Restoring your Mac to its factory settings will erase all of your data from the hard drive, as well as your settings and custom settings. There are a number of technical issues you can fix by restoring a Mac to its factory settings. You should also do this before selling or giving your Mac to anyone. They protect your personal data and allow the new owner to personalize the device.
Our simple step-by-step guide will help you wipe everything on your Mac, reinstall MacOS, and restore your computer to its original factory settings.
Erase your Mac
Step 1: For MacBooks, connect the AC adapter to avoid the risk of draining the battery.
Step 2: Make sure your Mac is connected to the internet, preferably with a wired connection. Erasing your hard drive is easy, but once it's erased you'll need access to your Mac's factory settings. Apple stores this data remotely on its servers.
Step 3: Click the Apple logo in the top left and select Restart from the drop-down menu.
Step 4: After your Mac restarts, press Command + R at the same time and hold it down until you see either an Apple logo, spinning globe, or other home screen on your Mac. This will take you to MacOS Recovery.
Step 5: After a few moments, enter your password when prompted. The MacOS Utilities pop-up will appear on your screen. Select Disk Utility from the list and click Next.
Step 6: Your Mac's startup disk is listed on the left and is usually named "Macintosh HD" by default unless you renamed it. Another drive is also listed with the word "data" at the end. For example, if your startup disk is Macintosh HD, you should also see a drive labeled Macintosh HD – Data. If you don't have a data drive, don't worry – just skip to step 9.
Step 7: Select the data drive, click Edit on the menu bar, then select Delete APFS Volume from the drop-down menu. Alternatively, with the data drive selected, click the Minus button on the Disk Utility toolbar.
Step 8: In the window that appears, click Delete to confirm. Make sure you don't click Delete Disk Group. If you have other data drives, erase them as well, but leave the normal Macintosh HD drive alone.
Step 9: Select your master volume – usually Macintosh HD – and then click the "Clear" button. Assign a name (or stick with Macintosh HD) and choose a format.
Note: For the file format you should choose either APFS or Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Disk Utility will show the recommended format by default – stick with it unless you have a specific reason for another format.
Step 10: Click on Delete. You may see a prompt for your Apple ID information.
Finally, Mac drive erasing can take some time. When it's done, close Disk Utility to return to the MacOS Utilities window.
Reinstall the operating system
Now that the primary drive is deleted, you need to reinstall macOS. In the list of macOS utilities, click the Reinstall macOS option and click Next to continue. You may have to click through some confirmations and enter your password before you can proceed.
Because Apple stores your Mac's factory settings on its servers, your computer needs an Internet connection so it can get new settings off the assembly line.
Note: This download solution only works with newer versions of MacOS. This shouldn't be a problem for modern devices, all of which are designed to download factory settings from the internet.
However, if you are using Snow Leopard (10.6) or earlier, you will not be able to reinstall these settings from the web. Instead, you'll need the original macOS installation CD that came with your computer.
When you reinstall macOS, a setup wizard will ask you basic questions about your region, etc.
If you're selling or giving away your Mac, leave the setup wizard untouched. Instead, hold down Command + Q to close the setup wizard, and then click Shut Down. This will turn off your Mac and the setup wizard will wait for the new owner.
Alternative: overwrite installation
If erasing your Mac isn't ideal, you can completely reinstall macOS without erasing any data. This is the "lite" version of a full erase because you don't have to erase the hard drive if you just want a clean, new install.
This option is useful if you have corrupted data, cannot isolate malware, or are having problems due to a bad update. However, this process can leave data that is relatively easy to recover. This means that if you are selling or giving away your Mac, this method is not a good idea.
However, if you continue with this method, please follow the steps below. As always, make sure you back up any data and documents that you plan to keep.
Step 1: Shut down your Mac and restart it as normal. Immediately after turning on your computer, hold down Command + R and release the keys when you see the Apple logo. This will open the MacOS Utilities window in MacOS Recovery.
step 2: Select Reinstall MacOS from the list. Confirm that you want to reinstall the operating system that has the latest version installed.
Alternative: time machine
If you're already using Time Machine to store backups, you can use it to restore macOS too. This is useful when you want to restore certain settings and data instead of your entire operating system – possibly to save data while you troubleshoot a bug or similar problem.
Step 1: Shut down your Mac and restart it as normal. After turning it on, hold down Command + R and release the key when you see the Apple logo. This will open the MacOS Utilities window in MacOS Recovery.
Step 2: Select Restore from Time Machine Backup from the list. Keep in mind that when you save backups to an external drive or server, your Mac must be connected to these devices in order to complete the restore.
Turn off your devices in Apple Music, iCloud, and Messages
If you are selling or giving away your Mac, be sure to completely disable both your Mac and any connected devices before doing a factory reset. This prevents anyone from accessing your personal data in the future.
Step 1: Start Apple Music and click Account in the menu bar.
Step 2: Hover over Permissions in the drop-down menu, then click Disable this computer.
Apple Music will now remove that particular Mac from the list of authorized devices. You can no longer access your Apple Music content from your computer, but no one else can.
It's not enough to just sign out of iCloud. You also need to make sure that there is no local data stored on your computer.
Step 1: Click the Apple logo in the top left and choose System Preferences from the drop-down menu.
Step 2: In the System Preferences window, click the Apple ID icon.
step 3: Select the Overview category listed on the left, then click the Log Out button.
MacOS will ask if you want to keep your current iCloud data on the computer. Uncheck the boxes for anything you want to delete as this is not what you are doing. Depending on what you want to do with your Mac, you might not be able to uncheck boxes.
Whether you're selling, donating, or replacing your Mac, you'll want to keep messages private. To do this, you need to sign out of the Mac Messages app. The app syncs messages between your iPhone and Mac. Hence, deactivating it is vital for your privacy. Fortunately, signing out and deleting your message data is straightforward.
Step 1: Open the Messages app. click Messages then in the menu bar Settings in the drop-down menu.
Step 2: A pop-up window will appear on your screen. Press the iMessage Click the tab Log out Button.
Remember, backing up your data is always a good idea. Especially before you hand your Mac over to a buyer (or someone you don't trust), you'll want to wipe everything off your computer. Before you move, however, it's worth backing up anything you don't want to lose forever. We provide instructions on how to back up your data to an external drive to make things easier. You can also learn how to back up data using iCloud – Just sign out of your Mac when you're done.