Today I moved (CMD-Drag) a folder from my laptop to my desktop across my LAN. The resulting file (an Ableton Live project file) opened on the desktop but is missing things that were present when it was on my laptop.

I can't figure out how this could have happened, and it got me thinking... where does the "original" actually go when you move as opposed to copy something? It doesn't just go in the trash so, is it just flagged for overwriting and made invisible? Wondering if I can somehow get the original back. I checked my Time Machine backups and somehow the folder in question is not there either (or actually, it's there but also missing things once restored).

  • I am not understanding your question. When you move a file the file goes to where you moved it. File A is at location 1 and is moved to location 2. File A is now at location 2. – JBis Mar 20 '18 at 3:15
  • But if you think of it as a copy, then you have the "original" (File A) and the "copy" (File B). The bits on my hard dive did not literally get moved, so where is the file that was formerly on my laptop? Obviously it still exists somewhere unless it was overwritten. – JVC Mar 20 '18 at 3:17
  • Gotcha. More of a file system question. I am not 100% sure but from my past knowledge of file systems I would think that File A is normally deleted. If the drive is an HDD that it may be able to be recovered, but if it is an SSD there is no chance of recovery as files deleted on SSD's are permanently erased. Heres a Quora article explaining how files are copied (may help understanding): quora.com/… – JBis Mar 20 '18 at 3:27
  • Oh wow... yeah the laptop is on an SSD. I didn't realize that SSD deletions are actually real instant permanent erasure. Yowza. – JVC Mar 20 '18 at 3:28
  • datanumen.com/blogs/… explains how the only exception to that rule is if TRIM is not enabled and you have an old SSD drive. TRIM is (and should be) enabled by default unless you installed your own SSD. – JBis Mar 20 '18 at 3:40

The file is deleted on the spot. Which means technically it's still on the disk as a deleted file until the system overrides it. But with a running operating system, it's very unlikely you'd be able to get it back with a data recovery tool. Data Rescue does deleted file recovery, but the data you seek is most likely already overwritten.

It's also clear that the "missing" data was lost long before you moved it. Time Machine is your solution here. Keep going back until you can find a copy that is not missing the data.

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  • Thanks but I've already gone back as far as there is to go, and every single copy is also missing stuff. Very very odd. Also it sounds like the data is not even technically still on the "disk" since it's an SSD. – JVC Mar 20 '18 at 3:42
  • Yeah if it's an SSD, it may be questionable. But it's very unlikely that these files magically disappeared from your computer AND all of your backups. I'm thinking maybe the files ever never in the folder you thought in the first place. Maybe they were linked externally? There's definitely more going on here than meets the eye. – l008com Mar 20 '18 at 3:51
  • Yeah it's very puzzling to say the least. This was an Ableton Live project that I was working on, and had saved, before moving it's entire folder over to my desktop. Doesn't seem possible for every restore of the project to be missing things, but they are. I really can't explain it. – JVC Mar 20 '18 at 3:55
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    I would agree to check for externally linked assets that were broken in the move. This is common in video and audio editing software. – Unassuming Guy Mar 20 '18 at 16:36

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