How to Completely Factory Reset MacBook Pro/Air? Step by Step

By Jessica | Posted to Home > Mac Data Recovery Tips, on October 21st, 2021

Summary: A step-by-step tutorial about how to completely factory reset a MacBook Pro/Air without data loss, including the devices/accounts disconnection, Mac hard drive formatting, and OS reinstallation.

How to factory reset a Mac

To factory reset a MacBook or a Mac is a big move, but it is necessary especially when you Prepare Mac for sale, trade-in, or donate this computer. Then the person the computer eventually goes to will not have the access to your account and your personal data.

To restore your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air to factory settings also can help resolve an underperformed Mac due to full storage, malfunctioning software, sticky viruses, or crashing operating system. Then you can set up the Mac like a brand new one.

How to factory reset M1 Mac

How to Reset M1 Mac to Factory Settings?

If you have a Mac with Apple Silicon M1 chip, the steps to enter macOS Recovery and reinstall macOS Big Sur has changed, find all details in this post to reset an M1 Mac. Read more >>

How to erase a MacBook?

Unlike an iPhone or iPad, there is no reset button on your Mac, helping you erase it and restore it to factory settings with one click. To wipe a MacBook includes erasing all saved files on Mac's internal hard drive, deleting personalized settings, and disconnecting the MacBook from services and software to avoid conflicts.

But you may be confused about how to erase the MacBook and how to delete connections on software and services.

We will walk you through the process.

Step 1: Back up your Mac

Resetting a Mac to factory settings will force your Mac to return to the state when it leaves the manufacturing plant. All your user settings and stored files ever since you turned on the computer for the first time will be completely cleaned up. Therefore, it is strongly suggested that you make a full backup of data first.

Mac's Time Machine software can back up the current operating system, apps, settings and user files. Read to know how to set up and back up a Mac using Time Machine. Another advantage of using Time Machine backup is that you can transfer the data to a new Mac easily with Migration Assistant afterwards.

Step 2: Remove the computer from associated devices

Currently, Apple allows users to associate and authorize up to 10 Apple devices (no more than 5 computers) with the same Apple ID. On these associated devices, all purchased contents including games, software and music can be downloaded and played.

It is important to remove the associated Mac to avoid the limit of association. If you are going to factory reset MacBook Pro 2012 or older models, you should take this as a priority because iTunes Store account can only be used up to 5 devices in macOS Mojave or older versions.

How to remove the Mac from associated devices:

1. Open Apple Music app on your Mac.

2. Choose Account > Authorizations > Deauthorize This Computer.

Sign out of iTunes before resetting a Mac

3. Enter your Apple ID and password on the pop-up.

Remove Mac from associated devices

4. Click Deauthorize to confirm.

Step 3: Sign out of Apple ID

Any services that your Apple ID is linked to should be disconnected, especially services and apps associated with privacy such as iCloud, iMessages, and Find My.

If you don't log out of your Apple ID, sometimes the new users somehow might have trouble logging in his or her Apple ID account.

You can either open each software or service to log out or remove the computer from Apple ID account totally.

1. Go to Apple ID website and log in with your Apple ID and password to manage your Apple account.

2. Scroll down to the Device section and find the Mac computer you will reset to factory defaults.

3. Select it and click "Remove from account".

disconnect the MacBook Pro from Apple ID

Step 4: Unpair Bluetooth devices (Optional if you will keep this Mac)

If you have any devices including keyboard, mouse, music players, speakers, and headphones paired with the MacBook Pro once, you'd better unpair them if you are going to keep those devices but send away your Mac.

Otherwise, it will be frustrating that your devices connected to the MacBook Pro again after you pass it on to someone in the office or next door.

1. Go to Apple icon > System Preferences… > Bluetooth.

Unpair bluetooth devices before resetting a Mac

2. Click "Turn off Bluetooth" or Click the "X" button beside the paired device to remove it.

3. Click "Remove" when a dialog pops up.

Step 5: Reset NVRAM

NVRAM stores certain settings needed for loading macOS like screen solution, volume level, and startup disk selection. These files can get corrupted or cannot be completely erased by a Mac factory reset, so resetting NVRAM is necessary if you or the new user want to a totally refreshed Mac.

To do this, 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.

Step 6: Erase Touch Bar data

An OLED strip called Touch Bar is equipped on some MacBook Pro models in 2016 and later (Apple removed it from MacBook Pro 2021 with M1 Pro and M1 Max chip). It restores additional data for the Touch Bar and Touch ID sensor. The data is not erased by default if you reset a MacBook Pro by formatting hard drive and reinstalling OS.

Warning: Attempting to erase Touch ID data on MacBook Pro with Touch Bar may cause permanent data loss or unexpected problems especially on MacBook Pro with an Apple T2 Security Chip. Clearing up Touch Bar data also clears the stored credentials from T2 chip to authenticate the administration. This action is at your own risk if you are going to factory reset MacBook Pro 2020 and other models with a T2 chip.

Unless the ownership will transfer on this MacBook Pro, there is no need to erase Touch Bar data. If you want to clear out all Touch ID information and Touch Bar configuration data from Touch Bar, here is how to do it:

1. Click on Apple icon at the top left corner of menu bar, choose "Restart" and hold down key combination Command + R immediately.

2. Release the keys until you see the Apple logo and wait your Mac to boot into Mac Recovery Mode.

3. Click on "Utilities" at the top menu bar and select "Terminal".

4. Type in "xartutil --erase-all" and hit "Return".

5. Type "yes" to erase Touch Bar data and hit "Return" to confirm.

Erase Touch Bar data before resetting a Mac

6. Click on "Terminal" on the top menu bar and quit.

How to restore MacBook Pro/Air to factory settings

After you have deauthorized accounts and cleaned up data that cannot be wiped by a Mac factory reset, now you can erase your Mac to reset it.

The instructions are a little different depending on the versions of macOS you are using.

How to erase your MacBook in macOS Catalina and macOS Big Sur:

1. Restart your Mac and immediately press down Command, Option, Shift, and R keys together before your Mac chimes. These four keys will download the version of macOS that was shipped (or the closest compatible version) with your Mac later for OS reinstallation.

2. Release the keys until you see a spinning globe and connect the Mac to network if it isn't connected to a known network automatically.

3. Select Disk Utility and click Continue.

Boot Mac to Recovery Mode to use Disk Utility

4. Once in Disk Utility select Macintosh HD, or whatever volume you have called your Mac's hard drive, which contains your operating system.

5. Click Erase at the toolbar.

6. Name the volume and leave the format as APFS. Underneath you should see an option to Delete Volume Group and click it to delete Macintosh HD, Macintosh HD Data, and any other volumes you created.

delete Macintosh HD and Macintosh HD - Data

Note: On Macs running macOS Catalina and macOS Big Sur, hard drive contains two volumes - Macintosh HD, a read-only volume where operating system lives, and Macintosh HD - Data volume where user data resides. You need to delete both when you need to factory reset a Mac.

7. Click Erase to confirm.

How to erase your MacBook in macOS Mojave or earlier:

The process of formatting your Mac's startup disk is less complicated in macOS Mojave or older versions of macOS.

1. Start up your Mac in Recovery Mode as above and go to Disk Utility.

2. Click on the Mac hard drive, usually labelled as Macintosh HD or Apple SSD. It is the disk name, not the volume name. This time you are going to format the entire hard disk instead of a volume.

If you can't see the startup disk, click "View" on the top menu and choose "Show All Devices".

3. Click on "Erase" at the toolbar in the Disk Utility window.

How to erase the Mac drive

4. Give the startup disk a name and reformat it.

You can go to the top menu and quit Disk Utility, but don't restart the Mac yet because you need to reinstall macOS in macOS Utilities window.

How to reset Mac without reinstalling macOS

How to Reset M1 Mac to Factory Settings?

If you will keep this MacBook, you might not need an OS reinstallation. Read this tutorial about how to reset a Mac without reinstalling macOS. Read more >>

Reinstall macOS

You cannot just sell, trade-in, or give away your Mac notebook with a blank hard drive. The new user might encounter a flashing Mac folder with a question mark on screen when he or she starts up the Mac because no OS is installed for loading up.

To reinstall macOS, select Reinstall macOS in macOS Utility in Recovery Mode and then follow the onscreen instructions to install a fresh copy of macOS on your Mac.

How to reinstall macOS Big Sur

Read to know how to clean reinstall macOS from Recovery Mode, including clean reinstalling the original version, the current version, or the latest compatible version of macOS.

The macOS reinstallation typically will take half to an hour and you screen will show multiple process bars or other indicators. Wait until you see the Welcome screen.

If you are going to pass on the Mac to another owner, you can shut it down at this point. If you will keep this Mac, follow the steps to set it up.


Some guides will tell you to jump in erasing and reforming your Mac immediately if you want to reset your MacBook Pro/Air to factory settings, but that might leave issues with your data, associated devices and Apple ID after the computer is sent away.

Therefore, for a completely factory reset without losing data, it is necessary to back up files, disconnect the Mac computer from signed-in accounts, and clear the data that won't be restored to the defaults.

This article is also helpful when you need to factory reset iMac, Mac mini and Mac Pro.


How to reset MacBook Pro to factory settings without Apple ID?

You don't need an Apple ID to restore a MacBook Pro to factory setting unless it has an Apple Silicon or T2 Security chip. If the T2 or M1-equipped MacBook Pro turns on Find My app and Activation Lock will be enabled at the same time. Your Apple ID is required before anyone can turn off Find My, erase your Mac, or reactivate your Mac.

As a result, if you want to factory reset a MacBook Pro 2020 (either with a T2 or M1), you can't do it without Apple ID. But you can retrieve your Apple ID or request access to the Apple ID previously signed in this computer from Apple Support. Then wipe the contents of your Mac and reinstall macOS.

How to factory reset MacBook Pro without password?

You can't directly factory reset a MacBook Pro without correct admin password when you need to format Mac's startup disk. You should first recover your password if you forgot Mac password. You can reset the system password either in Recovery Mode with Terminal or call Apple Support to retrieve it for you.

Then sign out of your iClouds, iTunes Stores and other accounts, format your MacBook pro and reinstall macOS.