How to factory reset a MacBook or any Mac

How to Factory Reset a MacBook or any Mac

Even though Apple Macs are one of the most reliable laptops on the planet — it won’t require a reset until you sell your Mac — but some issues can still come up. In these cases, resetting or erasing your Mac can be the best solution. And just like erasing an iPhone is easy, you can factory reset your Mac in just a couple of steps.

In this simple how-to guide, let me explain when you should factory reset the Mac and how to do it.

Why you may want to reset your Mac?

  • If you’re facing some system-level issues on your Mac, a clean install is recommended. In my case, I accidentally deleted some Dock files of macOS, which led to multiple Finder failures. Ultimately, factory resetting my Mac solved the issue.
  • If you’re selling or giving away your Mac, it is advisable to erase all data off it. Furthermore, it is recommended to reinstall macOS by which your laptop will feel fresh. You can check how to reinstall macOS in the section given below.
  • If your company or organization owns your Mac and you’re giving it back.
  • Your Mac is flooded with thousands of small files, and it has reached the point of no return. Resetting and starting afresh is recommended. But if millions of small files are the sole reason for resetting the Mac, use a Mac cleaner app instead. It will save a lot of your effort.

What to do before you reset a Mac or MacBook?

Before you go ahead and erase everything from your Mac, Apple suggests considering a few things as listed below:

  • Backup, Backup, Backup: You’ll lose all the files, data, and apps once your factory reset your Mac. And one never knows when a file can prove useful. So, it’s better to back up your Mac before erasing it. Learn how to backup your Mac easily.
  • Sign out of iTunes: It’s a good practice to sign out of iTunes before you reset so that the Mac doesn’t show up in devices the next time you sign in to iTunes. To sign out of iTunes: open iTunes → click Account at the top menu bar → AuthorizationsDeauthorize This Computer → enter your Apple ID and password when asked.
  • Sign out of iCloud:
    • To sign out of iCloud on a Mac running macOS Mojave or earlier: Click the Apple logo on the top left → System PreferencesiCloudSign Out.
    • On macOS Catalina and above: Select the Apple logoSystem PreferencesApple IDOverviewSign Out.
  • Sign out of iMessage: Before you reset a Mac, it’s important to sign out of iMessage. On a Mac running OS X Mountain Lion and above, open the Messages app → select Messages at the top left → Preferences → click Sign Out.
  • Reset NVRAM and PRAM: NVRAM and PRAM are responsible for storing your Mac settings. They could’ve got messed up during Mac’s usage, and Apple recommends you clear the memories before you factory reset your Mac. To do so,
    1. Shut down your Mac
    2. Press the power button
    3. Next, immediately press and hold these four keys together for about 20-25 seconds: Option + Command + P + R.
    4. Wait for the startup chime and release the keys.

If your Mac is running macOS Monterey:

How to reset M1 or Intel Mac running macOS Monterey or above

Apple simplified the steps to reset a Mac to its factory settings with macOS Monterey. Now, you can reset your Mac just like an iPhone, i.e., through System Preferences. To reset a Mac running macOS Monterey or above:

  1. Click the Apple logo at the top left and select System Preferences.
  2. Now, click the System Preferences again at the top left.
  3. Select Erase all Content and Settings

    Select Erase all Content and Settings on Mac
  4. Enter your password.
    A new app called Erase Assistant would pop up to show which data will be erased once you reset your Mac through Erase Assistant.
  5. Hit Continue.

    data will be erased once you reset your Mac
  6. Enter your Apple ID and password.
    A pop-up asking you to confirm erasing the Mac would come up.
  7. Select Erase All Content and Settings.
    Your Mac will now boot to the Apple logo screen that shows up when you turn on the Mac.
  8. Once done, your Mac will reboot with the setup screen on it.

If your Mac is running macOS Big Sur or below:

Apple didn’t have an Erase Assitant-like tool on any macOS versions before Monterey. Moreover, there are different procedures for Macs having an Apple Silicon chip or an Intel chip.

So, select the process that fits your Mac — whether it has an Intel chip or an Apple Silicon, running macOS Big Sur or below — and follow the steps mentioned carefully.

How to reset Apple Silicon Mac on macOS Big Sur

1. macOS Big Sur 11.2 or above

Apple released a simple reset tool for Apple Silicon Macs with macOS 11.2. Here’s how you can use the Recovery Assistant to reset an Apple Silicon Mac:

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Press and hold the Power Button until you see the startup options window.
  3. Select the Gear icon with the Options label beneath it.

    Select the Gear icon with the Options label on Mac
  4. Enter your Mac password.
  5. In the window that opens, select Terminal from the Menu Bar.

    select Terminal from the Menu Bar on Mac
  6. When the Terminal opens, enter the following code to reset your Mac: resetpassword
  7. Now, select Recovery AssistantErase Mac in the Menu Bar.
  8. Select Erase Mac again to confirm.
    Your Mac will now boot to the Apple logo screen that shows up when you turn on the Mac.
  9. Once done, you’ll be greeted with a setup screen on your factory reset Mac.

2. macOS Big Sur 11.1 or below

To reset an Apple Silicon Mac running macOS 11.0 to macOS 11.1, follow these steps:

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Press and hold the Power Button until you see the startup options window.
  3. Select the Gear icon with the Options label beneath it.
  4. Enter your Mac password.
  5. Now, select Disk Utility.
  6. In the Disk Utility window, select your Mac’s hard drive on the left panel.
    Most probably, your Mac’s hard drive would be named Macintosh HD.
  7. After selecting the drive, click Erase in the toolbar and enter the following:
    1. Name: Macintosh HD
    2. Format: APFS
  8. Select Erase Volume Group.

    Select Erase Volume Group on Mac
  9. Enter your Apple ID and password if prompted.
  10. Click Erase Mac and Restart.
  11. Follow the on-screen instructions.
    Your Mac will now attempt to reinstall macOS. Ensure your Mac has an internet connection.
  12. After your Mac activates, click Exit to Recovery Utilities.

How to reset Intel Mac on macOS Big Sur or below

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Press the Power Button until you hear a chime.
  3. Next, press and keep holding Command (⌘) + R until you see the options on your Mac’s screen.
  4. Enter your Mac password.
  5. Now, select Disk Utility and click Continue.

    Select Disk Utility and click Continue on Mac
  6. In the Disk Utility window, select your Mac’s hard drive on the left panel.
    Most probably, your Mac’s hard drive would be named Macintosh HD.
  7. After selecting the drive, click Erase in the toolbar and enter the following information:
    1. Name: Macintosh HD
    2. Format: APFS or MacOS Extended (Journaled), whichever Disk Utility recommends
  8. Click Erase Volume Group in the window and enter your Apple ID password.
  9. After erasing your Mac, reinstall macOS, and you’re done!

Go to the next section if you don’t know how to install macOS on your Mac.

Note: If you’re facing issues with your Mac’s system files, the best solution is to reinstall macOS. It is simpler than factory resetting the Mac.

How to reinstall macOS without erasing data and deleting apps?

When you factory reset a Mac, it erases all the files, including apps, documents, folders, pictures, and everything on the laptop, and you start afresh.

But when you reinstall macOS through recovery options, you just reinstall the operating system part of your laptop. Everything, including your files, data, apps, pictures, remains intact. It just erases and installs the whole operating system layer underneath.

Steps to reinstall macOS on the Apple Silicon Mac

  1. Shut down your M1 Mac.
  2. Hold and press the power button until you see the Startup Options window.
  3. Select the Gear icon labeled Options and hit Continue.
    A pop-up will appear with four options.
  4. Click Reinstall macOS.

    Reinstall macOS without erasing data and deleting apps
    Ensure your Mac is connected to the internet. If it’s not, click the Wi-Fi icon at the top right or plugin an ethernet cable.
  5. Follow the on-screen instructions.
    You’ll be asked to enter your Mac’s password, erase the old disk, and select the disk on which you want to reinstall macOS (it’ll probably be the disk by the name of Macintosh HD).
  6. Note: Unlike Intel-based Macs, the reinstall tool on Apple Silicon Macs will download and install only the latest version of macOS installed on your computer.
  7. Once downloaded, your Mac will restart several times.
  8. Next, you’ll see the setup screen.
    Follow the steps, and voila! You’ll have the latest macOS version reinstalled.

Reinstall macOS on an Intel-based Mac

Reinstalling macOS on an Intel Mac is a bit different than reinstalling it on the Apple Silicon Mac.

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Press and hold the power button until you hear the startup chime.
  3. Now, press either of the below mentioned key combinations:
    • To reinstall the latest macOS on Intel-based Mac: Press Option + Command + R key combination.
    • To reinstall factory version macOS on Intel-based Mac: Press the Shift + Option + Command + R.
  4. You’ll be taken to the internet recovery menu.
  5. Select your preferred Wi-Fi connection or connect an ethernet cable to your Mac.
  6. Next, enter your Mac password.
  7. Now, select Reinstall macOS from the options.
  8. Follow the on-screen instructions.
  9. Once everything is complete, you’ll see the setup screen on your Mac.

I hope you now know how to factory reset your Mac. I’m grateful that Apple finally released a single Erase Assistant tool with macOS Monterey, which simplifies the process a bit.

If you have some queries regarding resetting your Mac, share them in the comments section below. I’d love to help you out.

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