How do I clear my computer to sell my Mac?

Selling your used Mac computer? You’ll want to make sure you wipe the hard drive and reset it to factory settings before handing it over to the new owner. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to fully clear and prep your Mac for sale.

Why Do You Need to Clear Your Mac Before Selling It?

There are a few important reasons to clear everything off your Mac before selling it:

  • Protect your personal information – There may be sensitive files, documents, photos or browsing history you don’t want the next owner to access.
  • Remove installed software – The new owner will likely want to install their own software, so you don’t want to leave your apps and program settings on it.
  • Erase content – It’s a clean slate for the new owner if all your files and folders are wiped from the hard drive.
  • Fix performance issues – Clearing everything off can wipe out any bugs or glitches and give the Mac a fresh start.

Taking the time to fully reset your Mac will protect your privacy, make the handoff easier for the new owner and potentially increase the resale value.

How to Clear All Content and Settings from Your Mac

Here is the step-by-step process for fully wiping your Mac and resetting it to factory settings:

Back Up Your Mac

Before erasing anything, you’ll want to make sure you have backups of any files you want to keep. Here are some options for backing up your Mac:

  • Use Time Machine to backup to an external hard drive.
  • Manually copy important folders (Documents, Music, Photos etc.) to a storage device.
  • Use a cloud backup service like iCloud or Dropbox.

Once your files are backed up, you can feel safe clearing everything off your Mac.

Sign Out of iCloud and Other Accounts

Make sure you are signed out of iCloud, iTunes, the App Store and any other connected accounts on your Mac. This will ensure that private data doesn’t get synced to the new owner. To sign out:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Preferences.
  2. Click Apple ID and then click Sign Out.
  3. Open iTunes and go to Account > Sign out.
  4. Go to App Store > View My Account and sign out.
  5. Sign out of iCloud by going to Apple menu > System Preferences > iCloud and click Sign Out.

Reset Your Mac with Recovery Mode

Now comes the full reset process. Follow these steps:

  1. Fully shut down your Mac.
  2. Restart your Mac and immediately press and hold Command + R keys to boot into Recovery Mode.
  3. When the Recovery window appears, click Disk Utility > Continue.
  4. Select your startup disk and click Erase at the top > Erase to fully wipe your drive.
  5. Go to Apple menu > Startup Disk and select your now erased startup disk.
  6. Click through the setup assistant prompts until you reach the desktop.
  7. Go to Finder > Applications > Utilities and open Terminal.
  8. Type in resetpassword and hit return.
  9. Select your startup disk, click Reset Password, enter a new admin password and reset the password.

This will erase your Mac, delete all user accounts and reset the admin password. Your Mac is now cleared of all old data and ready for the new owner.

How to Delete Specific User Content from Your Mac

If you just want to erase your own user files and accounts – but keep the Mac’s operating system intact – follow these instructions:

Delete Your User Account

  1. Go to Apple Menu > System Preferences > Users & Groups.
  2. Right click on your user account and select Delete User.
  3. Enter admin name and password to confirm.
  4. Select Keep Home Folder to move it to Deleted Users folder.

Delete Files from Your Home Folder

  1. Go to Finder and open Users folder.
  2. Open the Deleted Users folder and delete your old home folder.
  3. Empty the Trash to fully remove your account and files.

With your user account and home folder deleted, any personal content, settings and apps you had installed will be removed from the Mac.

How to Fully Wipe a Mac Hard Drive

For maximum privacy and to ensure no trace of your data is left behind, you can fully wipe your Mac’s hard drive. Here are two options:

Use Disk Utility

  1. Boot to Recovery Mode by holding Command + R on restart.
  2. Open Disk Utility and select your startup disk.
  3. Click Erase at the top and choose Mac OS Extended format.
  4. Click Erase to wipe the volume – this may take a while.

Use a Third Party Tool

Software like DBAN (Darik’s Boot and Nuke) can fully wipe a hard drive by overwriting the data with zeros or random data. It takes hours to run but is more secure than a standard OS wipe.

You’ll need to download and create a bootable DVD or USB drive with DBAN, boot from it, then select your hard drive to wipe.

How to Reinstall macOS After Wiping Your Mac

Once your Mac is wiped, you’ll need to reinstall the operating system before selling it. Here’s how:

  1. Boot to Recovery Mode by holding Command + R during restart.
  2. Select Reinstall macOS from the Utilities window.
  3. Follow the prompts to install the version of macOS that came with your Mac.
  4. Go through the setup assistant prompts to create a new admin account.

The Mac will now have a fresh macOS install for the new owner to use.

How to Check Find My Mac Activation Lock

It’s important to ensure Find My Mac is turned off. This Activation Lock feature prevents people from using or resetting your Mac without your Apple ID credentials.

To check if Find My Mac is on:

  1. Boot to Recovery Mode by holding Command + R while restarting.
  2. Open Terminal from the Utilities menu and type fdesetup status
  3. If FileVault shows “On” and has a valid recovery key, Find My Mac is enabled.

To fully turn off Find My Mac Activation Lock, you will either need your administrator credentials or your Apple ID and password that was used to activate it.

How to Remove Find My Mac Activation Lock

If you have the original admin credentials, do the following:

  1. Boot to Recovery Mode and open Terminal.
  2. Type fdesetup disable and enter admin user name and password.
  3. Restart Mac and Find My Mac will now be disabled.

If you don’t have admin access, you will need to enter your Apple ID:

  1. Boot to Recovery Mode and at the macOS Utilities screen, select Get Help Online.
  2. Choose Sign in with an Apple ID and enter your Apple ID credentials.
  3. Once signed in, Find My Mac will be turned off.

With Find My Mac disabled, you can safely sell or transfer your Mac without being Activation Locked.

How to Remove Firmware Password

If you set a firmware password to prevent booting from external media, this will need removed too. To delete it:

  1. Boot to Recovery Mode and open Terminal.
  2. Type in firmwarepasswd -delete and hit return.
  3. Enter your firmware password when prompted.
  4. Restart Mac and firmware password will be removed.

How to List Your Mac for Sale After Wiping

Once you’ve fully cleared your Mac and installed a fresh OS, it’s ready to be sold! Here are some tips for listing it for sale online:

  • Take clear photos showing the condition from multiple angles.
  • Note the exact model number, year and specs in your listing.
  • Factor in its used condition when pricing it.
  • Mention that it has been fully wiped and reset to factory OS.
  • Offer to demonstrate it working if the buyer wants to test before purchasing.
  • Use secure payment services like PayPal to protect yourself from scams.
  • Meet in a public place or use shipping services if delivering.

Selling privately or using services like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Swappa and eBay are great options to reach buyers. With your Mac properly wiped and restored, you can make the handoff seamless.

FAQs About Clearing Your Mac Before Selling

Is it enough to just delete my files, or do I need to fully wipe the hard drive?

Deleting your personal files is not enough when selling your Mac, because data could still be recovered. Doing a clean install of the OS helps, but for maximum security you really want to fully wipe the hard drive.

What’s the best way to wipe a MacBook Pro/Air etc. before selling?

The most thorough option is to boot to Recovery Mode and fully erase the hard drive using Disk Utility, or use a third party utility like DBAN. This overwrites all data for a clean slate.

Do I need to unlink my Apple ID before wiping my Mac for sale?

Yes, you should ensure Find My Mac is disabled and unlink your Apple ID. If it stays linked, the new owner won’t be able to set up the device without your Apple credentials.

Is a factory reset enough to sell my Mac safely?

Doing an OS reinstall is good, but doesn’t fully remove your data. For real peace of mind, you want to securely wipe the hard drive before selling it.

Can I sell my Mac if I forgot my password and can’t unlock it?

If you can’t unlock the Mac you may still be able to erase it by booting to Recovery Mode. As a last resort, Apple can perform a remote wipe if you provide proof of purchase.


Clearing all your personal data off a Mac before selling it takes some time and effort. But it’s absolutely essential to protect your privacy and securely hand over the device to a new owner.

Make sure your files are backed up, then reset the Mac to factory settings. Fully wiping the hard drive is ideal if you really want it squeaky clean.

With your Mac properly cleared and restored, you can have peace of mind that your data is safe and the new owner will have a smooth, seamless experience. This will lead to a quicker, easier sale process.