Doing a factory data reset can help solve many issues with a Mac by erasing all of the data and settings and restoring it to the state it was in when it left the Apple factory. This process will delete all of your files, applications, accounts, and settings, so it’s important to back up any data you want to keep before proceeding. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to factory reset a Mac.
Back Up Your Data
Before factory resetting your Mac, it’s crucial to back up your important files and data. This includes documents, photos, music, videos, bookmarks, calendars, contacts, and any other personal data you want to keep.
There are a few options for backing up your Mac data:
- Use Time Machine to back up everything on your Mac to an external hard drive or AirPort Time Capsule.
- Manually copy important files to an external hard drive or cloud storage like iCloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive.
- Use a cloud backup service like Carbonite or Backblaze to securely save your files online.
Be sure the backup captures all of the important data on your Mac that you want to preserve. When done correctly, this will allow you to restore your files and settings after the factory reset.
Sign Out of iCloud and App Accounts
Before resetting your Mac, make sure to sign out of all accounts for iCloud, Apple apps, third party apps, and any websites you are logged into. This includes:
- iCloud account
- App Store account
- iTunes and Music accounts
- FaceTime and Messages accounts
- Mail accounts
- Calendar and Contacts accounts
- Social media, email, and other website accounts
- Any other accounts tied to apps or services on your Mac
Signing out ensures these accounts and data synced to them will not be erased during the reset process. It also means you won’t have to manually reset passwords or recover account access after the reset.
Disable Find My Mac
If you have Find My Mac enabled on your Mac, you will need to turn off this feature before doing a factory reset. Here’s how:
- Click the Apple menu icon in the top left corner of the screen.
- Select System Preferences > [Your Apple ID] > iCloud.
- Deselect the ‘Find My Mac’ checkbox.
- Click Sign Out to confirm.
This will fully disable Find My Mac and ensure it is not still linked to your Apple ID during or after the reset process.
Restart in Recovery Mode
The factory reset itself needs to be initiated from the Recovery mode on your Mac. Here are the steps to boot into Recovery mode:
- Fully shut down your Mac.
- Restart your Mac and immediately press and hold Command + R keys.
- Keep holding Command + R until you see the Apple logo or boot options window.
- Select Disk Utility from the options then click Continue.
- Disk Utility will open once the Mac is booted into Recovery mode.
This will start up your Mac from a hidden recovery partition instead of the main startup disk. From here, you can fully reset your Mac to factory settings.
Erase the Startup Disk
With your Mac booted into Recovery mode, follow these steps:
- Click on Disk Utility from the menu options.
- Select your main startup disk from the left side pane (usually named Macintosh HD).
- Click the Erase button in the toolbar.
- Enter a name for the disk (Macintosh HD is the default).
- Choose a format – APFS is recommended for most Macs using SSD storage.
- Click Erase to confirm – this will fully erase the entire startup disk.
Erasing the disk will reset it to a completely blank, factory-fresh state with no data or settings leftover.
After fully erasing your Mac’s disk, the last step is to reinstall the macOS operating system:
- Quit Disk Utility to return to the recovery mode menu.
- Select Reinstall macOS from the options.
- Follow the onscreen prompts to install the version of macOS that came with your Mac, or the closest newer version available.
- The installation process will take 15-30 minutes to fully complete.
When the installation finishes, your Mac will reboot and you’ll be greeted by the macOS setup assistant – this means your Mac has been returned to factory settings.
Restore Your Data From Backup
With your Mac restored to its factory defaults, you can now migrate back your files, settings, and accounts from your backup:
- Time Machine – Reconnect the Time Machine drive and use the Migration Assistant utility to restore your backup during setup.
- Manual files – Copy your important files back from the external drive or cloud storage to your Mac.
- Cloud backup – Reinstall and sign back into the app to restore your synced files and data.
Take your time to make sure your most important data, documents, and files are migrated back after the reset process.
Finally, you’ll need to reinstall any applications that were erased from your Mac during the factory reset:
- Download and reinstall apps from the App Store using your Apple ID.
- Sign back into software apps like Microsoft Office to restore your license.
- Reinstall third party apps like Chrome, Slack, Adobe Creative Cloud, etc.
- Customize your Mac with settings, preferences, and apps just like your previous setup.
With your data restored and apps reinstalled, your Mac will now be running like new again while preserving your personal information and important files.
Alternative: Use Internet Recovery
If your Mac is unable to boot into the recovery partition, you can instead use Internet Recovery mode:
- Power on your Mac and immediately press and hold Command + Option + R.
- Continue holding until you see the spinning globe icon or progress bar.
- Your Mac will boot into Internet Recovery over WiFi from Apple’s servers.
- Follow the same steps to open Disk Utility and erase your startup disk.
- Reinstall macOS downloaded straight from Apple’s servers.
Internet Recovery achieves the same factory reset but works even if your recovery partition is having issues. Just make sure your Mac is connected to a fast, stable internet connection.
If you encounter any issues while trying to factory reset your Mac, here are some troubleshooting tips:
- If your Mac gets stuck while erasing/reinstalling, force restart it and try again.
- Check for corrupt/damaged files on the startup disk if erase keeps failing.
- Reset NVRAM/PRAM by holding Command + Option + P + R during reboot.
- Fix recovery partition issues by reinstalling macOS with Option key held down.
- Use Apple Diagnostics or Disk Utility First Aid to check for disk errors.
- Try safe mode or verbose mode boots to troubleshoot startup problems.
Factory resetting your Mac will almost always resolve major software issues and performance problems. Just be absolutely sure to backup your data first and be prepared to reconfigure your apps and settings after the reset completes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a factory reset bad for your Mac?
No, a factory reset is not inherently bad for your Mac. As long as done properly, it can actually help refresh the system, clear out clutter, and revitalize performance. The process simply erases data while leaving the actual hardware untouched.
Will a factory reset delete everything?
Yes, a full factory reset will delete all user data, files, apps, accounts, and settings on the startup disk. However, your data will remain safe if you back it up first to an external drive or cloud service.
Do I need to back up before factory resetting a Mac?
It is highly recommended to complete a full backup before resetting your Mac. This will allow you to restore your personal data, documents, media, and important files after the reset process.
Will I lose Apple programs if I factory reset?
The built-in Apple apps and programs that came with your Mac will be erased during a factory reset. However, they will automatically be reinstalled when you reinstall the macOS operating system.
Can I reset without the Recovery partition?
Yes, you can do an internet-based reset using macOS Recovery over WiFi. Or you can reinstall macOS while holding down the Option key to rebuild the recovery partition.
Will resetting delete my SSD?
The SSD hardware itself will not be deleted or erased. A factory reset only erases the content on the disk drive while keeping the SSD intact.
Should I backup an external drive?
If you are storing important data or Time Machine backups on an external drive, it’s a good idea to back up those drives separately before resetting your Mac internal drive.
How long does a Mac reset take?
It usually takes 15-30 minutes to fully erase the disk and reinstall macOS. Booting into Recovery mode and restoring data can add more time. Overall, plan on 1-2 hours.
Will reset delete Windows partition?
Yes, factory resetting from macOS Recovery will erase all volumes and partitions on the internal drive, including a Boot Camp Windows partition.
Factory resetting a Mac is a straightforward process that can help solve many system issues and performance problems. Just remember to fully back up your data first, boot into Recovery mode, securely erase your startup disk, and reinstall a fresh copy of macOS. With a little time and patience, you can reset your Mac to a like-new state.