How to Recover Deleted or Missing iMovie Projects on Mac

imovie recovery

So you couldn’t find the iMovie project you have spent hours working on?

Maybe it got deleted by accident, perhaps the file was unsaved due to iMovie app corruption.

The question is — how to recover a deleted or missing iMovie project on Mac?

That’s what we are going to cover in this article, explore different iMovie data loss situations and help you find recovery solutions.

What You May Need:

  • Your Mac computer with the iMovie app
  • The external hard drive with Time Machine backups (optional)
  • A Mac data recovery software (optional)
  • Time and patience

Note: it’s not 100% guaranteed that you’ll recover the project that disappeared or deleted, but if you follow the steps below, your chance of recovery could be high.

Step 1: Check Mac Trash

recover iMovie projects from Mac Trash
recover deleted iMovie projects from Mac Trash

This step may sound very simple but often gets overlooked. It’s always a good idea to check the Mac Trash just in case.

No matter your project is still under construction or has been exported into a .mp4 video, it may have been sent to the Trash.

If you find it, highlight the file, right-click and select “Put Back” to recover it.

Step 2: Retrieve Past Projects and Events from iMovie Library

iMovie is a bit tricky especially if you are new to the app, sometimes you may have created multiple files or projects, and later you couldn’t find the one you want. In this case, you’ll need to look up the iMovie project library.

How to access it? Follow these:

1. Open Finder > Go > Computer > Macintosh HD > (your username) > Movies.

2. Click the Movies folder and find the iMovie Library folder. Now right-click on it and select Show Package Contents.

3. Now check if your project is there. Double click to restore it.

Step 3: Restore iMovie Projects via Time Machine

If you use Time Machine to back up your Mac on a regular basis, then Time Machine may save your nerves.

Plug the external backup hard drive into your Mac, open the iMovie Library folder (as shown in Step 2), choose a snap where you can see your lost project, and restore it.

This video from Apple Support shows you how:

Note: this step may be a bit time-consuming, but it’s worth checking.

Step 4: Try Data Recovery Software

If you accidentally deleted an iMovie file and emptied the Trash later, you may still be able to get it back by using a third-party software like Stellar Mac Data Recovery, which helps rescue files deleted or lost on Mac computers when you don’t have a backup.

Note: this app is not free, but it offers a free trial that allows you to scan your Mac for any recoverable items. You’ll need to pay to recover and save the found files.

Here’s how:

  • Get Stellar Mac Data Recovery and install the app on your Mac.
  • Launch the application. Select the drive where you saved your iMovie files. Then let the app have a quick scan of the drive to look for recoverable items.
  • Preview the found video files to see if yours is there. If yes, recover and save it.

In case Stellar doesn’t work out, we have also reviewed a list of the best Mac data recovery software in a separate post.

That’s all that we wanted to share with you in this article: four steps to retrieve a missing or deleted iMovie project. Good luck recovering your lost files!

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  • Golden Girl

    I think it’s clear there is no user error. I had about 20 movies in iMovie. They just slid into the ethernet. Thanks to you I found 5 of them looking in Show Package Contents. Then I found a lot of icons, iMovie, iMovie Library, and misc other ones that for various reasons were unable to open. They show many megabytes of storage. Converted or not converted. Unable to Access. I made each and every one of them on iMovie. I am a slow learner, but eventually I learned to back them up, just on a usb drive.
    It stinks. We have hundreds of hours into these things.
    Anyway, now that I’ve vented, thanks for at least getting me these.

  • Michael Goggin

    Hi Andreas, I was wondering if you had any ideas as to why I may have lost my iMovie project from my iPhone? I think I may have lost it when my payment details for my cloud storage changed and I forgot to change it with Apple. I changed the payment details just a few hours later after I got a message from Apple. I suspect I lost the projects because of that though can’t be sure. It’s suffice to say I don’t know whether to try and restore my phone or not to a previous back up. I’m not sure whether it will bring it back or not. Can you help me with this?

  • Kris

    Hi, I have the same problem as above. I found it as you say but double clicking does not seem to open it? Not sure why I lost it to begin with and if i redo the whole thing will it happen all over again? I did not delete anything. I even made a copy.


    The viewer on IMovie went black screen.

    How can I restore it ?

    Thank You !


  • Alysha

    Hi Andreas,

    Thank you for the help! I found my iMovie contents via your instructions in Option 2, but when I double click on my project, several other folders open with lots of content within. How do I restore it from here?

  • Kim

    Hi Andreas,
    can you please explain why we lose our movies? I am getting the missing file message on pretty much all our home movies. Is this is a glitch or am I doing something wrong? I ask because it has happened before and I want to try and avoid it in the future. Why does this happen?
    Thanking you in advance.

  • Omar Sowan

    Hi Andreas!
    I am not sure why are we in this situation in the first place. This thread seems to treat the incident as though the user made some error which resulted in them deleting their project/projects! Can you explain why are the projects lost in the first place? I have simply updated iMovie to version 10.1.12, and under “Movies” I cannot find a folder called “iMovie Projects” at all. So do you mean that the iMovie update results in the disappearance of The projects folder? Which is definitely not acceptable, at least not without a pre-warning to the user. In fact, since this thread seems to be old, will this be happening at each update?

    Best regards,

  • garry

    was working on a project first time using iMovie so I was just getting used to using it
    I made a short movie with soundtrack behind I then went to titles and was playing with this then it all just went to a picture on my screen of a person in the movie and everything just disappeared am unable to go back to where I was to retrieve that movie I did not save anything is it possible to go back to where I was. tried the trash and looked in my folders nothing their

  • Amaris Harris


  • Jade

    Hi there can you please help me?
    I have a imovie project that quit unexpectedly and then when I clicked re-open it was completely gone. Its a super important project that is due soon. What can I do?

  • elroy

    Why do Macs suck so bad? Just allow me to”save” a project. Is it that difficult

  • Helena Theben

    Hey, So I spent hours on a project and imovie corrupted and notified me that I had to quit to prevent all my work from being lost. I had already quit imovie and restarted my computer multiple times while working on the project so I didnt think it was a big deal. Well when I went back on my entire project was nowhere to be found. Please help this is very important, Thank you!!

  • Spizzwolf


    With this article you helped me immensely. I cannot express to you how grateful I am. I thought I lost HOURS AND HOURS of video I carefully edited. But I found it because of you so THANK YOU and take care.

  • Kristine McCardle

    So sad Apple couldn’t just have a SAVE and SAVE AS button. Too much common sense for that? Just lost an entire vacation iMovie project I’ve been working for days on. Can’t hit SAVE and POOF….it’s just gone like that. Wish my trusty PC had a great movie editing program; my Mac would be GONE!

  • paul

    hi Andreas
    can you please help me, since I up dated the iMovie APP I have lost all my IMOVIES, they were my skiing ones about 10 to 30 mins long but quite a few of them.

    many thanks

  • joanne

    hey, i did the second step. i did it until i found the imovie library, i cannot double tap it and make it restore. what should i do?


      I’m stuck at the same step. I see old my projects as folders but double tab simply opens child folders but not necessarily restore it.

    • tumi

      hi, were you able to figure it out?

    • Jessica

      Yep. Double click what? A massive omission in this document!

  • Flora

    Hey Andreas,

    thank you very much for the tutorial but I am quite confused on the second one: Retrieve Past Projects and Events from iMovie Library. I have managed to locate my project but opening it just gives me a Text File with tons and tons of code. The extension of the file is .imovieevent but I can’t open it with iMovie even when I click “Open With”

    I have been working on this project for 3 and a half hours and am willing to try anything at this point. Any help would be greatly appreciated


    • AnySoftwareTools

      Hi Flora,

      What macOS are you using? Has iMovie ever corrupted when you were working on your project? The .imovieevent file you can see now seem just an iMovie event, instead of your project. We recommend you try step #3 and #4 as well.

      Good luck.

      • Shu

        I have exactly the same problem as Flora, and I didn’t delete this project at all. I do not want to use step 4 because the Stella App need me to pay a lot of money for me to recover nor I didn’t find the file I want to recover. I don’t use Time Machine on the regular basis. Can you please tell me how to solve this problem? So now, I can see my project in the iMovie Library, but whenever I open iMovie, my project just doesn’t show up at all. Thank you.


        • Sara

          ME TOO! Same as Flora and Shu.