How to reset Mac to factory settings without extra help

Everything in life has an expiration date, and your Mac device is no exception. No matter what you wanna do next - sell it, give it away or try to extend its shelf life - resetting Mac to factory settings should be your starting point. But why is that?

Because you want to keep your data secured, don’t you? Not only it’s an effective precautionary measure to protect your privacy, but also the right way to prep your Mac for a new owner. Or in case that’s you who want to start fresh with your device, resetting Mac to factory settings will do a complete Mac reset making it almost as good as new.

So how to factory reset MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air or iMac on your own? It’s easily done with these 8 action steps:

Step 1: Back up your data

Step 2: Sign out from iCloud & iMessage

Step 3: Unpair Bluetooth devices

Step 4: Reset NVRAM

Step 5: Use Migration Assistant

Step 6: Use Erase Assistant Tool to remove all data

Step 7: Wipe Mac hard drive in Recovery Mode

Step 8: Reinstall macOS

Don’t get intimidated by this long checklist! I’ve created a very straightforward guide so even your grandma can restore MacBook to factory settings. Just complete this factory reset MacBook to-do list taking one step at a time. Follow the instructions below.

The ultimate checklist to factory reset MacBook Pro

Step 1. Backup your data

When you factory reset MacBook, all the information on your hard drive is wiped off. That’s why to save valuable files and data you need to create a backup. This is like cloning your hard drive so you can keep having access to needed files.

You can of course back up files and apps manually by copying everything to an external drive or iCloud. However, a much faster and more secure way to back up is with Mac’s built-in software — Time Machine. It allows you to recover individual files and restore an entire hard drive in case of a catastrophe.

But here’s the thing, prior to using Time Machine make sure to clean up your Mac. You don’t want to back up all the junk it contains, do you? Plus, a backup will go faster and more smoothly if your Mac is not cluttered.

For a quick cleanup, I personally like using prefer specialized applications. The app that works for me is CleanMyMac X. It removes large and old files, useless apps, caches, and system junk in a few clicks.

Here's how to use it:

  1. Download CleanMyMac X and launch it.
  2. Click Scan.
  3. Click Run.
CleanMyMac X - Smart Scan complete

Once you’ve cleaned up your Mac, enable Time Machine backup:

  1. Go to the Apple menu in the top left corner of your screen and choose System Preferences.
  2. Select Time Machine.
  3. Click the Select Disk button.
  4. Choose the disk you’d like to use as a Time Machine backup, then click Use Disk.

That’s it!

Now, your first backup may take a while, depending on how many files you have. But don’t skip this step — the backup will allow you to restore all your data in case something goes wrong when you restore MacBook to factory settings.

Step 2: Sign out from iCloud & iMessage

iCloud sign out:

Sign out of iCloud to make sure that any remnants of the cloud data, such as bookmarks, notes, reminders, etc., are not visible to a new user.

Follow 3-step formula to turn off iCloud:

  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences.
  2. Select Apple ID, then select Overview in the sidebar.
  3. Click Sign Out.

If you're running macOS Mojave or earlier, go to Apple menu > System Preferences, choose iCloud. Then click Sign Out.

iMessage sign out:

Before you restore MacBook to factory settings, remember to sign out of iMessage.

This time, an easy 4-step formula to help you do that:

  • 1. Open up Messages.
  • 2. Click Messages in the menu bar in the top left corner of your screen.
  • 3. From the drop-down menu, choose Preferences.
  • 4. Click iMessage, then click Sign Out.

As simple as that!

Step 3: Unpair Bluetooth devices

Now, let’s quickly unpair all Bluetooth devices:

  1. Go to Bluetooth preferences.
  2. Select devices you want to unpair by clicking the "x" button, then select Remove.

When you are done with removing every Bluetooth device, move to step 4.

Step 4. Reset NVRAM

NVRAM (nonvolatile random-access memory) is a type of memory your Mac uses to store certain settings, such as your selected startup disk, sound volume, screen resolution, and the last kernel panic. Resetting NVRAM will restore certain features you might have changed previously.

  • 1. Shut down your Mac.
  • 2. Start up Mac and press and hold Option-Command-P-R for 20 seconds, then release.

Step 5: Use Migration Assistant

Want to move your documents, apps, user accounts, and settings from your old to the new Mac? Migration Assistant is at your service. It automatically copies all of your files to your new Mac device without the struggle to copy them manually one by one.

Follow the instructions below using both your new and old Mac:

  1. Go to Utilities in your Applications folder. Click on Migration Assistant and then Continue.
  2. Enter your administrator password, then click OK.
  3. Select the “From a Mac, Time Machine backup, or startup disk” option (on your old Mac select option “To another Mac”) > Continue.
  4. When asked to select a Mac, Time Machine backup, or other startup disk, select the other Mac > Continue.
  5. Select the information you want to transfer and click Continue for the last time.

Remember, large transfers take longer to complete. So stay calm and be patient!

After Migration Assistant is done, quit Migration Assistant on both computers, then log in to the migrated account on your new Mac to view files.

Step 6. Use Erase Assistant Tool to remove all data

Once you’ve backed up your data and signed out of everything, the next thing you should do is wipe all your data.

Here is good news for users of macOS Monterey or Apple silicon-based Macs as well as Intel-based Macs: you have an Erase Assistant Tool at your disposal. Handy, simple, and a real helping hand when it comes to factory reset Macbook. Follow the instructions below to wipe a Mac with Erase Assistant Tool:

  1. Open System Preferences, then click Erase All Content and Settings.
  2. Enter your Admin password and go over the items you want to remove.

Done! All your media, apps, files, and other data are officially gone from your Mac. What’s more, it also clears your Touch ID & Apple Wallet, unpairs your Bluetooth devices, and signs out the Apple ID.

No Erase Assistant Tool? Use an alternative method to wipe the hard drive and restore Mac to factory settings.

Step 7: Wipe Mac hard drive

If you plan to sell or give away your Mac, you need to erase your Mac’s startup disk. The startup disk is built into your MacBook. Its default name is Macintosh HD.

  1. Start up your Mac and press Command-R until you see an Apple logo.
  2. Choose Disk Utility in the Utilities window.
  3. Select your built-in startup disk, “Macintosh HD”.
  4. Click Erase at the top of the Disk Utility window and enter the next details:

Name: Macintosh HD
Format: APFS or Mac OS Extended (Journaled)

5. Click Erase Volume Group. You may need to enter your Apple ID for confirmation.

When the process is complete, select other internal volumes in the sidebar and press the "—" button to delete them. Then, quit Disk Utility.

Do you need to turn off FileVault to do a factory reset?

Some sources on the Internet recommend turning off FileVault before doing a factory reset. FileVault encrypts your data and prevents unauthorized access to the information on your startup disk. So, even if you are going to sell your Mac, the purchaser won’t be able to access your data as they’d need your password to decrypt it.

Complete factory reset covers erasing your startup disk (described in Steps 6 and 7), which will make the recovery of your data impossible. Therefore, there is no need to turn off FileVault, as your data can’t be accessible in any readable form after you erase the drive.

Step 8: Reinstall macOS

Mission accomplished! You’ve reformatted your hard drive and reset your Mac to factory settings. Now you can reinstall your operating system. Simply click Reinstall macOS from the Utilities menu. Confirm that you really want to do it and follow the instructions you’ll see on the screen.

Once the macOS is installed, a setup assistant will appear. However, if you are not going to keep your Mac, it would be better to quit the setup process and let the new owner enter all the necessary information. Hold down the Command-Q keys and then choose Shut Down to turn off your Mac but leave it waiting for a new user.

That’s all. Now your Mac is clean and ready for a fresh start.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
CleanMyMac X

Your Mac. As good as new.