How to wipe a MacBook Air & MacBook Pro

By Connie | Posted to Home > Howto, updated on August 12th, 2021

Summary: This post is a comprehensive guide to help you completely wipe a MacBook, including Intel-based MacBook and Apple M1 MacBook. Also, it tells how to wipe app accounts and all other private data.

wipe Macbook

You have to erase your MacBook when running into certain occasions, such as:

  1. Sell, give away, or trade in your MacBook to someone else.
  2. Send it to a recycling organization.
  3. Reset your Mac to factory settings.

Notably, wiping a computer cleanly doesn't means delete files one by one as your MacBook has huge amounts of data.

Here, this post will guide you on how to completely wipe a MacBook in the right way.

How to wipe a MacBook

Wiping a computer means that all files, including your private data, will be cleaned. So, before you get down to empty your Mac, you'd better back up the necessary documents, emails, and other data in advance.

You can back up your Mac with Time Machine, the macOS built-in utility.

After that, follow the steps below to clean up all data stored on your MacBook.

How to reset a Mac without reinstalling macOS?

Step 1: Erase all of your account information

Apps on your Mac usually contain your private files. There's a chance that your account information remains after you reset your MacBook. If that happens, others will have the opportunity to access the data stored on your apps.

To erase your account information, you need to sign out of or deauthorize apps that contain important personal data.

1. Sign out of your iCloud

iCloud is secure cloud storage that is widely used to back up and synchronize data between Apple devices. If you've enabled iCloud on your computer, you should sign out of it.

If you have a Mac Book that runs macOS Catalina or later, you should:

  • Select the Apple menu > System Preferences > iCloud.
  • Choose Overview at the sidebar, then click Sign Out on the iCloud window.
Sign out of iCloud in macOS Big Sur before wipe a Mac

If you use a MacBook with macOS Mojave or earlier, you can follow these steps:

  • Select the Apple menu > System Preferences.
  • Choose iCloud > Sign Out.

When asked whether to keep a copy of the iCloud files on your Mac, you'd better allow it. Then, you can see all data stored in iCloud when signing in to your iCloud with your Apple ID on other devices.

2. Sign out of iMessage

Like iCloud, iMessage synchronizes messages between your Mac and other Apple devices, like iPhone. If you've signed in to iMessage on your MacBook, disable it.

  • Open Messages from the Dock of your Mac.
  • Open Preferences from the menu bar and then click iMessage.
  • Click Sign Out.
Sign out of iMessages before wipe a Mac

3. Sign out of Mail

If you have a close email exchange with someone else, sign out of your Mail account can prevent the emails from being checked by others.

  • Open Mail from the Dock of your Mac.
  • Click Mail on the Apple menu bar and select Accounts.
  • Choose your email account on the left sidebar and click the - icon on the pane.

Apart from the mentioned apps, you'd better sign out for other apps that contain your private data, like iTunes. By the way, disable Bluetooth devices that you're keeping.

Step 2: Wipe your MacBook hard drive

Once you've signed out of the necessary app accounts, it's time to clean your internal hard drive.

From macOS Catalina, there are two volumes by default on the Mac hard drive. The one is Macintosh HD (Or macOS), which is used to store operating system files and applications. The other is Macintosh HD - Data (Or macOS - Data), which stores user data.

Macintosh HD

For macOS Mojave and earlier, both operating system files and user data are stored in the macOS volume.

Erasing your internal hard drive is not to erase the whole disk. Here's the right way to wipe a Mac hard drive:

To wipe an Intel-based MacBook:

  • Shut down your Mac.
  • Restart your Mac and hold down the Command + R keys simultaneously until seeing the Apple logo or a spinning globe.
  • Click Disk Utility when entering into macOS Recovery mode > Continue.
  • Erase Mac Hard disk before wipe a MacBook
  • Right-click Macintosh HD - Data (Or macOS - Data) at the left sidebar of the Disk Utility window and click Delete APFS Volume.

Note: For macOS Mojave or earlier, there's no Macintosh HD - Data (Or macOS - Data) volume.

  • Select Macintosh HD (Or macOS) and click Erase.
  • Enter "Macintosh" as the drive name, select "APFS" as the format, and "GUID Partition Map" as the Scheme. Then, click Erase.
  • Right-click other volumes at the sidebar if had and select the delete volume button.

To wipe an Apple M1 MacBook:

  • Shut down your computer. Then, restart your MacBook and continue holding the power button.
  • Release the power button when you see the startup options.
  • Select Options and enter your admin password.
  • Choose Disk Utility when seeing the four options. It also means you've entered into macOS Recovery mode.
  • Choose Macintosh HD (Or macOS) in the left sidebar of the Disk Utility window and click Erase. Then, type the required info as the image shows below.
  • Choose Erase Volume Group in macOS Recovery mode Disk Utility
  • Click Erase Volume Group.

Note: Clicking the Erase Volume Group option will erase both macOS files and user data. If you choose the Erase option, it will only wipe the system-related data. Here you should choose Erase Volume Group.

  • Right-click other volumes at the sidebar if had and select the delete volume button.

Quit Disk Utility to return to the utilities window. Now, your MacBook is completely erased. You can reset the Mac if needed or sell it or give it away directly.

Final thoughts

Before selling or giving away your MacBook, it's essential to clean all your user data on it. That not only protects your privacy and data security but also makes it convenient for the next user.

This post provides a full guide to help you wipe your MacBook clean, including MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. Hope it is useful for you.