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How to Factory Reset a Mac Before Selling it

There are many reasons why you would want to know how to factory reset a Mac. Perhaps you want to sell it and you don’t want the new owner to have your information. Or maybe your Mac has been acting sluggish lately and you want to give it a good and thorough wipe. 

When you reset a Mac to its factory settings, you basically erase everything on it. You delete your files, documents, app downloads, and every little data.

With that said, it is extremely important that you back up your data first before you attempt to wipe a Mac. Check out our previous article on how you backup your Mac data before you start retting your Mac. Be sure to log out of iCloud, iMessages, and other important accounts on the computer as well. 

Now that you have your important files backed up, here are 2 ways to reset your Mac to its factory settings:

How to Factory Reset a Mac Using Recovery Mode 

The easiest way to wipe a Mac is to reset it using the built-in Recovery Mode. If you are having trouble using Recovery Mode, skip to the next section to reset using a bootable installer.

Here are the steps to reset your Mac using Recovery Mode: 

  1. Restart your Mac. If you are resetting a laptop, make sure it is connected to a reliable power source. 
  2. As it is starting, press and hold Command + R until you see the Apple Logo.

    You can release the keys when you see the Apple logo on your screen.

    When the progress bar under the Apple logo is completed, you will be taken into Recovery Mode. From here, you can re-install the latest macOS that was installed on your computer. Additionally, you can also get to Recovery Mode by pressing the following keys:

    • Command + Option + R will upgrade to the latest macOS that is compatible with your device. 
    • Command + Shift + Option + R will install the same macOS that came with your device or the closet version available if the original is no longer available for download. 
  3. Go to Disk Utility in the macOS Utilities menu. 
  4. In the Disk Utility window, click View > Show All Devices.
  5. Select the drive you want to erase. In most cases, you want to delete the whole disk, which is the highest option in the “Internal” tree.
  6. Click the erase button. This is the button located at the top of the Disk Utility window.
  7. Enter the name, format, and scheme.
    • Name: You can choose any name you want, but if you use your name there’s a chance that other people can see it on your network. It is recommended to name the disk something generic.
    • Format: You can choose either APFS (Apple File System) or macOS Extended (Journaled). The Disk Utility will show the compatible format by default. However, if you want to double check the current format of the volume, click on the lowest option on the Internal tree (usually called Mac HD). On the right, you should see “Type.” If the built-in disk came APFS-formatted, you should not reformat it as Journaled. Most older computers will be Journaled, while most modern laptops that come with solid state drives (SSD) are APFS-formatted.
    • Scheme: If prompted, choose GUID Partition Map.
  8. Click the Erase button. This is the one just below the information that you filled in. Then wait for the disk to be erased. This should only take a few minutes at most.
  9. Exit Disk Utility. You can do this by clicking the red button at the top of the window.  
  10. Select “Reinstall macOS” from the macOS Utilities window. Click continue in the next window. Read the software license agreement and click Agree. 

    Note: It is essential to be connected to the internet for reinstalling a fresh copy of macOS to your machine.

  11. Select your boot disk and click Install. Your boot disk is your main drive, so make sure you don’t select an external hard drive!

Note: It is essential to be connected to the internet for reinstalling a fresh copy of macOS to your machine. 

Your Mac will start to install the operating system. This process can take several minutes depending on your computer and internet connection.

Take a coffee break. You deserve it.

When your Mac has been reset to factory condition, the device will restart. You will be prompted to sign in using your Apple ID and username. If you are selling the device, press Command + Q to shut it down. 

How to Wipe a Mac and Reinstall macOS Using a Bootable Installer

If, for some reason, you cannot reset your Mac using Recovery Mode, do not worry. There is still a way to wipe it clean and reset it to factory settings. Follow the steps below to erase everything on a Mac and reinstall a fresh copy of macOS using a bootable installer: 

  1. Plug your USB drive into your computer. You need to have at least 12GB of space on your USB drive.
  2. Open Disk Utility. Go to Finder > Applications > Utilities. You can also access this folder by hitting Command + Shift + U whenever you are in Finder.
    disk utility on finder
  3. Format your disk drive for macOS Extended (Journaled).
    • In Disk Utility, click View > Show All Devices. This is in the top left corner of the window.
      show all devices
    • Select the highest option under the “External” section in the left panel.
    • Click on the erase icon by the top part of the window. 
    • Name the USB disk “MyVolume”
    • The format should be MacOS Extended (journaled). 
    • The Scheme should be GUID Partition Map.
    • Click erase.
      erase disk

      Note: This will completely erase all the data on your USB hard drive, so make sure to back it up first.

  4. Download the macOS installer. Go to the App Store and search for your macOS. To make it easier for you, here are the links to the 3 most recent macOS versions.
    • Mojave (Newest macOS available now)
    • High Sierra
    • Sierra

      Note: You might not be able to download a previous macOS on your computer.

      Once the installer opens, quit before it continues with the installation process by hitting the Command + Q buttons or clicking Install macOS in your menu bar and Quit Install macOS.

  5. Open the Terminal. You can find this in your Utilities folder.
  6. Cut and paste one of the following command into the Terminal window:

    Mojave:

    sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Mojave.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolume

    High Sierra:

    sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ High\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolume

    Sierra:

    sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolume --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app

    Note: Make sure your computer is compatible with the macOS you are trying to install first.

  7. Hit Return. 
  8. Enter your administrator password and hit Return again. The Terminal will not show any characters as you type your password.
  9. When prompted, type “Y” and hit Return. When the Terminal finishes, you can quit Terminal. Your USB drive will be transformed into a bootable installer.
  10.  Shut down your Mac. 
  11. Hold the Option (also called Alt) key when it starts booting. 
  12. Select your USB drive as startup disk. This should be named after the macOS you are trying to install.
    install macOS disk
  13. Select your Wi-Fi network and enter your password.
  14. Press Enter. Then wait for the progress bar to load completely. This will take you to Recovery Mode.

    Note: The following steps are also listed in the section above starting at step 3.

  15. Go to Disk Utility > View > Show All Devices. 
  16. Select the drive and hit Erase. The erase button is by the upper middle part of the window. In the pop-up, complete the following fields to start the erasure process:
    • Name: You can choose any name you want.
    • Format: You can choose either APFS (Apple File System) or macOS Extended (Journaled). The Disk Utility will show the compatible format by default. 
    • Scheme: If prompted, choose GUID Partition Map.

      Once the pop-up has been filled, click the Erase button and then Done.

  17. Select Disk Utility > Quit Disk Utility. 
  18. Select Install macOS and then click Continue. Follow the installation instructions that will pop up. 
  19. Select your boot disk and click Install. The resetting of your Mac from the bootable installer will now commence. Wait until your machine restarts. After this, you will have a MacBook that will perform close to like it did when you took it out of the box. You can then choose to sell it or enjoy its much faster performance again. 

Updated on August 21, 2019

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