How to Factory Reset a Mac

Introduction

A factory reset will put your machine back to an immaculate factory state, as if it was fresh out of the box, with a clean and working install of macOS. There are a number of reasons that you may want to reset your Mac to its factory settings. Maybe you're selling it and want to wipe your data off of it. Perhaps it's infected with a virus. Maybe it's not working properly.

We can backup your data first or go directly to the factory restore steps.

Performing a factory reset deletes all your data and cannot be undone, you may want to back up your files first to an external hard drive or a USB storage device.

To reinstall macOS, you must be connected to the Internet.

If you are using a portable computer, make sure your power adapter is plugged in.

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A factory reset will put your machine back to an immaculate factory state, as if it was fresh out of the box, with a clean and working install of macOS. There are a number of reasons that you may want to reset your Mac to its factory settings. Maybe you're selling it and want to wipe your data off of it. Perhaps it's infected with a virus. Maybe it's not working properly.

We can backup your data first or go directly to the factory restore steps.

Performing a factory reset deletes all your data and cannot be undone, you may want to back up your files first to an external hard drive or a USB storage device.

To reinstall macOS, you must be connected to the Internet.

If you are using a portable computer, make sure your power adapter is plugged in.

Time Machine is the built-in backup feature of your Mac. To use it, you need one of these external storage solutions, sold separately:

  • External hard drive connected to a USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt port on your Mac
  • Time Capsule or macOS Server on your network
  • External hard drive connected to the USB port of an AirPort Extreme Base Station on your network

When you connect an external hard drive directly to your Mac, you might be asked if you want to use the drive to back up with Time Machine. Click Use as Backup Disk. If you select the option to encrypt, your backups will be accessible only to users with the password.

Time Machine prompt when new hard drive detected, with Use as Backup Disk button highlighted. Screenshot.

If Time Machine doesn't ask you to choose a backup disk when you connect the drive to your Mac:

  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences.
    Apple menu with System Preferences selected. Screenshot.
  2. Click Time Machine.
    System Preferences window with Time Machine selected. Screenshot.
  3. Click Select Backup Disk, Select Disk, or Add or Remove Backup Disk.
    Time Machine screen with Selected Backup Disk button selected Screenshot.
  4. Select a backup disk from the list, then click Use Disk.
  5. For additional backup security and convenience, you can repeat these steps to add another backup disk. For example, you might use one backup disk while at home, and another backup disk while at work.
  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences.
    Apple menu with System Preferences selected. Screenshot.
  2. Click Time Machine.
    System Preferences window with Time Machine selected. Screenshot.
  3. To back up now, choose Back Up Now from the Time Machine menu.
    Time Machine menu with Back Up Now selected. Screenshot.
  4. Your first backup may take a long time, depending on how many files you have.
  5. You can continue using your Mac while a backup is underway.
  1. In the menu bar, choose Apple menu > Restart.
    Apple menu with Restart selected. Screenshot.
  2. As your Mac restarts, hold down the Command and R keys.
    Mac keyboard with Command and R keys highlighted.
  3. Let go of the Command + R keys once the macOS Utilities window appears.
    macOS Utilities. Screenshot.
Erasing the disk removes all the information from the disk. Be sure to back up the information you want to keep to an external device.
You will need to re-install the macOS Operating System after completing these steps.
  1. Select Disk Utility, then select Continue.
    macOS Utilities with Disk Utility and Continue highlighted.
  2. Select your startup disk on the left, then select Erase at the top.
    Disk Utility with macOS disk and Erase highlighted.
  3. Give your disk a name, then select Erase.
    Erase confirmation dialog with Name and Erase button highlighted.
    This process is final and cannot be reversed. All information, including your documents, programs, settings, and even the Operating System are removed. You will need to re-install the macOS Operating System after this process is complete.
  4. Once the disk is erased, select Done.
    Erase disk complete with Done highlighted.
  5. Exit Disk Utility by selecting the Disk Utility menu at the top-left, then choose Quit Disk Utility.
    Disk Utility menu with Quit Disk Utility highlighted.
Reinstalling macOS will remove all customization, files, and programs on your computer. Make sure you have a recent backup before proceeding.
  1. Select Apple Menu > Restart.
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with Restart highlighted.
  2. Immediately after your Mac restarts (some Mac computers play a startup sound), press and hold the command ⌘ and R keys until the Apple logo appears, then release the keys.
    Mac keyboard with command and R keys highlighted
  3. Highlight Reinstall macOS, then select Continue.
    macOS Utilities with Reinstall macOS and Continue button highlighted
  4. macOS setup will begin. Select Continue.
    macOS Install with Continue highlighted.
  5. Select Agree to accept the Terms of Service.
    macOS Terms of service with Agree highlighted.
  6. Select Agree to confirm you agree with Terms of Service.
    Terms of Service dialog with Agree highlighted.
  7. Choose a Drive to install macOS on and select Install.
    macOS install drive selection with drive and Install highlighted.
  8. Install will now start and this will take some time. The computer will reboot during this process.
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