A factory reset completely erases and restores a MacBook to its original out-of-the-box state. This process removes all user data, settings, apps, and files from the MacBook, resetting it to default factory settings. There are a few main reasons why someone may need to factory reset their MacBook without an administrator password:
Forgotten administrator password – If the admin password has been forgotten or lost, a user cannot make major changes to the MacBook or reset it. A factory reset allows them to fully reset the device without needing the admin password.
Preparing to sell or gift the MacBook – Before selling or gifting a used MacBook, users often want to wipe the device and remove all personal data and customization. A factory reset returns it to a clean state for the next owner.
Resolve software issues or performance problems – A factory reset can help resolve persistent software issues, bugs, crashes, or performance problems by completely reinstalling the operating system and software.
Remove malware or viruses – If the MacBook has malware, viruses, or other security issues, a factory reset can fully remove the infections and restore the computer to a secure state.
Back Up Your Data
Before factory resetting your MacBook, it is crucial to back up your important files and data. A factory reset will completely wipe your MacBook’s hard drive, deleting all user accounts, applications, files, settings, and more. If you don’t back up your data first, you risk permanently losing valuable documents, photos, music, and other irreplaceable information.
There are a few recommended methods for backing up a MacBook before a factory reset:
- Use Time Machine to back up to an external hard drive or Apple’s iCloud service. Time Machine comprehensively backs up everything on your MacBook and allows easy restoration after the reset (Source: https://support.apple.com/en-lamr/mac-backup).
- Manually copy important files to an external hard drive, cloud storage like iCloud Drive or Dropbox, or a separate computer for safekeeping (Source: https://appleinsider.com/articles/17/07/17/how-to-backup-wipe-and-restore-your-mac-before-selling-it).
Taking the time to fully back up your MacBook before a factory reset protects you from losing valuable and irreplaceable data. It’s an essential first step that gives you peace of mind as you reset your MacBook.
Enter Recovery Mode
To start up your Mac in Recovery Mode, you need to hold down the Command + R keys immediately after powering on your Mac. Hold the keys down until you see the Apple logo or spinning globe appear on the screen. This will boot your Mac into the built-in Recovery Mode.
According to Apple Support, “Command (⌘)-R: Start up from the built-in macOS Recovery system.”1 Recovery Mode contains utilities and tools to reinstall macOS, restore from a backup, repair the disk, and more.
Recovery Mode is a useful troubleshooting tool for Macs. It allows you to access utilities without needing to log in to your account or have an active administrator. By holding Command + R on startup, anyone can boot the Mac into Recovery and potentially reformat or wipe the disk. So if you want to prevent others from erasing your Mac, make sure to set a firmware password.
Erase the Disk
To factory reset your MacBook without an administrator password, you will need to fully erase the internal hard drive using Disk Utility. Disk Utility allows you to erase and reformat storage devices connected to your Mac (Apple Support).
To erase the hard drive on an Intel-based Mac, restart your computer and enter Recovery Mode by holding Command + R during startup. Then launch Disk Utility from the Utilities menu and select your internal hard drive. Click “Erase” in the toolbar and choose a format like APFS or Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Make sure to select “Erase All Data” under the Security Options (Apple Support).
This will completely wipe the hard drive, removing any previous installation of macOS along with all your data and settings. Once the erase is complete, your MacBook will be ready for a clean install of the operating system.
After fully erasing the disk, the next step is to reinstall the latest version of macOS. You can do this through macOS Recovery. To access macOS Recovery, restart your Mac and hold down Command + R keys immediately after you hear the startup sound. This will boot your Mac into macOS Recovery.
In the macOS Recovery screen, click on Reinstall macOS and follow the prompts. The latest available macOS release compatible with your Mac will be downloaded and installed. The process will take some time to complete as the full operating system needs to be downloaded.
Once the installation is finished, your Mac will reboot into a fresh macOS setup with factory default settings. You now have a clean slate to start fresh with a brand new user account and settings.
Create a New Admin Account
After erasing your disk and reinstalling macOS, you will need to create a new admin account. This is necessary because the old admin account no longer exists. To create a new admin account:
- When setting up macOS after reinstalling, create a new user account. Make sure to set this account as an Administrator during setup.
- Log into this new admin account.
- Open System Preferences and go to Users & Groups. Click the lock icon to make changes and enter the admin password.
- Select the new admin account and check the “Allow user to administer this computer” box.
- Click the lock icon to save changes.
You should now have a new admin account on your Mac that can make any necessary changes (source). This new account will allow you to restore your data, reinstall apps, change passwords, and complete any other tasks that require admin privileges.
Restore Your Data
After reinstalling macOS and creating a new admin account, you can restore your personal data and files from a backup. The easiest way is to restore from a Time Machine backup. Time Machine automatically backs up all your files, apps, and settings on an ongoing basis to an external hard drive or NAS device. Connect the Time Machine backup drive to your MacBook, then open Migration Assistant from your Applications > Utilities folder. Follow the prompts to transfer your data from the Time Machine backup.
You can also restore files from an iCloud backup. Open System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud > Manage Storage > Backups. Click Restore next to the backup date you want. This will download your files to your MacBook. Keep in mind iCloud backups are more limited than Time Machine.
If you don’t have a full-system backup, you may be able to recover some files from cloud storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive if you previously synced folders to them. Connect accounts in System Preferences and check available folders. You can also try data recovery software to retrieve files from your MacBook’s drive, but this is less reliable.
Once you have reinstalled macOS and set up a new admin account, you will need to reinstall your apps. The easiest way to do this is to open the App Store and go to the Purchases tab. Here you will find a list of all the apps you’ve downloaded previously. You can simply click the cloud icon next to each app to download it again for free.
For apps that were not downloaded from the App Store, you may need to reinstall them from their original download links or installation files. Check the app developer’s website for instructions on redownloading. Some apps like Microsoft Office may need to be reactivated using your original license key or account login.
If you have apps that are associated with an Apple ID, make sure to log into the App Store with that Apple ID first before attempting to redownload them from your Purchases history (Source: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/7818736).
Take inventory of all your essential apps and have a plan for reinstalling them before erasing your Mac. This will make the resetup process smoother.
After a factory reset, it’s very important to change any passwords you previously used for your MacBook and not reuse old passwords 1. Old passwords are now insecure since someone could have accessed them before the reset. Follow these steps to change your passwords:
- Open System Preferences and click “Users & Groups”
- Select your user account and click “Change Password”
- Enter and confirm a new, strong password that you don’t use for any other accounts
- Consider enabling additional security options like requiring a password immediately after sleep or screen saver begins
You should also change the password for your Apple ID account and any other online accounts associated with the MacBook. Use unique, strong passwords for each account. Password manager apps like 1Password can generate and store secure passwords for you.
In summary, to factory reset your MacBook without an administrator password, you will need to backup your data, enter recovery mode, erase the disk, reinstall macOS, create a new admin account, restore your data, reinstall apps, and change passwords. This process allows you to wipe your MacBook clean and start fresh with a new operating system installation.
The benefits of doing a factory reset include: improved performance by clearing out old files and clutter; removing unnecessary applications that may be slowing things down; fixing software issues or crashes by reinstalling a clean OS; increased security by deleting any malware or viruses; and customizing your MacBook with new settings and preferences. Periodically resetting your MacBook to factory settings can help optimize speed and responsiveness over time.