Find yourself searching how to wipe a Mac clean and restore it to factory settings? You may be interested in selling your computer and needing to delete all the contents of the hard drive. Without erasing the contents of your computer, you could potentially open yourself up to identity theft. Another reason to reset your Mac to factory settings is it may just be getting too slow because of many years of use. You may find that you’ve run out of disk space if your computer speed is lagging.
This guide will help you restore Mac to factory settings. A factory reset will allow your machine to function as if it were brand new, with a new installation of the Mac operating system. You’ll find the process relevant to any Mac, whether desktop or laptop.
Why and how to factory reset Mac
When you choose to factory reset MacBook Pro, Air, or iMac, you are performing a series of low-level operations. First, a full hard drive formatting. Second, you’ll be reinstalling the Mac operating system (macOS). Formatting of the hard drive is equal to permanent deletion of data — everything is erased and removed from your computer.
On macOS Monterey, you can just use the "erase all content and settings" feature to factory reset Mac.
So why should you know how to reset MacBook Air, Pro, or iMac? There are two reasons.
- First, having issues with the computer file system may require that you reset your Mac to its original factory settings. If there are lost or damaged files, random errors may occur or the computer may act slow and sluggish. A factory reset will fix that.
- Second, if you want to sell or gift your Mac, you probably want to clean it first. This way, no one will be able to access your private files.
Whether you are planning to sell or speed up your computer, wiping your hard drive clean and installing a fresh operating system is a good idea.
Erase all content and settings on macOS Monterey
If your Mac runs on macOS 12 Monterey, you’re lucky! You can avoid the hustle of manually signing out of all services and erasing your data. Nor should you reinstall your macOS. Instead,
- Click the Apple icon > System Preferences
- In System Preferences, click on the main menu in the menu bar and choose Erase All Content and Settings
- Enter your password and proceed with erasing data
- Confirm that you want to erase all media, settings, and files
- Sign out of your Apple ID
- Click Erase All Content & Settings.
Note that you should in any case back up your essential data with Get Backup Pro before erasing content and settings. No matter which macOS your Mac runs on, having a copy of important files is a must.
What to do before you restore Mac to factory settings
If your Mac runs on Big Sur or any older macOS, you don’t have the option to erase all content and settings, so you’ll have to do it manually.
Before we run through the instructions on how to wipe a Mac clean, you’ll want to take care of a few things, such as protecting your data with a backup, logging out of your accounts, and disabling iCloud.
Log out of your accounts
Did you know that you can only play the content you’ve purchased on Apple TV or Music on 5 devices? This means that you can only authorize your account on up to 5 different Macs. If you’re looking to pass on your Mac, make sure it isn’t linked to your account.
Some apps with limited licensing such as Apple TV and Music use an authorization system to limit the number of devices connected. It’s a good idea to prevent future issues by deauthorizing these apps, which also include purchased Adobe products (Illustrator, Photoshop, etc.) before you learn how to reset Mac to factory settings.
Here’s how to deauthorize your account in Apple TV, Music, or Podcasts:
- Open the app
- In the main menu, click Account
- Choose Authorisations > De-authorise This Computer
- Type your Apple ID and password > Deauthorise.
Make sure any bookmarks, reminders, notes, or other stored cloud data are not visible to new users by signing out of iCloud. Without signing out of your iCloud account, certain features, such as Find My, may still allow you to interact with a computer that has been wiped clean. You don’t want to find that you have access to your old computer once it has a new owner.
- Choose System Preferences in the Apple menu
- Pick iCloud
- Click Sign Out and confirm the data removal
Sign out of iMessage
Be sure to sign out of iMessage before you complete a factory reset of a Mac. If your computer has been configured to send and receive iMessage chats, you’ll definitely want to ensure a new owner doesn’t have access to your private messages.
- Open Messages app on your computer
- In the menu bar, click Messages
- Choose Preferences
- Find your iMessage account
- Click Sign Out.
Unpair Bluetooth devices
This is not an obligatory step, but we recommend it in case you sell or give away your Mac but keep Bluetooth devices like keyboard, mouse, AirPods, or trackpad you used to connect to this Mac. This will prevent accidental pairing if the Mac is used within your Bluetooth range. Here’s how to unpair Bluetooth devices:
- Open System Preferences in the Apple menu
- Choose Bluetooth — this will open the list of connected devices
- Click X to remove the device.
Erase Touch Bar data
Following the same rationale, make sure to perform these steps so your Touch Bar data won’t be passed onto the new Mac owner.
- Restart your Mac
- Hold down the Command ⌘ + R keys as the Mac begins to restart
- Choose Utilities and Terminal from the macOS Utilities window
- Type: xartutil --erase-all and press Return
- Type yes and press Return once more
- Choose Terminal and click Quit.
Your Mac stores some user settings in NVRAM (nonvolatile random-access memory). It’s a good idea to reset those before you wipe your Mac clean. Here’s how to do it:
- Shut down your Mac
- Turn it back on
- Press and hold Command ⌘ + Option + P + R for about 20 seconds (your Mac should restart during this time).
Back up your data
Before you learn how to reset Mac, the most important thing to do is to back up data so you don’t lose access to the contents of your drive. You wouldn’t want to lose videos or photos stored on your MacBook from years ago. This is why we really encourage you to follow this tip.
To prevent any kind of data-loss mishap, you should use backup software, such as Get Backup Pro or ChronoSync Express. The major difference between the two is that Get Backup Pro is great when you just want to back up a few files — only the most important ones, and ChronoSync Express can back up folders. Both apps support scheduled backups and have rich customization features.
Here’s how to do a backup using Get Backup Pro:
- Create a new project by clicking the “+” button in the Backups tab
- Select a destination for the backup
- Click on File+ to add files you want to back up
- Hit Run once you’re ready (the icon looks like a play button).
If you want to backup folders, it’s better to do it with ChronoSync Express:
- Open the app and choose “Create a new synchronization task” in the right sidebar
- Name your backup project
- Choose folders that you want to backup in the left pane
- Choose a backup destination in the right pane (you can back up to any local or connected volume)
- Hit the arrow button to start backing up.
You can save your backup projects and reuse them in the future. This comes in very handy when you’re regularly updating macOS and want to keep your files protected. While both apps, Get Backup Pro and ChronoSync Express, are part of Setapp — a productivity service for Mac and iPhone users — you can try both of them for free and figure out what works best.
Factory reset MacBook Pro, Air, and iMac
Have you completed your data backup and signed out of everything? If the answer is yes, you are ready to wipe your Mac and have it ready for a fresh start. The instructions below answer the question of how to reset MacBook Air, Pro, and iMac.
Note that the instructions below don’t apply to macOS Monterey. If your Mac runs on macOS 12, it’s enough to erase all content and settings to factory reset Mac.
1. Restart your Mac in Recovery Mode
This step is quite simple. However, the instructions differ based on the type of computer. Below we explain how to restart Intel-based and M1 Macs in Recovery.
Restart Intel Macs into Recovery Mode
- In the Apple menu in the top left corner of the screen, choose Restart
- As the system is restarting, hold both the Command (⌘) and R keys on the keyboard at the same time until you see the Recovery Mode window
- Enter your admin password to confirm the action
- You should now see the macOS Utilities window.
Restart M1 Macs into Recovery Mode
- In the Apple menu, choose Shut Down
- Press and hold the power button until you see the screen with Options
- Click Options > Continue > enter your admin password
- You should now see the macOS Utilities window.
2. Erase the hard drive
Here’s what you need to do to erase your hard drive:
- Choose Disk Utility in the Utilities window
- Choose your startup disk
- At the top of the Disk Utilities window, choose Erase
- Choose Journaled version of Mac OS Extended from the menu
- Click Erase.
Once the process has been completed, go to the Disk Utility menu in the top left corner of the screen and click Quit Disk Utility.
3. Reinstall the operating system
Now that the hard drive has been wiped clean, you can confirm that you want to reinstall a fresh Mac operating system by following the instructions on the screen.
This is about how to format Macintosh. The computer will complete a new installation of the operating system with factory settings.
If you are passing your Mac to a new owner, you can quit the process and let the new owner complete any necessary information by holding down the Command ⌘ + Q keys. Choose Shut Down to turn the Mac off and leave it ready for the next person. If you are keeping your Mac computer, you’ll need to download any applications that you previously used.
Now that your Mac has been wiped clean, your computer shouldn’t have any remnants of your personal data. It’s now ready for a new beginning with you or a new life with someone else.