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How to Factory Reset Your MacBook or Mac: Step by Step Guide

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Last updated: September 14, 2023

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Whether you’re planning to sell your MacBook or Mac, encountering persistent software issues, or simply wanting to start afresh with a clean slate, performing a factory reset is a practical solution.

However, the process may seem daunting if you’re unfamiliar with the steps involved. In this guide, I’ll show you how to factory reset your MacBook or Mac, providing step-by-step instructions, helpful tips, and troubleshooting advice to ensure a smooth experience.

Preparing for a Factory Reset

Before proceeding with a factory reset, it is crucial to back up your data on your Mac to prevent potential loss.

There are different ways to back up your data, but I prefer using Time Machine because it’s the most reliable one. Follow these steps to create a backup using Time Machine:

  1. Connect an external hard drive or SSD to your Mac.
external hard drive connected to mac
Photo: Sarah Kobos
  1. Click the Apple icon in the menu bar and select System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click General and select Time Machine.
click general and select time machine
  1. Tap the Add Backup Disk button and choose the external hard drive you connected.
click add backup disk in time machine
  1. Once selected, Time Machine will automatically start backing up your data.

By backing up your data, you can ensure that your important files and documents remain safe and can be easily restored after the factory reset.

How to Factory Reset Your MacBook or Mac

Now that your data has been backed up, you can move on with the factory reset.

1. Erase Your Mac With an M1/M2 Chip

Apple launched macOS Monterey in 2021, introducing a new feature called Erase All Content and Settings in System Preferences (renamed System Settings in macOS Ventura) that allows you to restore your Mac to its original factory settings.

The Erase All Content and Settings option simplifies the process of wiping your Mac for resale, transfer, or for a clean installation to potentially resolve system issues.

The Erase All Content and Settings feature requires an M1 or M2 series Mac or a Mac equipped with a T2 chip. Moreover, your system must be running either macOS Monterey or macOS Ventura.

Here’s how to erase your M1/M2/T2 Mac and reset it to its factory settings:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click General and select Transfer or Reset.
click general and select transfer or reset
  1. In the Transfer or Reset menu, click the Erase All Content and Settings button.
tap the erase all content and settings button
  1. Enter your admin password and click Unlock.
enter your macs password and tap unlock
  1. Click Continue to proceed with the erasing process in the macOS Erase Assistant.
click continue to confirm deleting content and settings
  1. If asked, sign out of your Apple ID account.
enter your apple id password to sign out of apple id and click continue
  1. Click Erase All Content & Settings.
  1. After resetting your Mac, it will reboot and display a black screen.
  2. You will be prompted to select a language and a Wi-Fi network during this process. When you successfully connect to the network, your Mac will become activated, and you’ll see a message on the screen indicating that Your Mac is Activated.
  3. To proceed with the setup, simply click the Restart button.

2. Erase Your Mac With an Intel Processor

Erasing an Intel-based Mac without a T2 chip involves a different process than erasing an M1 or M2 Mac. You have to log out of various services, unlink accounts, and disconnect Bluetooth devices.

Here’s how to erase your Mac with an Intel processor:

  1. Log out of Find My: Navigate to System Settings and select your name under the Apple ID/iCloud section. In the Find My Mac section, click Options, then select Turn Off next to Find My Mac and Find My Network.
  2. Log out of iMessage: Open the Messages app on your Mac. Click Messages in the menu bar, then Settings/Preferences, choose the iMessage tab and click Sign out.
  3. Deauthorise and log out of your Music/iTunes account: It’s important to do this as you can only use up to 5 Macs to play music associated with your account. To do this, open the Music app, click Account, then Authorisations, and select De-authorise this computer. Subsequently, go to Account and click Sign out.
  4. Sign out of your TV account: Similar to the Music app, you’re limited in the number of devices that can play movies purchased from the iTunes Store. To sign out, open the TV app, select Account, then Authorisations, and De-authorise this computer. Then, go to Account and click Sign out.
  5. Sign out of iCloud: In System Preferences, click your name in the Apple ID/iCloud section and sign out. If prompted to keep a copy of the iCloud data on your Mac, deselect all options (after ensuring you’ve backed up this data elsewhere). Click Continue and allow the sign-out process to complete.

If you use iCloud Photo Library, you’ll be asked if you want to download photos to the Mac (only necessary if you want to back up this cloud-based library). Finally, enter your Apple ID password to confirm your Mac’s password.

You may consider resetting the NVRAM to thoroughly clean up your personal Mac settings. I have shared the step-by-step process for resetting your Mac’s NVRAM or PRAM in this guide.

      3. Unpair Bluetooth Devices

      Unpairing Bluetooth devices from your Mac is a simple process. Here’s how to do it:

      1. Click the Apple menu in the upper-left corner of your screen, then select System Settings.
      click the apple icon and select system settings
      1. In the window that opens, click Bluetooth.
      click bluetooth in system settings
      1. In the Bluetooth settings window, you’ll see a list of devices paired with your Mac. Find the device you want to unpair and click its name.
      2. Next to the selected device’s name, click the x button. A dialog box will pop up asking you to confirm that you want to remove the device. Click Remove.
      3. Once you’ve confirmed, the device will be removed from your list of paired devices.

      Remember, unpairing a Bluetooth device means it won’t automatically connect to your Mac in the future. If you want to use the device with your Mac again, you must go through the pairing process.

      4. Turn Off FileVault

      FileVault is a disk encryption program available in Mac OS X 10.3 and later. If you’ve been using it, you need to turn it off before resetting your Mac to its factory settings.

      Follow these steps to turn off FileVault disk encryption on your Mac:

      1. Head to the System Settings via the Apple icon at the top.
      click the apple icon and select system settings
      1. Select Privacy & Security and find the FileVault section in the right panel. Tap the Turn Off… button. (It will appear if you have enabled FileVault on your Mac).
      look for security and privacy and select filevault tab located at the of window
      1. Enter the administrator username and password, and click Unlock.
      enter administrator username and password or use your touchid if available then click unlock
      1. After you’ve turned off FileVault, your Mac will start decrypting your hard drive. This could take a while, especially if you have a lot of files. It’s best to keep your Mac plugged in and awake during this time.

      Turning off FileVault means your files won’t be encrypted. If someone gains access to your Mac, they could access your files. So it’s usually a good idea to keep FileVault turned on unless you have a specific reason to turn it off.

      5. Restart your Mac in Recovery Mode

      After successfully backing up all your data, unlinking your accounts, and unpairing devices, you’re now prepared to erase your Mac completely.

      To begin this process, you’ll need to boot your Mac into Recovery Mode. This state allows you to clear all data from your Mac safely. Here’s how to restart your M1 Mac in Recovery mode:

      1. Shut down your Mac by choosing the Apple menu > Shut Down.
      click apple icon and select shut down
      1. Press the Power button until you see Loading startup options.
      loading startup options screen on mac
      1. Click Options, then click Continue.
      click options on startup options page 1
      1. Select your language, then click Next.
      2. Click Utilities > Startup Security Utility.
      3. Enter your administrator password, and click OK.
      4. Select Full Security under Startup Security, then click Restart.
      5. Press the Power button until you see Loading startup options again.
      6. Click Options, then click Continue to boot Mac into Recovery Mode.

      Here’s how to boot an Intel-based Mac into Recovery Mode:

      1. Shut down your Mac and wait for it to power off fully.
      2. Press the Power button to start up your Mac.
      macbook air touch id
      1. Immediately press and hold the Command ⌘ + R keys.
      macbook air command r keys
      1. Keep holding both keys until the macOS Recovery screen appears.
      macos recovery screen
      1. If prompted, provide your administrator password to log in to your user account.

      6. Erase Your Startup Disk

      To erase and reformat your Mac, you will need to start up in Recovery Mode. Now that you have booted up your Mac in Recovery Mode, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to erase your startup disk:

      1. Once you’ve entered Recovery Mode, you’ll see the macOS Utilities window. Select Disk Utility from the list of options and click Continue.
      select disk utility from macos recovery screen
      1. In Disk Utility, you will see a list of drives on the left-hand side. Select your startup disk (usually named “Macintosh HD”) and click the Erase button in the top menu.
      click your mac drive and tap erase
      1. You’ll be asked to choose the drive’s format and name. For the format, select APFS or Mac OS Extended (Journaled), and for the name, you can choose anything, but “Macintosh HD” is standard.
      2. Click ‘Erase’ to start the process.
      use macintosh hd as the name for volume and click erase
      1. The erasing process may take a while, depending on your disk size. Wait for the drive to erase and click Done. Then, close the Disk Utility window.
      wait for the drive to erase and click done

      Remember, erasing and reformatting your Mac will permanently delete all files, so make sure you’ve backed up anything you want to keep before starting this process.

      7. Reinstall macOS

      The next step is reinstalling macOS. Here are the steps to reinstall macOS using Recovery Mode:

      1. Connect your MacBook to the internet.
      2. Turn off your Mac and turn it back on while holding down the Command ⌘ + R keys on your keyboard. Keep holding the keys until the Apple logo appears.
      press Command R
      1. This will boot your Mac into the Recovery Mode. Once it loads, select Reinstall macOS and click Continue.
      click reinstall macos in macos utilities
      1. Follow the on-screen instructions to select your startup disk and begin the reinstallation process.
      1. After the installation, your Mac will restart and display the Setup Assistant. Follow the on-screen instructions to set up your Mac.
      2. You should have a fresh macOS installation after completing the setup process.

      This concludes the process to factory reset your MacBook or Mac.

      Common Challenges While Factory Resetting Your Mac

      While factory resetting your MacBook can resolve many software issues, you may encounter some challenges along the way. Here are a few common problems and their respective solutions:

      1. ❄️ Freezing or Unresponsive MacBook: If your MacBook freezes during the reset process, try restarting it and attempting the factory reset again. If the issue persists, seek assistance from Apple Support or an authorized service provider.
      2. ⚠️ Error Messages: If you encounter error messages during the factory reset process, take note of the specific error code and search for solutions on Apple’s official support website or forums. Alternatively, consult with an Apple representative for further assistance.
      3. Slow Performance After Reset: After a factory reset, your MacBook may take time to optimize performance. Allow it to complete necessary background tasks, such as indexing and updating applications, before expecting optimal speed.

      Remember, if you face any significant challenges during the factory reset process or encounter persistent issues after the reset, consult with an authorized Apple service provider for expert guidance and support.

      Final Thoughts

      Performing a factory reset on your MacBook can be an effective solution for resolving software-related issues and optimizing performance. However, there are other ways to optimize your Mac’s performance, too.

      Here are some tips:

      Frequently Asked Questions

      1. Can a factory reset resolve hardware issues?

        No, a factory reset cannot resolve hardware issues. It is primarily intended to address software-related problems. If you suspect a hardware issue, it is recommended to contact Apple Support or visit an authorized service provider for assistance.

      2. Will I lose my installed applications and licenses after I factory reset my MacBook or Mac?

        Yes, you will lose your installed applications and licenses after you factory reset your MacBook or Mac. Ensure you have the necessary installation media or license keys to reinstall and reactivate your applications after the reset.

      3. How long does a factory reset typically take?

        The duration of a factory reset can vary depending on various factors, such as the speed of your MacBook, the reset method chosen, and the size of your data. Generally, it can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more.

      4. Can I stop or reverse a factory reset once it has started?

        No, you cannot stop or reverse a factory reset once it has started. Ensure that you have backed up your important data and have made the necessary preparations before initiating the process.

      5. Do I need an internet connection for a factory reset?

        No, you don’t need an internet connection for a factory reset. However, certain methods, such as Internet Recovery, rely on a stable Internet connection to download the necessary recovery image.

      6. Will a factory reset remove viruses and malware from my MacBook?

        A factory reset will remove viruses and malware from your MacBook. However, it is recommended to install reliable antivirus software to prevent future infections.

      Hashir Ibrahim

      Author

      I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

      Ojash

      Reviewer

      Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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