OS X ate up my files

[Update: Somehow this post has been linked on Macsurfer.com, hence the unusually large number of comments. I know I’ve offended some Mac lovers and I expected the Mac OS to be more intuitive than Windows in most things.
Long-time Mac users are surprised that I would have expected anything more than a replacement of files from one folder to another. After using Windows for most of my life, and using FTP programs which also add on but do not delete files, I thought it was a natural process.
Anyway, I publicised this so that other Windows users who have switched to Mac will not make the same mistake as I did.
One thing I have experimented with, is locking files and folders and enabling read-only access. When I simulate a folder replacement I am then prompted for my password. We should do this to all our important files.
Thanks to other Mac users who have sent me lots of tips on file recovery programs. I’m currently searching for my documents… ]
Windows is better at one thing than Mac – file preservation.
I lost my bank statements (PDF) on my new Mac, because the folder holding these files was overwritten by another (emptier) folder of the same name, which I was transferring from my iPod.
I was prompted that there were two identical folders, and should I ‘keep’ or ‘stop’ the action. However, since Windows has usually been smart enough NOT to erase my files during a transfer, I assumed Apple’s operating system would be smart enough to do likewise. I expected it to keep existing files and add on the new files. So I proceeded with the folder replacement.
Then I realised I could have tried an ‘undo’ but it was too late – I had already performed too many additional actions in my Finder for its amazingly short 1-step memory to undo my mistake.
Now it’s going to be so expensive – $15 per document lost for the last year. It may not be worth it. I’m also miffed that the bank cannot send me soft copies of the files I lost. It’s quite demoralising.
But just in case any of you have an idea how to restore my lost PDF files, I’m leaving my Mac on for a day. The files did not appear in my Recycle Bin, so I’m feeling pretty helpless now.
Apple – your file transfers suck.

Update: I found a post that confirms my suspicions: “This behavior has never been a native thing in any Mac OS. I guess we longtime (or exclusive) Mac users just take this for granted. So if you’re a switcher, this is one thing that you will have to get used to being different and find a 3rd party application to do what you want.”

A third party application just to make sure the files in one folder, don’t get deleted during a transfer?! Windows users who are switching to Mac OS X – beware!


  1. Deano

    Of course, all deleted files are, in some way, recoverable. Try downloading ‘Data Rescue X’ from Versiontracker. It can recover deleted files, but will name them sequentially, instead of with the old names… So, there will be a bit of manual labor involved in getting things back to normal. It might be steep to fix – $80 for the software, but if you ever lose anything else, you’ll be much happier.
    As for the problem being a ‘mac problem’, they’re all mac problems when you’re more used to something else… 😉 Seriously, though, read those dialogs carefully, they usually tell you exactly what’s going on, no matter how ‘unlike windows’ it may be.

  2. Andy

    How else are you expecting this to work ? If I have a folder of documents, and I replace that folder with another one from a different source, I’d hope and expect that I ended up with the new folder, not some bastard mis-match of half the contents of one and half the contents of another.

  3. Mark Tennent

    There are plenty of ways to unerase your files, especially if you haven’t done anything else with your computer since.
    I have Norton Utilities installed and would try the undelete functions there. Other proprietary file utilities offer similar functions.
    Alternatively you could try a utility such as File Buddy and scan your disk for the file. File Buddy is shareware but the demo version would be able to accomplish what you require. Even Apple’s Finder may be able to find the lost files especially if you can restart your Mac into OS9 (Classic).

  4. gary

    Interesting set of assumptions. It is definately upsetting to lose your files, but I also must attribute it to operator error. Personally, I LIKE that after warning me there is a file of the same name and giving me the chance to stop the action, that if i say so, that it WILL overwrite! I do updates to data files all the time and it makes it so easy to keep the updated version because I only need to keep the same name and save it back to the same location. I want it to overwrite!
    Also, beware of using the term “natural”. In my experience, this is typically used in a situation where an individual wants to justify something he likes as being the only reasonable way. I would counter that here it applies only to a way of operation you were accustomed to, not one that was better. Like any other new system, it is always a good idea to read the owner’s manual and not assume. Good Luck

  5. Me

    I think you should get a new bank!!! My bank lets me download *all* my bank statements (even 4 year old ones) as PDFs over and over again…FREE of charge (always)! I can also look at my bank accounts online…very detailed logs of everything that happened daily for the past month…and I can tell it to show me the past four years on one long webpage! (

  6. vantan

    What bank are you using? Mine doesn’t support almost every Mac browser – in fact I had to install something so it could load PDF files in Safari, and even then I’d see broken scripts/images.
    Man have I been getting quite a few irate messages. OK it’s my fault! I admit it!!! I still love Apple products and even though I think the Mac OS is the closest OS to heaven, I must not assume it can read my mind.
    [Repeat 100 times]

  7. mono

    I have personally always considered Windows “merge by default” behavior to be less than intuitive, and more problematic than the way any other OS does it. And I started out on PCs.
    Dragging a folder to a location where a folder of the same name exists should always do a REPLACE rather than a merge, if you ask me. A simple replace is, in my opinion, the better way to go. In terms of simplicity and potential for confusion, it seems to make better sense the way the Mac, Linux, and other operating systems do it. I think the KISS concept should be prevalent in user interfaces.
    If you want to merge individual files from one folder into another, then you can and should drag those individual files into the destination folder.
    I’m a firm believer that Windows has always been (and may always be) the anti-user-friendly OS.
    ; )

  8. NewIMACIE

    I have just experienced this problem on my Imac. This really is a downer…I have two identical folders one on my PC, one on my MAC. Because I live in a remote area, I have to use Satellite internet which uses connection software that is not compatible with MAC…SO I have to network the MAC to the PC and use the PC for all of my internet downloads (too slow through network) I use the aformentioned folder to save pictures/files,etc to from the net, with multiple files within it on my pc. The same folder on my MAC has newly created files I use the pictures in for graphics etc OBVIOUSLY THE MAC IS SUPERIOR FOR THIS PURPOSE…so I had planned to transfer back and forth. I also assumed that all would “append” instead of completely replacing and actually DELETING my files made on the MAC…NEW files. There were no files of the same name in the transfered windows file that ended up deleted. I can understand replacing individual files of the same name, which is desired. But when you are adding to folders from two computers, a merge is a really nice feature. I am really disappointed with this so called “feature”. I am trying to organize a whole bunch of files from both machines into a common folder on the MAC, but I guess this is not an easy task with the MAC…without buying additional software. Windows has it’s problems…but hey, it’s never just deleted my files before in a simple transfer.

  9. Mihai W

    Thanks for posting this Vantan, Ive often bitched about this to Macheads who always exclaim “no OS can intelligently merge the contents of 2 folders”, which of course is incorrect. Presently I am suffering from the lack of this feature (tho not as much as you) — as Im updating multiple phpBB installs and must replace every file seperately.
    Mac, it just works. Except when it doesn’t.

  10. ian

    pcs work exactly the same way as macs. you could not expect anything else to happen if you try to copy identically named files/folders into the same location.

  11. Pete King

    Ian, thats totally incorrect. Windows merges the contents of folders together when you copy and paste them.
    This is especially useful for file distribution with subfoldered content. For example, if you want to send an update to an application, or additional content, to another user, as a windows user, you can just recreate the folder structure and only place the updated files in these empty folders. Then you simply zip the whole lot up and email it. The other user unzips, then copy-pastes the main folder into his application folder and the updated files are copied into the right folders.
    This just isnt possible on the mac though. You cant distribute updates to programs in this way.
    It really sucks.

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