How do I wipe a locked MacBook?

Having a locked or unresponsive MacBook can be frustrating. If you’ve forgotten your password or your MacBook is not working properly, wiping it and restoring it to factory settings is often the best solution. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to wipe a locked MacBook.

What You’ll Need

  • A locked MacBook
  • An OS X recovery drive or OS X installation disk
  • Access to another working Mac

Back Up Your Data

Before wiping your MacBook, it’s important to back up any data you want to keep. If your MacBook is locked, you won’t be able to directly access the data. However, there are a couple of options:

  • Use Target Disk Mode – Connect your locked MacBook to another Mac using a Firewire or Thunderbolt cable. Your MacBook will mount on the other Mac as an external drive, allowing you to copy data.
  • Remove the hard drive – If you have access to the right tools, you can remove the hard drive from your locked MacBook and connect it to another computer to copy data.

Create an OS X Recovery Drive

To wipe and restore your MacBook, you’ll need an OS X recovery drive. Here are a few options for creating one:

  • Use OS X Recovery – Restart your locked MacBook and hold down Command + R. This will boot into OS X Recovery if available.
  • Make a USB installer – On another Mac, download the OS X installer from the App Store. Then use the createinstallmedia command in Terminal to make a bootable USB drive.
  • Use an OS X install disk – You can also use the original OS X install disks that came with your MacBook.

Boot to the Recovery Drive

With your recovery drive ready, restart your locked MacBook and boot to the drive:

  1. Restart your MacBook and hold down the Option key during startup.
  2. Select your recovery drive from the boot menu.
  3. On a USB drive, select Reinstall OS X and launch Disk Utility from there.

Wipe the Drive with Disk Utility

Once booted to your recovery drive, open Disk Utility. Here’s how to wipe your drive:

  1. Select your MacBook’s hard drive on the left side.
  2. Click the Erase tab.
  3. Choose a format – Mac OS Extended (Journaled) is recommended.
  4. Click Erase to wipe the drive. This may take a while.

Your MacBook’s drive is now fully wiped and ready to be restored!

Reinstall macOS

With the drive wiped, you can now reinstall a fresh copy of macOS:

  1. Quit Disk Utility.
  2. On a USB drive, select Reinstall macOS from the main menu.
  3. On Internet Recovery, select Install macOS and follow the prompts.
  4. Complete the installation process until you reach the desktop.

Your MacBook will now be restored to its factory settings with a fresh macOS install. You can then set it up like a brand new MacBook.

Alternative Wiping Methods

Here are a couple other methods you can use to wipe a locked MacBook:

Internet Recovery

Recent Mac models include Internet Recovery, allowing you to wipe and reinstall macOS over the internet. To use it:

  1. Boot to Internet Recovery by restarting and holding Command + Option + R.
  2. Open Disk Utility and erase your drive.
  3. Reinstall macOS from the recovery menu.

Apple Hardware Test

The Apple Hardware Test included on older Macs can erase your drive. To use it:

  1. Boot to AHT by restarting and holding D.
  2. Select your language and launch Disk Utility.
  3. Erase your drive, then exit out and reboot.

Troubleshooting Tips

Here are some troubleshooting tips in case you run into issues wiping your MacBook:

  • If your recovery drive won’t boot, try creating a new one.
  • Check for disk errors using First Aid if Disk Utility is struggling.
  • Reset NVRAM by restarting and holding Command + Option + P + R.
  • Make sure your MacBook is connected to power during recovery.


Wiping a locked MacBook may seem daunting, but following these steps will allow you to erase your drive and install a fresh macOS cleanly. The key steps are creating a bootable recovery drive, booting to it, fully erasing your drive with Disk Utility, and then reinstalling macOS.

Just make sure to back up any needed data first and have your install media ready. With some patience, you’ll have your MacBook restored and running like new again.

Let me know if you have any other questions! I’m happy to provide any other details on how to fully wipe MacBooks, troubleshoot issues, or assist with reinstalling macOS.