Looking to wipe your laptop? Here’s how to restore a Mac to its factory settings

restore a Mac to its factory settings
Feel like you need a clean slate? If so, you can easily restore the factory settings on your Mac whenever you want. Doing so will erase all your data and everything you’ve done on your computer, essentially bringing it back to the state it was in when you first took it out of the box.

Typically, losing everything on your Mac would be cause for concern, but there are scenarios in which restoring your laptop can prove invaluable. The most common is when you want to sell your computer using a service such as eBay or Craigslist. After all, no buyer is going to want a computer with a hard drive full of someone else’s data when they have great MacOS apps of their own to download.

Part of this includes deauthorizing your computer in iTunes, which will remove any personalized login information. However, you should also restore a Mac to its factory settings if you plan on selling or gifting it to someone else. Here, we’ll show you how to go the extra mile and wipe it completely.

Looking for more Apple-centric tutorials? Lucky for you, we also have guides on how to uninstall apps on a Mac and how to back up your Mac to an external hard drive.

Erasing your Mac

Apple Logo Startup
Take one last look around, and double check to make sure your Mac is currently connected to the internet, preferably through a hard-line connection. Erasing your hard drive is simple, but you’ll need a way to access  your Mac’s factory settings once you’ve finished wiping it. For this, you’ll need internet connectivity. If you’re erasing data on a MacBook of any kind, plug in the power adapter first, so there’s no danger of running out of battery power.

Once done, select the Restart… option in the Apple menu, and wait patiently for your Mac to shut down and begin its startup procedure. During the restart process, before the login screen, your computer will show a gray slate screen. This is your opportunity to go behind the scenes: Hold down both the Command and R keys when you see gray.Disk Utility Mac

This should open the Utilities pane, where you can make various important and potentially dangerous changes. Here, select Disk Utility.

Now, this process is going to be a little different based on what version of MacOS you’re using, but you’ll want to be on the lookout for “startup disk” or other startup-related information. Select this option and click on the Erase tab.

Next, head over to the Format option and set it to Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Then, select Erase again. This may take some time. Once finished, go to the Disk Utility menu and select Quit Disk Utility.

Reinstalling the OS

Now that you’ve erased everything that made your Mac special, you’ll need to restore the operating system. Once you quit Disk Utility, you should see an option to Reinstall MacOS. Select this, confirm that you really want to do it, and proceed. You may have to click through a few confirmations before the installation is ready to begin.

MacOS Reinstall

Since Apple keeps all the factory setting data on its own servers, your computer will need to be connected to the internet in order to proceed. Once connected, your Mac can look for its original source material and download a new, off-the-assembly-line version of all its settings.

Note: This download solution only works with newer versions of MacOS. This shouldn’t be an issue for modern devices — all of which are designed download factory settings from the web — but if you’re working with Snow Leopard or an earlier version of MacOS, you can’t reinstall these from the web. You’ll need the original MacOS installation disc that came with your computer in order to do so, so get ready to dig it out if necessary.

Also, when you reinstall MacOS, you will see a setup assistant that will ask you basic questions regarding your region and so on. If you plan on selling or giving your Mac away, you’ll want to leave the setup assistant untouched. Instead, hold down the Command and Q keys, and select Shut Down. This will turn your Mac off and leave the setup assistant waiting for next time.


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