iMovie Project Disappeared? How to Recover Deleted iMovie Files on Mac

Last updated: Jan. 7, 2017

So you couldn't find the iMovie project you've 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 iMovie project on Mac?

That's what we're going to cover in this article - troubleshooting different iMovie data loss situations and exploring every possible recovery solution.

What you might 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: there is no 100% guarantee that you'll recover the project, but if you follow the steps below, your chance of recovery would be high.

Step 1: Check Mac Trash

This may sound silly; it's always a good idea to double check the Mac Trashcan just in case. No matter you project is still under construction, or it 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 hit "Pull Back" option 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 could have created multiple files or projects and messed them up, 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 steps:

  1. Open Finder > Go > Computer > Macintosh HD > (your username) > Movies.
  2. Click the Movies folder and find the iMovie Projects folder. Note: depending on the OS X version your Mac is under, you may need an extra click to reveal package content. E.g. in OS X El Capitan and macOS Sierra, you'll need to right-click iMovie Library and select Show Package Contents.
  3. Now check if your project is there. Double click to restore it.

Step 3: Use Time Machine to Restore

If you use Time Machine to back up your Mac on a regular basis, then Time Machine can save your nerves. Plug the external backup hard drive into your Mac, open the iMovie project folder (as introduced in Step 2), choose a snap where you can see your lost project and restore it. Note: the whole process may be time-consuming, but it's worth checking.

Step 4: Try Data Recovery Software

If you accidentally deleted an iMovie file (.mp4 video format) and emptied the Trash later, or you directly removed it out of a flash drive, you may get it back by using a program like Stellar Macintosh Data Recovery — an excellent data rescue tool to salvage files deleted or lost on macOS computers.

How to do?

  1. Get Stellar Mac Data Recovery and install the app on your Mac.
  2. Launch the application (see its main interface above). 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. Note: if the iMovie file was saved on a flash drive, plug it into your Mac before you use this software.
  3. Preview the found video files to see if yours is there. If yes, recover and save it.

In case Stellar doesn't work out for you, we have also reviewed a list of best Mac data recovery tools in another post.

Kind tip: to increase chance of recovery, it's best that you stop using the device (either the Mac or an external flash drive) in which your lost iMovie item was saved. This helps prevent your original data from overwritten.

Image credit to iMore.

Andreas is an Apple and Microsoft fanboy who works with his Mac and lives with a PC at home. While he is not reading technology journals, you’ll probably find him playing online games with friends or hiking in the wild.

4 thoughts on “iMovie Project Disappeared? How to Recover Deleted iMovie Files on Mac

  1. 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


    • 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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

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