How to hard reset MacBook Pro?

A hard reset is sometimes necessary to troubleshoot issues with your MacBook Pro. Resetting your MacBook Pro restores it to its original factory settings and erases all of your personal data. This should only be done as a last resort when your Mac is unresponsive or exhibiting other serious issues that can’t be resolved through standard troubleshooting. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to hard reset a MacBook Pro.

When Should You Hard Reset a MacBook Pro?

A hard reset or restore should only be performed if you are unable to resolve issues through standard troubleshooting steps. Here are some examples of when a hard reset may be necessary:

  • Your Mac gets stuck during start up and you cannot access the desktop or login screen
  • Apps freeze or crash immediately on launch
  • You get constant kernel panics or gray screens
  • Your Mac runs extremely slow despite rebooting and other troubleshooting
  • You forgot your account password and cannot reset it
  • You need to erase all data and settings and restore to factory conditions

If you are experiencing any of these types of issues, a hard reset should be considered. Try any other applicable troubleshooting steps first, but if the problem persists, a reset may be your only option.

Back Up Your Data

Before resetting your MacBook Pro, it is crucial to back up your data. A hard reset will erase everything on your Mac. Here are some ways to back up your data:

  • Use Time Machine to back up to an external hard drive. Connect an external hard drive and go to System Preferences > Time Machine to set up hourly backups.
  • Manually copy important files to an external hard drive, cloud storage like iCloud or Dropbox, or another computer.
  • Use a cloud backup service like iCloud or Carbonite to backup your files.
  • Sync data like contacts, calendars, and bookmarks to iCloud.

Take the time to thoroughly back up any data you don’t want to lose. When resetting, your Mac will be wiped completely clean, so anything not backed up will be erased.

How to Hard Reset a MacBook Pro

Once your data is backed up, here are the steps to hard reset your MacBook Pro:

  1. Connect your MacBook Pro to a power source. You don’t want the battery to run out mid-reset.

  2. Restart your Mac. Click the Apple menu and select Restart.

  3. Immediately press and hold Command + R keys after you hear the startup chime. Keep holding until you see the Apple logo or a progress bar.

  4. If you see a login screen, enter your admin name and password. Then click Utilities > Disk Utility.

  5. In Disk Utility, select your disk from the sidebar. Click Erase across the top.Choose Mac OS Extended format and GUID Partition Map.

  6. Click Erase. This may take a while if you have a lot of data. When done, quit Disk Utility.

  7. The Restore screen will appear. Click Reinstall macOS and continue through the installation prompts.

  8. Once the installation is done, you’ll be walked through setting up your Mac from scratch. Follow the onscreen instructions.

  9. Restore your data from backup. Sign into iCloud and third party accounts. Reinstall apps from the App Store.

The entire hard reset process can take several hours. Be patient and let the installation completely finish. Avoid unplugging or interrupting the reset.

Alternative: Erase All Content and Settings

An alternative to doing a full system restore is using the Erase All Content and Settings option. This resets the Mac to factory defaults but allows you to keep the current operating system. Here is how to do this:

  1. Back up your Mac fully before erasing.

  2. Restart your Mac and login normally.

  3. Click the Apple menu and choose System Preferences.

  4. Select Erase All Content and Settings.

  5. Enter your admin password to confirm.

  6. Follow the prompts to erase your Mac.

  7. Go through the setup assistant that appears when done.

  8. Restore your data from backup.

This erase option will reset settings and erase files without reinstalling the operating system. It may resolve software issues but won’t fix core system problems.

What Gets Erased in a Hard Reset?

When you hard reset a MacBook Pro, either through system restore or erasing content and settings, here is what gets deleted:

  • User accounts and home folders
  • Apps and programs installed
  • System settings and preferences
  • Files and folders on the startup disk
  • Keychains containing account passwords

Essentially, the Mac gets wiped clean, with only the pre-installed operating system remaining. Anything you added to the Mac after purchasing will be removed.

What Does Not Get Erased

Here are some things that do NOT get erased when resetting a MacBook Pro:

  • Files on external, non-startup drives
  • Data backed up via Time Machine
  • iCloud data like photos, contacts, calendars
  • Files synced to cloud storage

So data on other devices or drives connected to your Mac will not be affected. Only data on the startup disk gets removed.

What to Do After Resetting a MacBook Pro

Once your reset is complete, there are a few steps to take to get your Mac functioning again:

  1. Update to the latest macOS version. Go to System Preferences > Software Update.

  2. Adjust Finder preferences and Dock settings to your needs.

  3. Set up an administrator account and any other user accounts.

  4. Sign into iCloud and iMessage using your Apple ID.

  5. Reinstall apps you need from the App Store.

  6. Restore your data from backup sources.

  7. Check for and install any updates to apps you reinstall.

It may take some time to get your settings and programs back up. Be patient as you get your Mac restored. Refer to your backup data to help reconstruct your previous folder structure and arrangements.

Fixing Issues that Persist After Reset

In some cases, resetting your MacBook Pro may not fix the problems you were experiencing. If issues persist after the reset, here are some things to try:

  • Boot into safe mode to see if problems occur at a minimal software level.
  • Run Apple Diagnostics or Apple Hardware Test to diagnose hardware issues.
  • Try resetting NVRAM or SMC if you haven’t already.
  • Back up then reinstall the macOS from recovery mode.
  • Take your Mac into an Apple store for evaluation by a Genius.
  • Contact Apple support online or by phone for troubleshooting.

Persistent issues after resetting could indicate a hardware problem or corrupted operating system files. Working with Apple support can help determine next steps if a clean install does not resolve your MacBook Pro problems.

FAQs About Hard Resetting a MacBook Pro

Is a hard reset the same as reformatting?

Yes, a hard reset essentially reformats the startup drive, erasing its contents. It reinstalls a clean version of the operating system as if it was new.

Will resetting delete my recovery partition?

No, the recovery partition containing the macOS installer files should remain intact through a reset.

Can I choose which data to erase in a reset?

No, when resetting a MacBook Pro everything on the startup drive is wiped. You will need to backup manually any data you want to keep.

Will I lose installed Microsoft Office?

Yes, Microsoft Office is not part of the base macOS installation. You will need to reinstall it after resetting.

Is it OK to interrupt a reset if it takes too long?

No, never interrupt the reset process. Let it fully complete as interrupting can cause data loss or system file corruption.

Can I reset without the macOS installer?

No, you need the installer to restore the operating system after erasing the drive. It is part of the recovery partition.


Resetting your MacBook Pro to factory default conditions is sometimes necessary to fix software issues and performance problems. But remember it should only be done as a last resort troubleshooting step given it wipes all your data. Be sure to fully back up your files first and expect to spend some time post-reset reinstalling apps and settings.

When done properly, a hard reset can restore your Mac to like-new functioning. Just be absolutely sure anything you want to keep has multiple backups before you proceed. With some patience and work afterwards, resetting can make your MacBook Pro feel new again.