Follow these steps to factory clean or restore a Mac

If your Apple computer is running slower than usual, it was probably time to take action and start everything from scratch. If you want to know how to factory restore a Mac, we will tell you what you need to do. But pay attention first: since you will erase all your data, such as documents, photos, and applications, we suggest you make the necessary backups.

Bill Roberson / Digital Trends

In general, this “removing everything there is” is usually a cause for concern; But there are situations when restoring your laptop is necessary. The most common is when you want to sell it, using a service like eBay or Craigslist. After all, no buyer will want a computer with a hard drive full of someone else’s data.

Part of the process includes disavowing your computer in iTunes, which will remove any custom login information. However, you should also factory restore a Mac if you plan to give it away to someone else. It is something that does not take long, and here we explain how to do it step by step.

Erase your Mac

Step 1: For MacBooks, plug in the power adapter, so you don’t run out of battery.

Step 2: Make sure your Mac is connected to the internet, preferably through a wired connection. Erasing your hard drive is easy, but if you do, you need to access your Mac’s factory settings. Apple stores this data remotely on its servers.

Step 3: Click on the Apple logo in the upper left corner and select Restart … from the dropdown menu.

Step 4: Once your Mac restarts, press the Cmd and R keys simultaneously. Hold them down until your device displays an Apple logo, a rotating globe, or another home screen. This brings you to macOS Recovery.

Step 5: After a few moments, enter your password. The macOS utility popup will appear on your screen. Select Disk Utility from the list and click Continue.

Step 6: Your Mac’s startup disk will appear on the left. Usually called “Macintosh HD”, unless you rename it. Another unit also appears with the word “Data” added at the end. For example, if your startup disk is Macintosh HD, you should see a drive labeled Macintosh HD – Data. If you don’t have a data drive, don’t worry, just go to Step 9.

Step 7: Select the data drive, click Edit on the menu bar, and then select Delete APFS Volume from the drop-down menu. Alternatively, with the data drive selected, click the minus (-) button on the Disk Utility toolbar.

Step 8: In the resulting window, click Delete to confirm. Make sure you don’t click Delete Volume Group. If you have other data drives, erase them as well, but leave only the normal Macintosh HD drive.

Step 9: Select your main volume. Generally, it is Macintosh HD. Click Edit,  located in the menu bar followed by Delete … in the drop-down menu. Give it a name (or stick with Macintosh HD if you want) and choose a format.

Note: For the file format, you must choose APFS or macOS Extended (Journaled). Disk Utility displays the recommended format by default; keep it unless you have a specific reason to choose another format.

Step 10: Click Delete. You may see a message for your Apple ID information.

The process of erasing the drive from your Mac could take some time. When finished, close Disk Utility to return to the macOS utility window.

Reinstall the operating system

Once you’ve erased everything that made your Mac special, cleaning your system is only half the way back to factory settings.

Once you’re done with Disk Utility, you should see an option to Reinstall your current macOS. Select the reinstall option, confirm that you really want to, and continue. You may have to click some confirmations before the installation is ready to start.

Since Apple stores your Mac’s factory settings on its servers, your computer requires an internet connection in order to retrieve new settings off the assembly line.

Note: This online download solution only works for the latest versions of macOS. It shouldn’t be a problem with most current Mac computers, as long as you’re running newer operating systems.

However, if you are working with Snow Leopard (10.6) or earlier, you cannot reinstall this setting from the web. Instead, you will need the original MacOS installation disc that came with your computer.

Also, when you reinstall macOS, a setup wizard asks you basic questions about your region, among others.

If you’re selling or giving away your Mac, leave the setup wizard intact. Instead, hold down the Command and Q keys to close it, then click Turn Off. This will shut down your Mac and leave the setup wizard waiting for the new owner.


If cleaning your Mac isn’t what you’re looking for, you can also completely reinstall macOS without deleting any data. It is the “lite” version of a complete erase since you don’t need to delete the disk if you only want a clean installation.

This option is useful if you have corrupted data, malware that you cannot isolate, or problems resulting from a faulty update. However, this process can leave data that would be relatively easy to recover, so it is not a good idea if you are selling or giving away your Mac.

If it is the method you are looking for, follow the steps below. As always, be sure to back up the data and documents you want to keep.

Step 1: Shut down your Mac and restart it as you normally would. Immediately after turning on your computer, hold down the Command and R keys, then release the keys when you see the Apple logo. This will open the macOS utility window in macOS Recovery.

Step 2: Select Reinstall macOS from the list. Confirm that you want to reinstall the operating system, so you will receive the latest version.

Another alternative: Time Machine

If you use Time Machine to store backup copies of your data, you can also use it to restore a particular version of your computer. This is useful if you prefer to restore particular settings and data instead of trying to erase everything completely.

Step 1: shut down your Mac and then restart your computer. Right after you turn it on, hold down the Command and R keys and release the keys when you see the Apple logo. This will open the utility window.

Step 2: Instead of going to Reinstall, choose Restore Time Machine Backup. Please note that if you have saved a backup to an external hard drive or server, your Mac must be connected to that device to perform this full restore.

Disable Apple Music, iCloud, and iMessage

If you’re selling or giving away your Mac, be sure to remove the permissions on your Mac and any connected devices before restoring the original factory settings. This helps prevent anyone from accessing your personal information in the future.

Apple music

Step 1: Open Apple Music and click Account in the menu bar.

Step 2: In the drop-down menu, hover over Authorizations, then click Deauthorize this computer.

Apple Music will remove that particular device from your list of authorized devices. You will no longer be able to access any of your Apple Music content from this machine, but no one else will either.


It is not enough to log out of iCloud; You should also make sure that no local data remains on your computer.

Step 1: Click on the Apple logo in the upper left corner and select System Preferences from the dropdown menu.

Step 2: Click on the Apple ID icon within the System Preferences window.

Step 3: Select the Overview category shown on the left and then click the Logout button.

The MacOS system will ask you if you want to keep your current iCloud data on the machine. Uncheck the boxes for everything you want to remove.


If you want to keep your messages private, you must log out of the Mac iMessage application. This program synchronizes messages between your iPhone and Mac, so disavowing it is very important. Luckily, it is easy to do.

Step 1: With the Messages app open, click Messages in the menu bar followed by Preferences in the drop-down menu.

Step 2: A pop-up window will appear on your screen. Click on the iMessage tab and click the Logout button.

Remember: backing up your data is always a good idea, especially before a major move like this. Here’s how to back up to an external drive.

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