How to factory reset your MacBook Pro before selling or giving it away

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If you’re ready to sell or give away your existing Mac notebook or wipe it for another reason there are a few things you’ll want to do in addition to erasing the hard drive. Read along for how to factory reset your MacBook Pro and reinstall a fresh copy of macOS.

Before you factory reset your MacBook Pro, make sure that you have a current backup. On Macs running macOS Mojave and earlier, you’ll also want to deauthorize your Mac in iTunes. Navigate in the menu bar to AccountAuthorizations → Deauthorize This Computer.

And you’ll want sign out of iCloud, iMessage, and FaceTime. It doesn’t hurt to sign out of any other accounts under System Preferences → Internet Accounts, too. If you’re giving your MacBook Pro to someone in your household, you may want to unpair any Bluetooth devices as well.

And if you plan on selling your MacBook with a butterfly keyboard on your own, it’s probably a good idea to have it replaced for free if you haven’t already.

How to factory reset MacBook Pro

  1. Make a current backup of your Mac
  2. Sign out of iTunes in macOS Mojave and earlier (Account → Authorizations → Deauthorize This Computer)
  3. Sign out of iCloud (System Preferences > Apple ID > Overview > Sign Out)
  4. Sign out of iMessage and FaceTime (in Preferences for each app)
  5. Reset NVRAM (see below for details on steps 5-8)
  6. Boot into macOS Recovery
  7. Erase your startup disk
  8. Reinstall a fresh copy of macOS

Reset NVRAM

Apple notes in a support document that resetting the NVRAM is important to do as it wipes out user settings and restores security defaults. Here’s how to do it:

Shut down your Mac, then turn it on and immediately press and hold these four keys together: Option, Command, P, and R. Release the keys after about 20 seconds.

Boot into macOS Recovery

macOS Recovery will install a different version of macOS depending on the key combination you use when starting up your Mac (no installation discs or macOS loaded onto an external drive is needed). Hold down one of the following key combinations right after powering on your Mac, and let go when you see the globe or Apple logo.

  • ⌘R (Command R) = Reinstall the latest macOS that was installed on your Mac, without upgrading to a later version.
  • ⌥⌘R (Option Command R) = Upgrade to the latest macOS that is compatible with your Mac

As Apple notes on its support page, “if you’re selling or giving away a Mac that is using OS X El Capitan or earlier, use Option-Command-R to make sure that the installation isn’t associated with your Apple ID.” This also installs the latest available software.

For this walkthrough, I’ve used ⌥⌘R, which will use macOS Recovery over the internet and reinstall the latest macOS version (this option requires a Wi-Fi connection).

Loading time for macOS Recovery will vary depending on your internet connection. When the process is complete, you’ll see the macOS Utilities window.

how to factory reset MacBook Pro walkthrough

Erase your startup disk (hard drive/solid state drive)

  1. Click Disk Utility in the utilities window, then click Continue.
  2. Select your startup disk in the sidebar of Disk Utility (click the top item like Apple SSD, as in the image shown below, not the volume name, Macintosh HD)
  3. Click Erase in the top area of the utility window (if you don’t see or can’t select erase, click the volume name beneath the disk name (Macintosh HD), then try again)
  4. Enter a name for the disk (Macintosh HD is the default on a new Mac), use Mac OS Extended (Journaled) for formatting, and GUID Partition Map for scheme
  5. Click Erase (once complete, in the menu bar click Disk Utility → Quit Disk Utility to return to the macOS Utilities window)

Finish factory reset of Macbook Pro by reinstalling macOS

  1. Back on the main macOS Utilities window, click on Reinstall macOS
  2. Follow the prompts and select which disk you’d like to install macOS (if you have multiple drives)
  3. Plug in your power cable if you’re using a Mac notebook
  4. Click Install
  5. If you have an SSD you may see a 10-20 minute installation estimate, if you have an HDD likely longer
  6. When the installation is complete you’ll see the welcome screen with the region selector. If keeping your Mac, continue on with the setup process. If selling or giving your Mac to someone else, use the keyboard shortcut ⌘Q to quit the setup assistant and power your Mac down.

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