Mac Tutorials

How to Factory Reset MacBook

There are two main reasons why you might want to factory reset a MacBook. If you’re having problems with your Mac, a reset can help to solve them. It’s drastic, but it often works. 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.

 

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. If you’re wondering why does your Mac keep freezing, and you’ve tried all other fixes, a factory reset is the way to go.

 

Before we begin

 

As a preparation stage before your Mac’s reset, make sure to clean up your computer. MacKeeper’s Safe Cleanup tool is a safe and effective way to delete sensitive data from your MacBook. In addition to removing system logs and caches, it can also find and clear hidden junk and Mail attachments that may contain personal information.

 

Here’s how to use it:

  1. Download MacKeeper.
  2. Install it on your MacBook.
  3. When MacKeeper opens, select Safe Cleanup in the sidebar.
  4. Click Start Scan.
  5. Select all the files you want to delete, then click Clean Junk Files.

Steps to take before factory resetting your Mac

Before you completely wipe a MacBook or even start looking into how to clear system data on Mac, there are a few steps you should take to protect your data and prevent any other problems later. These include:

  1. Back up your MacBook
  2. Unpair your Bluetooth devices
  3. Sign out of your accounts on Mac
  4. Wipe Touch Bar data
  5. Delete the computer from the associated devices
  6. Reset NVRAM

1. Back up your MacBook

The first and most important step you should take before you restore a Mac to factory settings is to back up its data. The easiest way to do this is by enabling iCloud backup or by using Time Machine, but you can also clone your startup disk by using Disk Utility on Mac if you prefer to have a complete copy of it.

 

You can back up your data in several ways:

With iCloud

Here’s how to back up your Mac to iCloud:

  1. Open System Settings on your Mac, then click Apple ID in the sidebar.
  2. Select iCloud, then click iCloud Drive.
  3. Ensure the options for Sync this Mac and Desktop & Documents Folders are enabled, then click Done.
  4. Return to the iCloud menu in System Settings, then select Photos.
  5. Ensure that Sync this Mac is enabled, then click Done.
System Settings on Mac shows the General menu. Select iCloud to back up to iCloud Drive.
Step 1. In System Settings, click Apple ID > iCloud
System Settings on Mac shows the iCloud menu. Select iCloud Drive to back up your Mac to iCloud.
Step 2. Select iCloud Drive
System Settings on Mac shows the iCloud Drive menu. Enable Sync this Mac and Desktop & Documents Folders, then click Done.
Step 3. Turn on Sync this Mac and Desktop & Documents
System Settings on Mac shows the iCloud menu. Select Photos to back up the photos from your Mac to iCloud.
Step 4. In the iCloud menu, select Photos
System Settings on Mac shows the Photos options for iCloud. Enable Sync this Mac, then click Done.
Step 5. Turn on Sync this Mac

Note from our team: Backing up to iCloud can take time, especially if you’re performing a backup for the first time. Give your laptop time to complete the process before you start to reset it, to ensure that no data is lost when you erase the machine.

Using Time Machine

Alternatively, here’s how to back up your MacBook using Time Machine:

  1. Connect a clean external drive to your Mac, ensuring that its capacity is large enough to hold all your data. Apple recommends using a drive that’s twice as big as your Mac’s startup disk.
  2. Open System Settings on your Mac, then select General in the sidebar.
  3. Click Time Machine, then click Add Backup Disk.
  4. Select your external drive, then click Set Up Disk.
System Settings on Mac shows the General menu. Select Time Machine to enable Time Machine backups on your Mac.
Step 1. In System Settings, select General > Time Machine
System Settings on Mac shows the Time Machine menu. Click Add Backup Disk to select an external drive for your Time Machine backups.
Step 2. Choose Add Backup Disk
System Settings on Mac shows the Time Machine menu. After selecting your backup drive, click Set Up Disk.
Step 3. Select your external drive, then click Set Up Disk

Much like backing up to iCloud, performing a Time Machine backup for the first time can take a while. Allow the process to complete before resetting your Mac, or you’ll lose the data that has not yet been copied to your external drive.

With Disk Utility

As another way to do it, clone your Mac’s data with Disk Utility:

  1. Boot your Mac in Recovery mode by following the steps below.
  2. In the Recovery app, select Disk Utility, then click Continue.
  3. Connect a clean external drive that’s big enough to hold a complete copy of your Mac’s startup disk to your MacBook.
  4. In Disk Utility, select your clean external drive in the sidebar.
  5. Select Restore in the toolbar.
  6. In the Restore from menu, select your MacBook’s startup disk. It is usually called Macintosh HD.
  7. Click Restore.
  8. When the process is complete, you can quit macOS Recovery mode by clicking the Apple logo in the menu bar, then selecting Restart.
macOS Recovery shows all Recovery utilities. Select Disk Utility to back up your Mac with a complete drive clone.
Step 1. In macOS Recovery, select Disk Utility
Disk Utility on Mac shows all available drives. Select your external drive to clone to, then click Restore.
Step 2. Select your drive, then click Restore
Disk Utility on Mac shows the drive restore options. Select your Mac's startup disk, then click Restore.
Step 3. Choose your startup disk, then click Restore

2. Unpair your Bluetooth devices

Even after you format a MacBook, it can still remember Bluetooth devices, so we remind you to unpair them before you start resetting your Apple computer like this:

  1. Open System Settings on your Mac, then select Bluetooth in the sidebar.
  2. Click the i button next to one of the Bluetooth accessories that has been paired with your MacBook.
  3. Select Forget This Device.
  4. Click Forget Device to confirm.
  5. Repeat this process for all devices in the list.
System Settings on Mac shows all system options. Click Bluetooth to access the Bluetooth menu.
Step 1. In System Settings, select Bluetooth
System Settings on Mac shows the Bluetooth menu. Click the i icon next to one of your Bluetooth devices.
Step 2. Click the i icon next to a Bluetooth device
System Settings on Mac shows the Bluetooth options. Click Forget This Device to unpair your Bluetooth accessory.
Step 3. Click Forget This Device
System Settings on Mac shows the Bluetooth options. Click Forget Device to confirm you want to unpair your Bluetooth device.
Step 4. Select Forget Device to confirm

3. Sign out of your accounts on Mac

When you sign out of your Apple accounts before you erase a MacBook, you not only ensure that no one can access them later, but it also removes the Activation Lock on the Mac. As a result, the new owner of your machine can sign in using their accounts.

 

Start your sign-out with these steps:

Apple ID & iCloud

To remove your Apple ID and iCloud account from your MacBook, follow these steps:

  1. Open System Settings on your Mac, then select Apple ID in the sidebar.
  2. At the bottom of the window, click the Sign Out button.
  3. Uncheck all the boxes to ensure no data is left behind, then click Continue.
  4. Enter your Mac’s password when prompted to finish.
System Settings on Mac shows all system options. Select Apple ID to sign out of your Apple ID and iCloud accounts.
Step 1. In System Settings, select Apple ID
System Settings on Mac shows the Apple ID menu. Click the Sign Out button to sign out of your Apple ID and iCloud accounts.
Step 2. At the bottom, click Sign Out
System Settings on Mac shows the Apple ID option to log out. Uncheck all options, then click Continue.
Step 3. Uncheck all options > click Continue

iTunes

If you use a separate account for iTunes and the App Store that’s not tied to your Apple ID, you’ll need to sign out of that manually like so:

  1. Open the Music app on your Mac.
  2. Select Account in the menu bar, then click Sign Out.
Apple Music on Mac shows the Account menu. Click Sign Out to sign out of your iTunes account.
Open Apple Music, then click Account > Sign Out

iMessage

Your Mac should be disconnected from iMessage automatically when you sign out of your Apple ID, but if that doesn’t happen, here’s how to sign out manually:

  1. Open Messages on your Mac.
  2. In the menu bar, click Messages > Settings.
  3. Click the iMessage tab, then click Sign Out.
  4. Select Sign Out again to confirm.
Messages on Mac shows the menu bar options. Click Settings to access iMessage settings.
Step 1. Select Messages then Settings
Messages on Mac shows the iMessage options menu. Click Sign Out to log out of your iMessage account.
Step 2. Click iMessage, then select Sign Out
Messages on Mac shows the option to sign out of iMessage. Click Sign Out to confirm.
Step 3. Click Sign Out to confirm

4. Wipe Touch Bar data

If you have a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar, it’s a good idea to wipe its Touch Bar data to make sure that you remove any sensitive information it may contain:

  1. Boot your Mac in Recovery mode by following the steps below.
  2. In the Recovery app, select Utilities, then choose Terminal.
  3. In Terminal, type xartutil --erase-all, then press enter.
  4. When Terminal asks if you want to proceed, type yes then press enter.
  5. To exit Recovery mode, open the Apple menu, then select Restart.
Recovery mode on Mac shows the Utilities menu bar options. Select Terminal to open it.
Step 1. In macOS Recovery, select Utilities > Terminal
Terminal on Mac shows the command line. Type xartutil --erase-all then press enter to clear Touch Bar data.
Step 2. Type xartutil --erase-all, then press enter

Wiping the Touch Bar data on your MacBook also clears all Touch ID data, ensuring that no fingerprint information is saved on your machine.

5. Delete the computer from the associated devices

If you’re selling or giving away your Mac, you need to delete it from the list of associated devices in Apple ID. Only a limited number of devices can be registered, so if you don’t remove it, it may prevent you from using Apple Music, Apple TV, and other services on a different device later. Here’s how to delete it:

  1. Open the Music app on your Mac.
  2. Click Account in the menu bar, then select Account Settings.
  3. Enter your email address and password to proceed.
  4. Click Manage Devices.
  5. Find your MacBook in the list of associated devices, then click the Remove button.
Apple Music on Mac shows the Account menu. Click Account Settings to remove a device from your associated devices.
Step 1. In Music, select Account > Account Settings
Apple Music on Mac shows the Account Settings menu. Click Manage Devices to remove a device from your associated devices list.
Step 2. Click Manage Devices
Apple Music on Mac shows all associated devices. Find the device you want to delete, then click Remove.
Step 3. Find your device, then click Remove

6. Reset NVRAM

Resetting the NVRAM on your Intel MacBook uses the same process you would follow to reset PRAM on Mac. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Shut down your MacBook.
  2. Turn on your Mac, then immediately press and hold the Option, Command, P, and R keys.
  3. After about 20 seconds, release the keys and wait for your Mac to restart.

If you have a MacBook powered by an Apple Silicon chip, it doesn’t use NVRAM, so there’s no need to follow this process.

How to reset your Mac in Recovery mode

You can erase a MacBook and wipe its hard drive data using Recovery mode. But if you still want to factory reset a MacBook, make sure it’s plugged into the mains before you start.

 

The process for entering Recovery mode differs between Intel and Apple Silicon Macs, though, so we’ll look at both here:

How to put an Intel Mac into Recovery mode

  1. Click the Apple logo in the top left of your screen, then choose Restart.
  2. When your Mac shuts off and powers back on, press and hold Command + R until you see the Apple logo, then release the keys.
  3. You should now enter Recovery mode.

How to enable an M1 Mac into Recovery mode

  1. Click the Apple logo in the top left of your screen, then choose Shut Down.
  2. When it’s completely shut down, press the power button on your machine and keep it held down.
  3. Your Mac will turn on, and eventually, you’ll see Loading startup options.
  4. Select Options to get into Recovery.

How to restore a Mac on different versions of macOS to factory settings

We’d like to warn you that the steps to restore a Mac to factory settings differ depending on which version of macOS your MacBook is running, with later versions not needing Recovery mode on modern devices. Choose the right steps for your operating system below:

MacBook running macOS Ventura and Sonoma

  1. Open System Settings on your Mac, then select General in the sidebar.
  2. Click Transfer or Reset.
  3. Select Erase All Content and Settings.
  4. Enter your Mac’s administrator password, then click Unlock.
  5. Click Continue.
  6. Enter your iCloud password if prompted.
  7. Click Erase All Content & Settings to confirm.
  8. Once the process is complete, your Mac will restart to the setup screen.
System Settings on Mac shows the General menu. Click Transfer or Reset to factory reset your Mac.
Step 1. In System Settings, select General > Transfer or Reset
System Settings on Mac shows the Transfer or Reset menu. Click Erase All Content and Settings to factory reset your MacBook.
Step 2. Click Erase All Content and Settings
Erase Assistant on Mac shows the login prompt. Enter your admin password to continue.
Step 3. Enter your admin password
Erase Assistant on Mac shows the Erase All Content & Settings screen. Click Continue to proceed.
Step 4. Click Continue
Erase Assistant on Mac shows the Sign Out screen. Enter your iCloud password to continue.
Step 5. Enter your iCloud password if prompted
Erase Assistant on Mac shows the Erase All Content & Settings confirmation prompt. Click Erase All Content & Settings to confirm.
Step 6. Click Erase All Content & Settings to confirm

MacBook running macOS Monterey

  1. Open System Preferences on your Mac.
  2. Click System Preferences in the menu bar, then select Erase All Content and Settings.
  3. Sign in with administrator credentials.
  4. Confirm by clicking Erase All Content & Settings.
  5. Your Mac will restart into setup mode when the reset is complete.
System Preferences on macOS Monterey shows the menu bar options. Click Erase All Content and Settings to factory reset your MacBook.
Step 1. In System Preferences, click Erase All Content and Settings
System Preferences on macOS Monterey shows the Transfer or Reset menu. Click Erase All Content and Settings to delete all data and factory reset your Mac.
Step 2. Click Erase All Content and Settings to proceed

Hint from our experts:

 

If you see Erase Assistant not supported on this Mac message, it may be that your MacBook isn’t compatible with this feature. Erase all content and settings is only available on Macs with Apple Silicon or a T2 Security Chip.

Mac on macOS Catalina, macOS Big Sur

For these two versions, Mac Mojave, or earlier, follow these instructions:

  1. After booting into Recovery mode, select Disk Utility, then click Continue.
  2. Select your MacBook’s startup disk in the sidebar. It should be called Macintosh HD.
  3. Click the Erase button in the toolbar.
  4. We recommend leaving the drive name and format as suggested by Disk Utility. Now click Erase Volume Group. If you don’t see this option, click Erase.
  5. When the process is complete, you can close Disk Utility by selecting Disk Utility > Quit Disk Utility in the menu bar.
  6. When the Utilities menu reappears in Recovery mode, select Reinstall macOS, then click Continue.
  7. Click Continue, then choose your Mac’s startup disk.
  8. Follow the process onscreen to proceed.
Recovery mode on macOS Catalina shows the Utility menu. Select Disk Utility, then click Continue.
Step 1. In Recovery mode, select Disk Utility
Disk Utility in macOS Catalina Recovery mode shows all disk drives. Select your Mac's startup disk then click Erase to wipe all data and factory reset your Mac.
Step 2. Select your Mac’s startup disk, then click Erase
Disk Utility in macOS Catalina Recovery mode shows the Erase feature. Click Erase Volume Group or just Erase to continue.
Step 3. Click Erase Volume Group or just Erase
Disk Utility in macOS Catalina Recovery mode shows the menu bar options. Click Quit Disk Utility when you want to exit.
Step 4. Quit Disk Utility
Recovery mode on macOS Catalina shows the Utility menu. Click Reinstall macOS, then select Continue.
Step 5. In Recovery, click Reinstall macOS
macOS Recovery mode shows the Install macOS Catalina screen. Click Continue, then follow the onscreen steps to reinstall macOS.
Step 6. Click Continue, then follow the onscreen steps

FAQ

Does factory reset remove everything from your MacBook?

When performed correctly, a factory reset should remove all data from your MacBook. However, it’s important to remember that you should back up your machine and sign out of your Apple accounts before starting the reset process.

How to hard reset your Mac?

The best way to hard reset a Mac and remove all its data is by using the Erase All Content and Settings feature in modern versions of macOS. In older versions of the operating system, you can boot into Recovery mode and wipe the Mac’s startup disk using Disk Utility.

How can you wipe a MacBook to factory settings without a password?

Depending on which type of MacBook you have and whether it’s tied to your Apple ID, it may not be possible to factory reset a MacBook without its password. Try resetting the password for your Apple ID first so that you can remove the Activation Lock. On older Mac models and those that aren’t tied to an Apple ID, you can wipe the machine to factory settings using Disk Utility in Recovery mode.

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