How to Fix “Mac Documents Folder is Empty” Error?

Mac document folder is empty

Usually, you will be able to access your Documents folder in the sidebar of Finder. But for some reason, the Documents folder gets missing on macOS 12/11/10.15/10.14 or earlier. The problem becomes hotly discussed over the internet after updating Mac to the new version.

Since updating my MacBook Pro to macOS 11 Big Sur, the Documents folder has gone missing from my Finder and Desktop. It just disappeared. How can I get the missing or disappeared Documents folder back where they were? Most importantly, I don’t want to lose any files in the Documents folder.

When the “Documents folder missing on Mac” issue happens, you may not be able to find most of your crucial files. This can annoy you so much and you hope to find solutions to quickly recover lost files after macOS update.

In this article, we will show you why your Documents folder disappeared on Mac. Apart from that, we will show you how to get lost/missing/disappeared files and the Documents folder back on Mac with ease.

Why is My Documents Folder Empty on my Mac?

Here are the major reasons that will explain why your documents and folders disappearing from the Mac Document folder:

  1. Files in the Document Folder Are Deleted

The main reason is that you carelessly or unintentionally emptied the Document folder or deleted all the files in the folder. 

  1. iCloud Is Enabled to Sync Files from Mac

A new feature in macOS allows you to sync files from your desktop and Documents folder to iCloud so as to allow you to access these files on all your devices.

However, if you disable this feature while syncing files, it will delete them from your computer. Relax, those files still exist. They were simply removed from the desktop and Documents folder and left in iCloud Drive.

  1. Mac Finder Hides Files in Document Folder on Mac

By changing the preference settings, Mac Finder may hide your files from being visible in the Document folder. 

How to Recover Lost/Deleted Documents On Mac?

The ways to restore the emptied documents folder are various due to the different causes. And you may follow the right method below to bring your lost or missing files back on Mac in a few clicks.

Method 1: How to Disable iCloud Sync to Recover Disappeared Documents Folder on Mac?

macOS allows you to put Desktop and Documents folders in iCloud Drive. Documents that you store in iCloud Drive stay up to date across all of your devices, and you can access them from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, or PC, and on

Therefore, if you have stored the Desktop and Documents folder with iCloud Drive, it will lead to the Mac Documents folder missing from Favorites and being moved to the iCloud section of your Finder sidebar. In this case, you can turn off the iCloud drive to recover the missing Documents folder.

  1. Go to Apple menu > System Preferences > iCloud.
  2. Click Options.
  3. Uncheck Desktop & Documents Folders.

{Note: The system will warn you that “If you continue, items will be removed from the Desktop and the Documents folder on this Mac and will remain available in iCloud Drive”, this is ok. You can safely continue and open each of the Desktop and Documents folders that are shown in iCloud Drive.}

  1. Click Done.
  2. Open the iCloud Drive folder on Mac, you will be able to see Desktop and Documents folders in the folder.

To get your Document folder showing up and recover files in it, you can go back to turn your iCloud back on.

If you only have a few files, dragging them to the now empty Desktop and Documents folders in your Home folder is also okay. It will warn you again that the files will no longer be available on iCloud Drive, that’s ok.

Method 2: How to Recover disappeared or missing Documents folder

You might have been used to looking for Documents, iCloud Drive, and other storage devices through Finder in macOS. It’s called the Finder because it helps you find and organize your files. However, the Documents folder may not appear as you expected sometimes.

In this case, if you didn’t turn on Desktop and Documents in iCloud Drive, the missing/disappeared Documents folder is likely hidden by Finder Preference. You can go to Finder Preference and make it checked.

  1. Open the Finder in macOS and click Finder from the menu bar.
  2. Click Preferences.
  3. Choose the Sidebar tab and tick Documents.

Method 3: How to Unhide files using Terminal

Sometimes hide settings can make your data in the Documents invisible, In order to unhide the hidden files make use of the terminal by following the below-mentioned steps.

  1. Open the Finder>Application>Utility folder, and double-click on Terminal. 

  2. Type the command defaults write AppleShowAllFiles True and hit Return.

  3. Type killall Finder and hit the Return key.

  4. Then, Relaunch the Finder.

Now, you will be able to see the files in the Documents. If you are still not able to see the data, Try restoring it from Time Machine backup.

Method 4. Restore from Time Machine

If you have Time Machine set up, this is the best way to recover your documents folder irrespective of whatever the reason for its loss. To recover the ‘Documents’ folder using Time Machine, follow the simple steps below:

  1. In the menu bar, select Enter Time Machine.
  2. If you don’t see this option in the menu bar, go to System Preferences > Time Machine and select Show Time Machine in menu bar
  3. In the Time Machine, find the ‘Documents’ folder you wish to restore and click Restore

Method 5: Disable Desk Stacks to show disappeared files

Stacks is another new feature in macOS Mojave and later. It will automatically organize your files on the Desktop so that your desktop is free of clutter.

Whereas it could be a troublemaker for those who have updated to macOS Mojave, Catalina, Big Sur, Monterey, in that files seem to be “lost” for you but actually were grouped by macOS. You can go and check which folder your missing files were grouped into and recover them.

  • 1. Select View on the top of your desktop and check Use Stacks.
  • 2. Click Group Stacks By and see in what way your files were grouped.
  • 3. Find your lost/missing files and move them to the place you want.

If in case you were not able to fix the issue with the above solutions or for some reason you don’t find the ‘Documents’ folder you’re looking for, you may need to make use of professional file recovery solutions such as Yodot. Yodot file recovery Mac software is the perfect choice to recover lost or deleted files from your systems.

Method 6: Use professional file recovery tools

Yodot Mac File Recovery Software is one of the most trusted and safe data recovery tools to recover data in all data loss situations. It can recover all types of files from the Mac Documents folder which got suddenly emptied. Sometimes Time machine failure can make all your backup files inaccessible, but by utilizing Yodot Mac File Recovery it can be recovered in a few minutes. To recover your crucial data by using Yodot Mac File Recovery software, you can simply download and install the software on your Mac.


After installation, launch the software and recover the data in just simple steps:

Step 1: Launch the Yodot Mac File Recovery application on your Mac device and select the recover lost files.

Step 2: Select the drive/volume from where files are to be recovered and let the software deep scan the drive/volume.

Step 3: View the recovered files in two different view types for easy selection of files, which you want to rescue.

Step 4: Preview the recovered file to ensure that the right file has been retrieved.

Step 5: Choose the destination location, to save recovered files. Make sure not to select the source drive otherwise, data will be deleted permanently.

Preventive measures

In order to prevent some of your other files and folders to go missing again, you can use some of these tips.

Run anti-virus: There’s a possibility that the documents folder is missing due to a virus on your system. In that case, it is best to run an anti-virus scan to get rid of the virus. If the file loss was caused due to a virus, this procedure will prevent it from causing other files to go missing.

Run Disk Utility: Corruption in your hard drive may also have caused your ‘Documents’ folder to go missing. In that case, go to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility. Select the volume you would like to run Disk Utility on and click First Aid. Then click Run for the tool to fix issues with your hard disk. This should repair any corruption issues that may have caused your files to disappear and should hopefully help prevent it from happening again.