My 16" MacBook Pro M1 Pro Came with a borked OS. Here’s how I fixed it

As I write this on my shiny new MacBook Pro, I’m reminded of the two whole days of stress I spent trying to get it to work properly.

Michael Mohr
PixelPoison
4 min readNov 5, 2021

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Photo by David Pupaza on Unsplash

The Issues

Basically, my MacBook pro came with strange issues. It worked fine at first but the screen wasn’t perfectly smooth. I didn’t know that until later when I fixed it… ProMotion is much more apparent now and it works more consistently across apps. One day I took it to work and it wouldn’t show any of the WiFi networks until I rebooted. I’ve had trouble connecting to servers, and there were some strange bugs in Safari and Finder. Returning or exchanging it was almost out of the question. I’d have to wait a month to get a replacement and I need a computer now. I also loved it when it worked. So I decided to dive into the recovery and try to reinstall the OS to see if that will fix it. Simple fix, right? Wrong.

M1 Recovery mode & DFU

After booting into recovery I was greeted with a familiar, if newly polished sight. Gone are all the different recovery modes that the intel Macs had, or at least I don’t know how to get into them. On the M1 you just hold the power button and keep holding it until it prompts you for recovery… how simple.

I was able to open the disk utility and erase the internal volume in preparation for a full reinstallation. And that’s where everything went wrong.

Closing disk utility, I was taken back to the main recovery menu where I chose to reinstall MacOS… something I’ve done a few times on Intel Macs with no real issues. This time the installation started normally but the estimated time to complete just kept creeping up until it hit about 12 hours, at which point I decided something must have been wrong. I checked the recovery logs and there were a bunch of errors. To be fair I don’t know what they mean or if they are normal… but errors are errors and it didn’t appear to be working after letting it sit for hours.

After doing some Googling I learned something cool about the new M1 Macs… since they are basically iPhones on steroids, they actually have a DFU mode and you can flash the entire firmware and OS to them. Aha! A solution!

I grab my trusty old 13" intel MacBook this glitched beast is replacing and try “reviving” the firmware in Apple Configurator only to be greeted with another error preventing me from doing it. I’m pretty sure it’s because the old MacBook was not on Monterey yet, but not 100%. Long story short, the shit didn’t work.

The Solution

I ended up downloading the Monterey install file onto the old MacBook and I made a bootable installer with Terminal. The new M1 Macs can boot from removable media by default (a surprising change) and after booting to the USB, I was able to fully reinstall macOS Monterey onto my new M1 Pro MacBook Pro.

FINALLY I had found a working solution. I expected to boot the OS and have a replay of the previous issues and general experience but much to my surprise the experience was quite different.

Peculiar Differences

What surprised me to learn is the version of macOS that comes on the machine is not the same one you get when you install from the usb installer. By default, the Mac will come with some extra apps and things like the iWork suite, etc. Those were not present on the installer version. It was a cleaner, leaner OS, which leads me to believe other things could be different too. I don’t know what was wrong with this thing when I got it… I could have even done something that somehow broke it on the first few days, I don’t know. All I know it reinstalling the OS using the aforementioned method has completely changed how it feels to use it.

So if you’re having problems with your shiny new M1 Mac, try reinstalling from USB before returning it. You might just be glad you did!

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