How to restore a Mac to its factory settings

Restoring your Mac to its factory settings will erase all your data from the hard drive, as well as your preferences and customized settings. You can fix a number of technical issues by restoring a Mac to its factory settings, and it’s also something you should do before selling your Mac or giving it to someone — you’ll protect your personal data and allow the new owner to personalize the device.

Our simple step-by-step guide will help you erase everything on your Mac, reinstall MacOS, and restore your machine to its original factory settings.

Erasing your Mac

Step 1: For MacBooks, plug in the power adapter so there’s no danger of running out of battery power.

Step 2: Make sure your Mac is connected to the internet, preferably through a wired connection. Erasing your hard drive is simple, but once it’s wiped, 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 corner and select Restart on the drop-down menu.

Step 4: Once your Mac restarts, press the Command + R keys together. Keep holding them until your Mac shows either an Apple logo, a spinning globe, or another startup screen. This takes you to MacOS Recovery.

Disk Utility Mac

Step 5: After a few moments, enter your password as prompted. The MacOS Utilities pop-up appears on your screen. Select Disk Utility on the list and click Continue.

Step 6: Your Mac’s startup disk is listed on the left, typically named “Macintosh HD” by default unless you renamed it. Also listed is another drive with the word “Data” appended at the end. For instance, 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 ahead to step 9.

Step 7: Select the Data drive, click Edit on the menu bar, and then select Delete APFS Volume on the drop-down menu. Alternatively, with the Data drive selected, you can click the Minus button in the Disk Utility toolbar.

Step 8: In the resulting window, click Delete to confirm. Make sure you don’t click Delete Volume Group. If you have any other Data drives, delete them too, but leave the regular Macintosh HD drive alone.

Step 9: Select your main volume — again, typically it’s Macintosh HD and then click the Erase button. Assign a name (or stick with Macintosh HD) and select a format.

Note: For file format, you should choose either APFS or Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Disk Utility shows the recommended format by default — stick with that unless you have a specific reason for another format.

Step 10: Click Erase. You may see a prompt for your Apple ID info.

Finally, erasing your Mac’s drive could take some time. When it’s finished, close Disk Utility to return to the MacOS Utilities window.

Reinstalling the operating system

With the primary drive erased, you now need to reinstall MacOS. Click the Reinstall MacOS option on the MacOS Utilities list and click Continue to proceed. You may need to click through a few confirmations and enter your password before moving forward.

MacOS Reinstall

Since Apple stores your Mac’s factory settings on its servers, your computer requires an internet connection so it can retrieve new, off-the-assembly-line 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 to download factory settings from the web.

However, if you’re working with Snow Leopard (10.6) or older, you can’t reinstall these settings from the web. Instead, you’ll need the original MacOS installation disc that came with your computer.

Also, when you reinstall MacOS, a setup assistant asks you basic questions regarding your region and so on.

If you’re selling or giving your Mac away, leave the setup assistant untouched. Instead, hold down the Command + Q keys to close the setup assistant, then click Shut Down. This will turn your Mac off and leave the setup assistant waiting for the new owner.

Alternative: Overwrite install

If wiping your Mac isn’t ideal, you can fully reinstall MacOS without erasing any data. It’s the “lite” version of a full wipe, as you don’t need to erase the disk if you just want a clean, fresh install.

MacOS Mojave 10.14

This option is useful if you have corrupted data, malware you can’t isolate, or problems stemming from a faulty update. However, this process may leave behind data that would be relatively easy to recover — meaning this method isn’t a good idea if you’re selling or giving away your Mac.

Nevertheless, if you move forward with this method, follow the steps below. As always, make sure to back up any data and documents that you want to keep.

Step 1: Shut down your Mac and restart it as you would normally. Immediately after turning your computer on, hold down the Command + R keys, then release the keys when you see the Apple logo. This will open the MacOS Utilities window in MacOS Recovery.

Step 2: Select Reinstall MacOS on the list. Confirm that you want to reinstall the OS, which installs the latest version.

Alternative: Time Machine

If you already use Time Machine to store backups, you can also use it to restore MacOS. This is useful if you want to restore particular settings and data instead of your entire OS — perhaps in an effort to save data while dealing with a bug or similar issue.

Step 1: Shut down your Mac and restart it as normal. Once it powers on, hold down the Command + R keys, then release the keys when you see the Apple logo. This opens the MacOS Utilities window in MacOS Recovery.

Step 2: Select Restore From Time Machine Backup on the list. Remember that if you save backups on an external drive or server, your Mac must be connected to those devices to complete the restoration.

Deauthorizing your devices in Apple Music, iCloud, and Messages

If you’re selling or giving away your Mac, make sure you fully deauthorize both your Mac and any connected devices before restoring the original factory settings. This helps prevent anyone from accessing your personal information in the future.

Apple Music

How to deauthorize your Mac in Apple Music

Step 1: Launch Apple Music and click Account in the menu bar.

Step 2: On the drop-down menu, hover over Authorizations, then click Deauthorize This Computer.

Apple Music will now remove that particular Mac from its list of authorized devices. You will no longer be able to access any of your Apple Music content from your machine, but neither will anyone else.

iCloud

How to sign out of iCloud on a Mac

It’s not enough to simply sign out of iCloud — you also need to make sure no local data lingers on your computer.

Step 1: Click the Apple logo in the top-left corner and select System Preferences on the drop-down menu.

Step 2: Click the Apple ID icon within the System Preferences window.

Step 3: Select the Overview category listed on the left and then click the Sign Out button.

MacOS will ask if you want to keep your current iCloud data on the machine. Since you don’t, uncheck the boxes for everything you want to delete. Depending on what you decide to do with your Mac, you might not uncheck any boxes.

Messages

If you plan on getting a new Mac to replace your old one, you may want to gift or sell your old one. Whatever you end up doing, you must sign out of Mac’s Messages app to maintain your messages’ privacy. When you sign out of Mac’s Messages app, you will eliminate the connection between your old Mac and your iPhone, effectively protecting private information from being left behind. This is an easy process explained in two quick steps.

Step 1: Open the Messages app. Click Messages on the menu bar, then Preferences on the drop-down menu.

Step 2: A pop-up window will appear on your screen. Click the iMessage tab and click the Sign Out button.

Backing up your data is important for a few reasons. First, you don’t want the person buying your computer to have anything that might identify you or give any possibly tampering information. Second, it’s respectful and good etiquette to clean up your computer before handing it off. If you’re interested in backing up your data to an external drive, we have a guide covering that. We also cover backing up data with iCloud; just make sure you sign out before doing so.

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