How to Wipe and Factory Reset Your Mac
There are two main reasons why you might want to factory reset a Mac. Firstly, if you’re having problems with your Mac, a reset can help to solve them. It’s drastic, but it often works. And secondly, if you’re selling or giving away your Mac, you should reset it to protect your data and to give the new owner the ability to make the computer their own.
If you’re having performance issues, before resetting your Mac, make sure all your software is up to date. You can easily check for updates using MacKeeper’s Update Tracker.
- In MacKeeper, click Update Tracker in the menu on the left
- Click Scan for updates
- When it’s done, you’ll get a list of apps that need updating
- In the list, select what you want to update, then click the Update button
Best of all, you can try MacKeeper right now for free. You get one free fix, so can see for yourself just what it can do.
There are a few key stages to factory resetting a Mac:
- Back up your Mac
- Deauthorize the Mac from your Apple account
- Unpair Bluetooth devices
- Reset your NVRAM
- Put your Mac in Recovery mode
- Wipe your startup disk, and reinstall macOS
The idea of wiping everything off your Mac might sound daunting, but if you know what you’re doing, it shouldn’t be too difficult. This guide will walk you through the process — whether you want to reset a MacBook Pro, a Macbook Air, an iMac, or a Mac Mini.
Steps to take before factory resetting your Mac
Before you completely wipe your Mac, there are few steps you should take to protect your data and prevent any other problems later.
Back up your Mac
Make sure to back up any data you want to keep. Use Time Machine or a third-party app. And check out our full guide to backing up your Mac with Time Machine if that’s the route you choose.
Deauthorize the Mac from your Apple account
For security reasons, if you give your Mac to someone else, you need to remove it from your Apple account. In the Music, Apple TV or Apple Books apps, go to the menu bar, and select Account > Authorizations > Deauthorize This Computer.
Unpair your Bluetooth devices
Even after factory resetting your Mac, it can still remember Bluetooth devices. So head to the Bluetooth settings in System Preferences, and make sure you remove them before you sell or give away your Mac. Of course, if you’re hard resetting a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, and you only use the trackpad and built-in keyboard, then you might not have to worry about Bluetooth peripherals at all.
Your Mac’s NVRAM stores things like your time zone, audio volume, display configuration and more. It’s not a bad idea to reset it too when wiping a Mac. Check out Apple’s official list of startup shortcuts to learn how it’s done.
How to reset your Mac in Recovery mode
You can wipe your Mac and erase its hard drive data using Recovery mode. The process for entering Recovery mode differs between Intel and M1 Macs, though, so we’ll look at both here. And if you want to factory reset a MacBook, make sure it’s plugged into the mains before you start.
How to put an Intel Mac into Recovery mode:
- Click the Apple logo in the top left of your screen, and choose Restart
- When your Mac shuts off and powers back on, press and hold Cmd + R until you see the Apple logo. Release the keys
- You should now enter Recovery mode
How to put an M1 Mac into Recovery mode:
- Click the Apple logo in the top left of your screen, and choose Shut Down
- When it’s completely shut down, press the Power button and keep it held down
- Your Mac will turn on, and eventually, you’ll see Loading startup options
- Select Options to get into Recovery
How to restore a Mac to factory settings with Recovery mode
- While in Recovery mode, you won’t see your usual login screen. Instead, you’ll see the macOS Utilities window
- From there, choose Disk Utility
- Click Continue
- Choose the Macintosh HD disk from the list on the left
- Click Erase
- Now you need to choose a disk format. For macOS High Sierra or later, choose APFS. For older macOS versions, select MacOS Extended (Journaled)
- Select GUID Partition Map
- Click Erase
- Wait until the process is finished, and click Done
- When it’s done, quit Disk Utility by clicking the red cross.
- From the macOS Utilities window, choose Reinstall macOS.
- Press Continue, and accept the license agreement
- Choose a bootable drive for macOS
- After the installation process is finished, you’ll have successfully factory reset your Mac
Prefer video format? Check out a Mac factory reset in action in our dedicated video tutorial.
It’s important to note that the macOS installation process differs slightly depending on what version you’re installing and what kind of Mac you’re on. However, the process is generally the same: boot into recovery, wipe your Mac’s hard drive, reinstall macOS.
Done correctly, factory resetting a Mac doesn’t take that much time. And you don’t have to just reinstall the same version of macOS if you don’t want to. You might instead want to downgrade to an earlier version of macOS.
So whether it’s going to a new owner or not, you can usually reset your Mac quickly and easily, without worrying about issues like security and privacy.