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Ever wondered what to do when you delete a system file from a Mac? Or you may be wondering how to get those system files back after they are removed from the computer? While most Mac users should never change system files in Mac OS and Mac OS X, some do anyway, and during that process of searching the system contents, it is possible to delete a system file or system folder inadvertently, accidentally or deliberately delete. without knowing exactly what the impact would be. Well, spoiler alert; usually, the impact of deleting system files from Mac OS is that something that should work on Mac suddenly stops working. So what should you do in such a situation? How can you get back a system file that you deleted from Mac OS? What should you do if you deleted an entire system folder from the Mac? This article attempts to answer that question.
If you’ve accidentally deleted a system file and now something clearly isn’t working the way it should, you have two realistic options: restore the Mac from a backup.up created before deleting the system file, or reinstalling Mac OS system software.
If you have set Time Machine to back upup from your Mac and you do this regularly (and you should), using Time Machine restore may be the best approach for some users. Of course, Time Machine will revert to what it was when it was last supported up, so if the backupup a week old, you will lose data between then and now unless you specifically make copies of that data.
If you don’t want to use Time machine, or if Time Machine isn’t an option for some reason, you can also choose to reinstall Mac OS system software. Keep in mind that reinstalling macOS system software shouldn’t affect data, as it will try to reinstall only the operating system itself without fussing about personal documents, apps, or other data. However, “should” is not a guarantee, and it is always possible that reinstalling system software or starting another recovery, recovery, or reinstallation process could result in permanent data loss. So you must backup created your data before attempting to reinstall the Mac OS system software.
How to Get back deleted system files on Mac
Both approaches rely on using Mac recovery mode, you either restore from a previously created backupup or reinstall the operating system:
- Restart the Mac and immediately hold down the COMMAND + R keys simultaneously
- Keep holding down COMMAND + R keys until you see the “MacOS Utilities” screen
- If you have a Time Machine backup, choose ‘Restore from Time Machine backup’
- To reinstall Mac OS system software, choose “Reinstall MacOS” (or “Reinstall OS X”, wording may be slightly different)
Whether you choose to restore from a backupup or to reinstall macOS, the process will take a while to complete (can take many hours if a large backup file is restored). But when you are done, the restored version of the system software will work as before, or the new, new version of the Mac OS system software will be installed and run as intended.
If you want full detail tutorials for these steps you can see and learn them how to use Time Machine to restore a Mac from a backupup, or read about reinstalling macOS High Sierra and macOS Sierra, or reinstalling OS X El Capitan and Yosemite – in both cases, reinstalling is largely the same, despite the naming conventions differing and some verbiage slightly different.
If the above reinstallation approach fails for any reason, another option is to try using Internet Recovery to reinstall Mac OS X, but it requires a consistent and reliable high-speed Internet connection, and the version of the system software being reinstalled may be different from the current version. on the Mac.
How is a system file deleted from a Mac in the first place?
If you’re wondering how on earth someone can delete a system file in the first place, it can be done quite easily.
For starters, the various system folders in Mac OS are easily accessible from Finder and from the command line by going to the root of the Mac file system. While most people leave that stuff alone when it gets over their heads, some novice users can either be extremely adventurous or confused, and wind up where they shouldn’t be.
For the most common example, novice Mac users can confuse the user library folder with the system library folder and vice versa. They may think they are throwing out individual user files, but they are actually system-level files – something that can happen if someone tries to clean up Mac OS caches and temporary files. Or maybe a novice command line user is experimenting with the ruthless rm and srm commands for the first time and accidentally deleting an entire directory that is essential for Mac OS to function properly. Or someone may have noticed that temporary items in / private / var / folders / are being confiscated up lots of storage space and they handled it the wrong way. Oops!
The bottom line is that system file deletion is possible and it can happen accidentally, unintentionally or on purpose, by both novice and advanced users.
It’s worth pointing out that modern Mac OS versions have a feature Called System Integrity Protection (SIP) to try to prevent modification and deletion of system files, but System Integrity Protection can be disabled in Mac OS (and is often used by advanced users for various reasons), and older versions of Mac OS X don’t have that SIP protection all the way.
Hopefully this guide helped you understand how to recover and restore deleted system files in Mac OS and Mac OS X, a process you hopefully don’t need to undertake (in other words, don’t delete system files!). If you know any other useful information tips, tricks, or methods to achieve the same effect, share them with us in the comments below!
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