PC Magazine
Published in

PC Magazine

How to Factory Reset a Mac

Looking to reset your Mac to its factory settings? Here’s how to wipe data from your Intel-based and Apple silicon-based computer and start over again.

By Jason Cohen

Mac computers are generally reliable. But as with any computer, sometimes things go wrong. Before you spend big on a new Mac, though, try a factory reset, which wipes your computer and reinstalls a clean version of macOS. A factory reset is also the best way to prepare your old computer for a new owner to make sure no leftover data falls into the wrong hands.

The process has been the same for years on Macs with Intel processers, however, the move to Apple silicon has slightly altered the method for wiping and reinstalling the operating system. Here’s how to erase your hard drive and reinstall the operating system on your Mac, whether it has Apple’s M1 chip or features Intel components.

Enter Recovery Mode

In order to access the options for wiping your data and reinstalling the operating system, you need to enter macOS Recovery. However, with the release of the new Macs, there are now two different ways of doing this, dependent on the chip inside your computer.

For Intel-Based Macs

For Macs with an Intel processor, hold down the power button, then choose the Restart option from the pop-up menu. Otherwise, open the Apple icon in the top-left corner of the screen and choose Restart. From here, hold down Command + R until the Apple logo appears. Release the keys and allow the Mac to boot up and open into Recovery.

For Apple Silicon-Based Macs

Macs using Apple silicon require a different method where you must actually turn the computer off completely. Open the Apple menu and select Shut Down or hold down the power button and select Shut Down from the pop-up menu. Hold down the power button to turn the Mac on again and hold for several seconds until you see “Loading startup options.” Select Options from the startup screen to enter macOS Recovery.

If you’re in a predicament where your computer is frozen and the normal means of resetting aren’t working, try the Control + Command + Eject (or power button) shortcut.

Erase Your Data

No matter your method of getting here, you must then select a user with administrator privileges and enter their account credentials before gaining access to the computer’s startup options. Once fully in macOS Recovery, select Disk Utility to wipe the hard drive.

In the Disk Utility menu, choose the drive Macintosh HD under the Internal heading and click Erase in the top toolbar. A dialog box will pop up asking for the drive name and format. Keep the name as Macintosh HD and make sure the format is set to APFS or Mac OS Extended (Journaled).

Click Erase Volume Group (or Erase if that button isn’t shown) to wipe the drive, then make sure any other internal drives are also erased in order to completely wipe the computer and avoid any errors during the reinstall process. Exit out of the Disk Utility window to go back to the Recovery screen.

Be aware that once this process is done, you will no longer be able to recover any deleted data that was left on the drive. If you think you may still need what is on your hard drive, we advise you to first back it up through Time Machine or sync important files to iCloud.

Reinstall and Restore

If you plan to sell the computer, you can stop here and let the new owner install a clean version of macOS. For those who plan to keep their Mac, your next step should be to reinstall macOS onto the computer.

Your computer should be hooked up to a power source and connected to the internet. Back at the macOS Utilities screen, click Reinstall macOS and follow the instructions to download a new version of the operating system.

If you saved your files through a Time Machine backup, you can now restore those files through the Migration Assistant as part of the reinstall process. You will be asked if you want to transfer information from another Mac or a Time Machine backup. Select Time Machine and continue the process to restore your files.

If you decided not to perform this action while wiping your Mac, you can go back into the macOS Recovery screen and choose the Restore From Time Machine Backup option. Select the appropriate backup from the list to reinstall your saved files.

Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com.



PC Magazine: redefining technology news and reviews since 1982.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store