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How to Completely Reset a MacBook Pro/Air to Factory Settings

Updated on Tuesday, June 21, 2022

iBoysoft author Jessica Shee

Written by

Jessica Shee

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

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.

Factory reset MacBook

Table of Contents:

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.

Restore your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air to factory settings also can help resolve Mac crashing issues and other underperformance due to full storage, malfunctioning software, sticky viruses, or a crashing operating system. Then you can set up the Mac like a brand new one.

How factory reset Mac works:

  1. Erase all your data and settings from your Mac
  2. Restore Mac to factory settings
  3. Reinstall macOS

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 to erase all content and settings.

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 before you proceed to factory reset a Mac.

You need an external storage device with Mac OS Extended to back up your Mac with Time Machine. 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 afterward.

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 email account. On these associated devices, all purchased content 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 the 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. Go to the Apple menu bar where the Apple logo is at the top left corner and Choose Account > Authorizations > Deauthorize This Computer.

deauthorize iTunes

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

Deauthorize accounts on Mac

4. Click Deauthorize to confirm.

Step 3: Sign out of Apple ID

Any services that your Apple email 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, sometimes the new users somehow might have trouble logging in his or her Apple account.

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

1. Go to the Apple ID website and log in with your email address 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".

Remove devices from Apple account

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 are connected to the MacBook Pro again after you pass it on to someone in the office or next door.

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

Manage Bluetooth

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 a totally refreshed Mac.

To do this, click Apple lo and shut down your Mac. Then turn it on by hitting the power button and immediately press and hold the Option, Command, P, and R keys together. 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 the 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 the 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 the Apple icon at the top left corner of the menu bar, choose "Restart" and hold down Command + R keys immediately.

2. Release the keys until you see the Apple logo and wait for 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

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, macOS Big Sur, and macOS Monterey:

1. Press the power button to start 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 the network if it isn't connected to a known network automatically.

3. Choose Disk Utility and click Continue in the macOS Utilities window.

Disk Utility in Mac recovery mode

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 from Disk Utility's toolbar.

6. Name the volume and leave the format as APFS. Use GUID Partition Map as Scheme.

7. Click Delete Volume Group to delete Macintosh HD, Macintosh Hd Data, and any other volumes you created.

erase startup disk to reset Mac

 Note: On Macs running macOS Catalina, macOS Big Sur and macOS Monterey, hard drive contains two volumes - Macintosh HD, a read-only volume where Mac 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.

8. 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 choose Disk Utility in the macOS Utilities window. If your MacBook is stuck in Recovery Mode, then read the full guide to fix it on Apple Report. 

2. Click on the Mac hard drive, usually labeled 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 in Disk Utility, click "View" on the top menu and choose "Show All Devices".

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

erase startup disk to factory reset Mac in macOS Mojave

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

You will see APFS or Mac OS Extended as the format and GUID Partition Map as Scheme. Leave them as they are.

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

Reinstall macOS

After you have erased all content and settings, 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 the screen when he or she starts up the Mac because no OS is installed for loading up.

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

Clean reinstall macOS

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 your screen will show multiple process bars or other indicators. After restart, your Mac will boot to a setup assistant with a welcome screen.

If you are going to pass on the Mac to another owner after you factory reset a Mac, you can shut it down at this point. If you will keep this Mac, follow the setup assistant to set up your Mac.

Verdict

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

Therefore, for a complete 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 your iMac, Mac mini, and Mac Pro.

FAQ

A

You don't need an Apple account to restore a MacBook Pro to factory settings 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 account 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 it or request access to the Apple ID previously signed in this computer from Apple Support. Then wipe the content and settings of the Mac and reinstall macOS.

A

You can't directly factory reset a MacBook Pro without the correct admin password when you need to format Mac's startup disk. You should first recover your password if you forgot your 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.