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Selling Your Mac? Here’s How To Restore Your Mac To Factory Settings

No Mac should continue to carry your old data around after it’s in the arms of a new owner. So here’s the steps you should take to remove your data and restore your Mac to its original settings before selling.

I’ve loved my mid-2010 13″ MacBook Pro since the day I bought her. We’ve been through a ton together. From late-night side-hustle sessions, to schlepping around the county to conferences and events, she has been my gadget of choice for getting stuff done.

But, after a little of over four fabulous years, we knew we both needed a fresh new start. So we amicably made the decision to part ways. But before I could see her in the arms of another, I had to make sure that she wasn’t carrying any old baggage into her new relationship.

No Mac should continue to carry old data around after it’s in the arms of a new lover owner, so here’s the steps you should take to remove your data and restore your Mac to its original settings before selling.

1. Save Your Old Data

I knew exactly what I wanted to upgrade to: 13″ Retina MacBook Pro because…Retina. But, I wanted to make sure I sold my old MacBook first before I bought a new one.

So instead of using Apple’s handy Migration Assistant to transfer files from one computer to another, I decided to clone my data to an external Hard Drive using Carbon Copy Cloner.

With Carbon Copy Cloner, you simply:

  1. Connect an external Hard Drive to your computer (make sure the external HD has enough space)
  2. Choose the drive you want to clone (Macintosh HD if you haven’t changed the name)
  3. Choose the destination drive (the external HD or NAS storage…if you nasty)
  4. Click “Clone” on lower-right side of the screen…and wait

…And voila! You have made an exact copy of your drive to either restore the entire drive (and its data) to your new Mac, or pick and choose what specific data you want to move to your new Mac.

2. Disable User Accounts

Your Apple ID is the key to using any Apple gadget, and you’d be surprised at how many services utilize your Apple ID. Handing your old Mac over to a new owner without properly removing your account information, could result in “after the sale” customer service calls from the new owner. To make the break up between you an your Mac as clean as possible, here are some key services you need to disable.

Deauthorize your iTunes store account

To make sure the new owner can’t re-download any purchased music you made with your Apple ID, it’s best to deauthorize the computer from using your iTunes account.

Open iTunes and in the menu bar navigate to Store > Deauthorize This Computer…

This will remove your Mac from the list of computers and devices authorized to download and play content purchased with your Apple ID. If you’ve already sold you’re Mac, you can log into your iTunes account on another computer and under Apple ID Summary, click “Deauthorize All Computers”. Of course, you will have to sign back in to iTunes on and reauthorize iTunes on each computer.

Disable iCloud

Signing out of iCloud before you sell your device will make sure any remnants of cloud data (Safari Bookmarks, appointment, documents, message, reminders, notes, etc) isn’t visible by the new owner.

Open System Preferences and click iCloud, and click the “Sign Out” button in the lower-left side of the screen

Confirm that you want to delete contacts from your Mac.

For all the security nuts who encrypted their drive with Apple’s FileVault service, now would be a good time to disable that feature as well

3. Restore Mac Back To Factory

Now that you’ve saved all your data, and removed your account information, it’s time to wipe the slate clean and give your Mac fresh start with a new owner. The following steps will help you wipe the entire drive, and reinstall the operating system.

Make sure you’re connected to the Internet (preferably wired) and BE SURE YOU HAVE CLONED OR BACKED UP YOUR DATA BEFORE DOING THESE STEPS. You’ve been warned…

  1. Restart your Mac and hold down the “Command” and “R” keys during startup until you Mac is in Recovery Mode
  2. Select “Disk Utility” and click “Continue”
  3. Choose your main startup disc (named “Macintosh HD” by default) and click “Unmount”
  4. Click Erase tab in the upper-middle section of the screen
  5. Confirm that the format is “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” and the name is “Macintosh HD” and click “Erase” in the lower-right side of the screen
  6. Quit Disk Utility
  7. Click “Reinstall OS X” and click “Continue”

UPDATE: If you REALLY want to TOTALLY wipe your drive, during the Erase portion (#4 above), click “Security Options” and you will be presented with multiple options that offer a more comprehensive erase of your data. Shout-Out to Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast Podcast for reminding me of the secure erase option.

The process should reinstall Mac OS X and prompt you to enter your Apple ID. This is where you shut down your computer, package it up with all the cables and any other accessories, and box it up for the new owner.

Yeah, I shed one thug tear for my ole’ girl after I sent her off to be with another. But you better believe I was over her quick as soon as I powered up my young and sexy new Bae’

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45 replies on “Selling Your Mac? Here’s How To Restore Your Mac To Factory Settings”

Great walkthrough, Terrance. I always forget to deauthorize iTunes but this time using your notes I finally remembered. Nice job.

I think I must be doing something wrong, I just have to be. Command & R, holding down when I hit ‘restart’. Even all the way to the login screen gives me nothing, even after minutes of doing this.
I so just want to get to the next step, any help?
Thanks

This is such a great article – very timely as I’m selling my Macbook Air for the Retina Pro. One question – the buyer of my Air wants me to keep Microsoft Office on it. Is that possible?

Thank you! Can I use my MS Key on my new computer, if I don’t give it out to them? Also, another question – would copying over my full HD, include all my iMessages too? I’m most concerned about losing my iMessages on Yosemite and my music in iTunes.

Good point. I’m keeping it then. I’m using your Clone to Hard Drive advice, because I need to sell before buying my new Pro Retina. Do you have instructions on how to get that cloned HD on my new computer? Also, do you recommend the 8gb RAM over 16gb, and 256 vs. 512 SSD? I like to have many windows open at once, as i’m a lawyer and do research. I also have a lot of music and photos, and am thinking of starting a blog. Thanks again!

For the computer, I would go with 16GB RAM, and 256 SSD

You need a clean (not used) separate Hard Drive. If you don’t have one here is an Affiliate link to two 500GB and 1TB

As far as instructions, there are a ton of YouTube videos out there that will walk you through it, OR (Since I do get my consultant on) I can do a Hangout with you and walk you through the steps

My husband backed it up to our shared Toshiba Hard Drive. There were other things on there. Please don’t tell me that I won’t now be able to get it on my new Macbook?! I sold my Macbook Air a couple days ago, and just have that backup. Crossing fingers that’s still okay…

Hi I forgot to factory reset my MacBook Pro before selling it. I did everything else. Deleted all AUTOFILL information, deleted all documents, etc. what’s the worst case scenario? I’m scared..

Worse case scenario is the new owner will have a problem completely removing you’re Apple ID login information. If your Apple ID is still on the device, You can go to iCloud.com and see if you can wipe the device remotely.

Hi,
My DVD drive have some problem. Sometime it wont read disk and making noise.
I would like to format and reinstall everything. Can I make USB and restore only the OS.
Now I am backing up 200 gb data which I wont use anymore with mac. But still need in the future. Please let me know how to solve my issue.

thanks in advance,
SHAN

i still can’t do anything i hold down the command + R still not showing disk utilities i don’t have the disc anymore. please help

I’m selling my iMac (’09 with Yosemite) and want it wiped clean of my data. I followed steps 1-6 but having trouble with step 7. When I click to install OS X it asks me to sign in with my Apple ID and password. I did that and it installed OS X but afterwards it still had things like my safari bookmarks and some applications installed (word, excel, etc). I thought it would be look just like the day I got it without those things. Any idea of where I went wrong? Thanks for your help!

Just tried to factory reset, after the reset a file with a question mark appeared in the background.

Did I do something wrong?

I have a MacBook Pro 2010 Mid with 13 inch screen. I have found your article very useful but have a couple of questions. If I wipe my drive clean and hold down the Command and R Key. It not clear by reading the articles if I will need a start up disk or not. Do I? If so how do I get around this situation if I don’t have it?

I’m sadly not a fan of my MacBook Air which I purchased less than a year ago… If I save all my data to an external hard drive am I then able to view/reload what I’d like on a windows based computer? Assuming so but I’d like to be sure so I don’t lose anything. Thanks!!

Terrance,

I think to re-install OS X I have to use my Apple ID to log in to the App Store so that OS X can be downloaded from the App Store. At least this is what the YouTube videos are showing me. But this doesn’t mean that once OS X is installed, the new installation is associated with my Apple ID, right? I only used my Apple ID to get OS X from the App Store, in place of a CD containing OS X.

George

George

Upon further reading, I have learned that entering my Apple ID to download OS X from the App Store DOES associate OS X with my Apple ID, so this is not what I want if I am selling my Mac, since it would mean that the new owner would need my Apple ID to do any upgrades. I have read that restarting the mac and then pressing Cmd-Option-R will put my Mac in Internet Recovery Mode, where steps 2-7 as written by Terrance will work, only this time the original OS X that came with the Mac when it was purchased from Apple will be installed (e.g. Mountain Lion) with NO requirement to enter my Apple ID. This is the procedure I am following and it seems to be working.

the OS X Utilities Window shows up but I cant click on ano of the options (Reinstall OS X oR Disk Utility). I try to click but it doesnt select anything and the “continue” option is grey.
Please help!!!!

Hey Terrance, happy Labor Day, my daughter downloaded safesearch on her laptop and its taken over as the primary search engine. I tried but can’t remove it, any suggestions?

Hi, I’m planning to back up my files by using Apple Time Machine instead of Clone the Hard Drive; is that okay? and if so, how do I restore everything to my new Mac?
Thanks.

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