How to Factory Reset a Mac


Needing to factory reset an iPhone or iPad doesn’t seem uncommon, but it seems less common for a Mac. Whether you’re selling or trading in your Mac or you just want to start over from scratch, sometimes you need to reset everything. While there is no actual factory reset available for a Mac, restoring it to like-new condition is simple.

To restore the Mac to factory condition, you’ll need to use macOS Recovery. Fortunately, you don’t need an external USB drive or anything for the process. Everything you need is built right in.

Before you boot into macOS Recovery, there are a few prerequisites. To start, make sure you have an Internet connection available. You’ll need this to download the latest version of macOS when it comes time to reinstall.

Restoring your Mac means that all your files and apps will be erased, so make sure to back up. There are plenty of options. You can use Time Machine or a more advanced app like SuperDuper.

Turn off FileVault encryption

FileVault Encryption helps prevent others from getting access to your files, but you’ll want to turn it off to reset your Mac. You’ll be erasing the hard drive in a few minutes anyway, so it’s fine to turn this off.

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To do this, open System Preferences and click on “Security & Privacy” in the top row. Select the FileVault tab, then click the lock icon in the bottom-left corner. Enter your password, then hit the button marked “Turn Off FileVault.” You’ll need to confirm this, then wait while your drive is decrypted.

If you’re not keeping your Mac

If you’re selling your Mac, trading it in, or giving it to someone, there are a few more steps. These both include unlinking the Mac from your accounts.

Deauthorize iTunes: Open iTunes, then in the menu bar open the Account menu. Go down to the Authorizations sub-menu, and click De-authorize This Computer.

Sign out of and disable iCloud: Open System Preferences again, but this time click the iCloud icon, then click Sign Out in the bottom-left. Now deselect the box next to each icon on the right. This is especially important for iCloud Drive, Calendars, Reminders, and Contacts.

To boot into macOS Recovery, power off your Mac. Once it’s shut down, hit the power button. Immediately after doing this hold down Command + R. This will boot you into macOS Recovery and let you install the previous version of macOS you had installed.

If you would rather upgrade to the latest available version of macOS, enter Recovery by holding Option + Command + R instead. To install the version that came with your Mac originally, or at least the oldest version available, hold Shift + Option + Command + R.

You’ll see an Apple logo or spinning globe, and the computer will take longer than usual to start up.

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Now that you’re booted into recovery, you can erase the hard drive. Click on Disk Utility from the Utilities window, then click Continue. This step isn’t necessary if you’re keeping your computer. If you’re selling or otherwise getting rid of the computer, erasing the hard drive will ensure whoever has the computer next can’t access your data.

After you’ve decided whether or not to erase your hard drive, you can reinstall the operating system. Simply select “Reinstall macOS” and click Continue. From here simply follow the prompts through. When the process is complete, your computer will restart.

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If you’re keeping the computer, follow through the prompts to set up your user account. If you aren’t keeping the computer, you can quit out of this process, letting whoever ends up with the computer next set it up themselves.

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