Whether you’re experiencing technical issues or simply passing your MacBook on to someone new, knowing how to format and reset your MacBook is a valuable skill to know. Luckily, it’s also an easy skill to learn.
According to Anthony Hill, Head of Technology at Geeks2U, “a very common reason people reset their MacBooks is when selling or giving their MacBook to a family member. Doing so clears your personal information from the MacBook and puts it back to the factory settings so the new user can configure it to their own liking”.
Anthony also suggests a reset of your MacBook to “freshen up the system, to clear out any programs and other excess baggage that’s built up over the years that’s slowing your MacBook down”.
How to backup data
Formatting or resetting a MacBook deletes all your data, so even if you are sure there’s nothing you want to keep on your MacBook, it’s a good idea to do a backup anyway. Better to be safe than sorry.
To create a backup, we will use the built-in Time Machine feature of macOS. Purchase an external hard drive that’s the same or larger capacity of your MacBook, plug it in and macOS will prompt you to use the new hard drive as a Time Machine backup location. The backup process will begin once you click “Use as Backup Disk“.
Depending on the amount of data you have, the backup could take minutes or hours, even days. To check the status of your backup, enter the System Preferences, click on Time Machine and you’ll see an estimate for how long the backup will take. Once it’s complete we can start the reset process.
Sign out of services
If you are selling your MacBook or passing it on a new owner, it’s important to sign out of your various Apple services. If you don’t sign out, the new owner may be able to access them, even after doing a reset or the new owner won’t be able to add the device to their iCloud account.
Sign out of the iTunes & App Store by opening iTunes, and clicking “Account > Authorizations > Deauthorize This Computer”. Sign out of iCloud by clicking “Apple menu > System Preferences > iCloud > Sign Out”. Sign out of iMessage by opening the Messages app and selecting “Messages > Preferences” then clicking “iMessage > Sign Out”.
Enter restore mode
To begin the MacBook reset process, turn your MacBook off (click the Apple menu, then Shutdown). Whilst turned off, hold down the Command & R keys simultaneously and while holding those keys down, turn your MacBook back on. Release the keys once you see an Apple logo or spinning globe. After a few minutes you’ll be presented with a macOS Utilities window.
How to format your MacBook
If you’re selling your MacBook or passing it on, you want to format the MacBook’s drive first. This erases all data from the drive, so make sure you have a backup.
In the macOS Utilities Window, select “Disk Utility” and click Continue. Choose “View > Show All Devices” from the menu bar, select the MacBook’s disk drive (for example: “Apple SSD”) then click “Erase”. Give the new drive a name, select the appropriate drive format type (APFS if available, otherwise Mac OS Extended Journaled) and choose the GUID partition map scheme. Click Erase and wait a minute or two while your MacBook’s drive is wiped.
How to do a factory restore
After formatting the MacBook, close the Disk Utility window. You’ll be placed back at the macOS Utilities window where you can reinstall macOS.
Simply follow the instructions presented to place a fresh install of macOS on the newly erased MacBook drive. When the install process is complete, the MacBook will reboot and start the Setup Assistant.
You can simply turn the MacBook off now and give the MacBook to its new owner. This is what’s called a “factory settings” restore, as this is how the MacBook arrives from the factory.
How to reset your MacBook Pro without losing data
If you just want to do a spring clean of your MacBook or do some technical troubleshooting, you can use the Time Machine backup made earlier to place your data back on your freshly factory reset MacBook.
After you’ve completed the factory restore, instead of turning the MacBook off, continue with Setup Assistant. When you get to the Migration Assistant stage, select “From a Mac, Time Machine backup or startup disk” and plug in your Time Machine backup hard drive.
You’ll be presented with a list of information to transfer, such as Applications and your Home Folder. Select what you’d like to bring across and select continue. Depending on how much data you have, this could take several hours. When complete, you’ll be dropped back in to macOS, with your files put back just where you left them.