed through the Security & Privacy preferences pane in System Preferences.

In terms of security features, FileVault requires users to log in with their password or Apple ID, ensuring that only authorized users can access the encrypted data. Additionally, FileVault generates a recovery key that can be used to unlock the disk should the password be forgotten. It also integrates with Find My Mac, allowing users to remotely lock their device and erase the data in case of theft or loss.

Overall, FileVault provides robust data security by encrypting the Mac startup disk, safeguarding sensitive information from unauthorized access.

How to Disable FileVault Encryption on Mac?

Follow the step-by-step guide to turn off FileVault encryption on your Mac and regain access to your files. Remember, consider the potential consequences before disabling.

FileVault disable

To turn off FileVault encryption on a Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Apple menu located at the top left corner of the screen and select “System Preferences.”
  2. In the System Preferences window, click on “Security & Privacy.”
  3. In the Security & Privacy menu, click on the “FileVault” tab.
  4. Click on the lock icon at the bottom-left corner of the window and enter your admin password to make changes.
  5. Once unlocked, click on the “Turn Off FileVault” button.
  6. A confirmation window will appear, explaining the implications of turning off FileVault. Read the information carefully to understand the consequences of disabling this encryption.
  7. If you still choose to proceed, click on “Turn Off FileVault.”
  8. The decryption process will begin, during which you won’t be able to access your files. The duration may vary depending on the size of your encrypted data.
  9. 9. Once the decryption process is complete, restart your Mac.
  10. 10. After the restart, FileVault encryption will be turned off, and you will be able to access your files without requiring an encryption password.

Remember that turning off FileVault encryption removes an important layer of security from your files, so only disable it if you are certain about the potential consequences.

Method 1: Recover Data From Mac FileVault Hard Drive Using Time Machine

Discover how Time Machine can be your ally in recovering data from a FileVault hard drive. Follow the outlined steps to restore your files.

time machine

Time Machine is an incredibly useful tool for backing up your Mac’s data and providing a failsafe in the event of something going wrong. Time Machine can also be used to recover data from a Mac FileVault hard drive that has been encrypted and locked.

If you’ve enabled FileVault on your Mac, all of the data stored on it is automatically encrypted . As a result, you can’t access your data without entering the FileVault password.

If you have a Time Machine backup of your Mac’s data prior to encrypting it with FileVault, then you can use this backup to restore your data. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Connect an external drive to your Mac and launch Time Machine.
  2. Select the “Enter Time Machine” button to begin the recovery process.
  3. Choose a backup that was created prior to encrypting your hard drive with FileVault.
  4. Select the files you want to recover and click the “Restore” button to restore them back onto your Mac. 

Method 2: Recover Data From Mac FileVault Hard Drive Using Target Disk Mode

Utilize Target Disk Mode to recover data from a FileVault encrypted hard drive. Follow these steps to connect computers and safeguard your important files.

Target Disk Mode is a feature of macOS that allows one Mac to be used as an external hard drive for another Mac. This means that you can connect two computers together using a Firewire or Thunderbolt cable, and the computer connected to the FileVault encrypted hard drive will appear as an external hard drive on the other computer. This makes it possible to access and recover data from a FileVault encrypted Mac hard drive.

To use Target Disk Mode to recover data from a FileVault encrypted hard drive, follow these steps:

  1. Connect the two computers together using a Firewire or Thunderbolt cable.
  2. On the computer with the FileVault encrypted hard drive, restart and hold down the T key on your keyboard while it starts up. This will enable Target Disk Mode.
  3. On the other computer, open the Finder window and select the disk with the FileVault encrypted data.
  4. Copy the data from the encrypted disk onto the other computer for safekeeping.
  5. Once you have successfully recovered your data, remember to turn off Target Disk Mode by restarting the Mac with the FileVault encrypted hard drive.

Method 3: Recover Data from Mac by Using Data Recovery Software

Explore the seamless process of recovering data with Mac Data Recovery Software. Download, scan, select, and recover your essential files effortlessly.

Recovering data from a Mac using Mac Data Recovery Software is a seamless process that can be carried out in a few simple steps. The software is specifically designed to cater to the unique requirements of Mac drives, ensuring successful data retrieval. With its user-friendly interface, even individuals with limited technical expertise can navigate through the recovery process effortlessly.

To begin the data recovery process, the first step is to download and install the Mac Data Recovery Software onto your Mac device. Once installed, launch the software to initiate the recovery procedure.

Next, the software will scan the Mac drive to identify all the lost or deleted files. This thorough scanning process ensures that no data is left behind. Depending on the size of your drive and the amount of data stored, the scanning process may take some time. After completion, the software will display a list of recoverable files.

Now comes the most advantageous feature of this software – selective recovery. You can preview the files and choose which ones you want to recover. This allows you to save time and storage space by only recovering the essential files you need.

Once you have selected the files for recovery, simply click the “Recover” button, and the software will restore the chosen files to your desired location on your Mac device. It is advisable to save the recovered files to a different location to avoid any potential data loss.

Best Software Solutions for FileVault Data Recovery

Consider reputable data recovery tools like Disk Drill, R-Studio, Wondershare Recoverit, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard, or DiskWarrior for efficient FileVault data recovery. Choose the one that suits your needs.

Recovering data from a FileVault-encrypted drive requires specialized software that can handle the encryption. While there are data recovery tools available, not all of them support FileVault encryption.

Here are a few reputable options that are known for their capabilities in dealing with encrypted drives:

Disk Drill

– User-friendly interface. – Supports over 400 file formats. – Offers a free trial version. – Compatible with macOS. – Can recover data from FileVault-encrypted drives.– Free version limitations. – Advanced features may require payment.– Free version available. – Pro version: $89.00. – Enterprise: Custom pricing.


– Comprehensive data recovery tool. – Supports various file systems and encryption methods. – Suitable for both Mac and Windows. – Can recover data from FileVault-encrypted drives.– Learning curve for beginners. – Higher pricing compared to some alternatives.– Single License: $79.99. – Technician License: $899.00.

Wondershare Recoverit

– User-friendly interface. – Compatible with macOS. – Supports FileVault-encrypted drives. – Offers a free trial version.– Free version limitations. – Advanced features may require payment.– Essential: $79.95 per year. – Standard: $59.95 per year. – Advanced: $89.95 per year.

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

– Versatile and user-friendly. – Supports recovery from encrypted drives. – Offers a free version for basic recovery needs.– Free version limitations. – Some advanced features may require payment.– Pro: $69.95. – Pro + Bootable Media: $99.90. – Technician: $299.00.


– Known for disk repair and data recovery. – Simple and straightforward interface.– No free trial. – Limited compared to dedicated data recovery tools. – Priced higher compared to some alternatives.– DiskWarrior: $119.95.

Professional Data Recovery Services

If all else fails, and you can’t recover data from your FileVault hard drive, consider seeking professional data recovery services. Ensure they have expertise in dealing with FileVault encryption.

If you’ve tried all the available methods and still can’t recover data from your FileVault hard drive, it might be time to consider seeking help from a professional data recovery service. These services are typically staffed by individuals with expertise in recovering data from encrypted drives, as well as specialized tools to help them do so.

Before hiring a service, make sure they have experience in dealing with FileVault encryption. Also, ask them about their pricing and success rate when it comes to recovering data from encrypted drives.

Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to common questions about FileVault, data recovery, and encryption. Expand your understanding of these concepts.

What is FileVault and how does it affect data recovery?

FileVault is a disk encryption program in macOS that protects user data on a hard drive. When data is encrypted using FileVault, it becomes inaccessible without the correct encryption key, making data recovery more challenging.

Can I recover data from a FileVault-protected hard drive?

Yes, it is possible to recover data from a FileVault-protected hard drive, but the process is more complex compared to a non-encrypted drive. Specialized software or professional assistance may be required to recover the encrypted files.

How do I unlock a FileVault-encrypted disk?

To unlock a FileVault-encrypted disk, you need the FileVault password or recovery key. Upon entering the correct credentials, the encryption will be temporarily disabled, allowing the data to be accessed.

Can the Mac login password be used to recover data from a FileVault hard drive?

No, the login password used to access macOS is separate from the FileVault password. The login password only grants access to the user’s account, while the FileVault password is required to unlock and decrypt the hard drive.

Can data be recovered from both internal and external FileVault-protected hard drives?

Yes, data can be recovered from both internal and external FileVault-protected hard drives as long as the correct password or recovery key is available. The recovery process is generally similar for both types of drives.


Recovering data from a FileVault-protected hard drive demands careful consideration and the right tools. This article has explored the steps involved in disabling FileVault encryption, highlighted three effective recovery methods, and introduced reputable data recovery software options.

Whether through Target Disk Mode, Time Machine, Mac Data Recovery Software, or professional services, users have various avenues for reclaiming their valuable files. The provided insights aim to empower individuals facing the challenges of encrypted data loss, offering a roadmap to successful recovery.

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