How to Factory Reset a Mac

Mte Feat Mac Reset

Planning on trading in your current Mac for the latest and greatest model? Perhaps you are looking to pass on your Mac to a friend or family member or start using your Mac from scratch. In such cases, you must erase all content and settings from your Mac.

Prior to the release of macOS Monterey, resetting your Mac to factory settings was a cumbersome process, but now it’s much more straightforward. Learn how to revert your Mac to its former, fresh-out-of-the-box state in just a few clicks.

Macos Erase All Content Button Hero
Image source: Apple

How to Identify Your Mac Model

In order to ensure that the updated factory reset process will work for your Mac, confirm whether or not your Mac supports it: only a Mac featuring either the Apple T2 Security Chip or an Apple Silicon SoC is eligible.

Follow the steps below to identify which Mac model you own.

  1. Click on the Apple logo in the Menu Bar, then select “About This Mac” from the drop-down list.
Monterey Apple About This Mac
  1. The following window will indicate which model of Mac you have, as well as the chip that powers it. This information is highlighted below for the given Mac model.
Monterey Mac Model

Mac Models With the Apple T2 Security Chip

In 2018, Apple began including its T2 Chip inside select models of the Mac,to offer customers enhanced security from features such as secure boot and encrypted storage. Below are the Mac models that feature the T2 Chip: 

  • iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, 2020)
  • iMac Pro
  • Mac Pro (2019)
  • Mac Pro (Rack, 2019)
  • Mac mini (2018)
  • MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2020)
  • MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2019)
  • MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2018)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020, two Thunderbolt 3 ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020, four Thunderbolt 3 ports)
  • MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2019, two Thunderbolt 3 ports)
  • MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2019, four Thunderbolt 3 ports)
  • MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2018)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2018, four Thunderbolt 3 ports)
Apple T2 Chip Enclave
Image source: Apple

Mac Models With Apple Silicon

Apple began transitioning from Intel processors to Apple silicon in Mac computers with certain models introduced in late 2020. While individual configurations will vary based on core count and other factors, all Mac desktops and laptops with Apple silicon are powered by one of the following chips:

  • Apple M1
  • Apple M1 Pro
  • Apple M1 Max
  • Apple M1 Ultra
  • Apple M2
Apple Silicon Mac Family
Image source: Apple

The full list of Mac computers with Apple silicon is as follows:

  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, M1, 2020)
  • MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
  • Mac mini (M1, 2020)
  • iMac (24-inch, M1, 2021)
  • MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2021)
  • MacBook Pro (14-inch, 2021)
  • Mac Studio (2022)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, M2, 2022)
  • MacBook Air (M2, 2022)

How to Update to macOS Monterey

Before you attempt to reset your Mac to factory settings, it is recommended that you update your Mac to the latest version of macOS. Note that macOS Monterey (and newer) introduces support for the new and improved factory reset process.

  1. Open the System Preferences app on your Mac. (On newer versions of macOS, the System Preferences app is labeled as “System Settings.”)
Monterey System Preferences
  1. Click on the gear icon labeled “Software Update.”
Monterey Software Update
  1. The software update screen will refresh. If macOS finds new software, click the “Update Now” or “Upgrade Now” button to download and install the latest version of macOS. You may be prompted to enter your login credentials and restart your Mac. 
Monterey Update Now
Image source: Apple

How to Erase All Content and Settings From Your Mac

The new system for resetting your Mac to factory settings securely erases all of your personal data, deletes all of your existing apps, and reverts all of your configured settings without removing the operating system that is currently installed on your Mac. This eliminates the need to reinstall macOS after clearing your data from your Mac. Follow these steps to reset your Mac:

  1. Open the System Preferences app on your Mac. (On newer versions of macOS, the System Preferences app is labeled as “System Settings.”)
Monterey System Preferences 1
  1. Select “System Preferences” in the upper-left corner of the Menu Bar, then click on “Erase All Content and Settings.”
Monterey Erase All Content
  1. “Erase Assistant” will open. Follow the prompt to verify your Mac login credentials and your Apple ID, then click the “Continue” button. 
Monterey Erase Assistant

Tip: when you launch Erase Assistant, your Mac will automatically force quit all of the apps that you currently have open in macOS, so you may lose any unsaved changes.

  1. You may be prompted to use Time Machine to back up your data before you erase your Mac. To skip this step, select the “Continue” button.
Monterey Time Machine Prompt
Image source: Apple
  1. The next screen will show an at-a-glance breakdown of the media, data, and settings that will be erased if you proceed. This includes your Apple ID settings, Touch ID data, Bluetooth accessories, Wallet data, and Find My location sharing. Click the “Continue” button again to proceed.
Monterey Erase Breakdown
Image source: Apple
  1. Follow the prompt to log out of your Apple ID by entering your account credentials, then click the “Erase All Content & Settings” button to reset your Mac to its factory settings. Your Mac will restart to complete the process.
Monterey Erase All Content Button
Image source: Apple

Note: skip the next step if you are giving away, selling, or trading in your Mac. Instead, press and hold the power or Touch ID button until your Mac powers off.

  1. After your Mac reboots, a setup assistant allows you to reactivate your Mac. You may be asked to connect to Wi-Fi. Once you are back online, select “Restart” to activate your Mac. 
Mac Activate Restart
Image source: Apple

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I perform a factory reset on a Mac using the official method if I use Boot Camp?

Yes. However, if you used Boot Camp to install Windows, then you will need to use Boot Camp again to remove the Windows operating system and its partition on your Mac’s disk before you can factory reset your Mac. If you are not sure whether or not you have used Boot Camp in the past, your Mac will remind you by prompting you to erase other volumes on the disk before you proceed with clearing your data from macOS.

Can I remotely activate a factory reset on a Mac if it has been stolen?

Yes. If you misplace your Mac, if your Mac is stolen, or if you do not have physical access to your Mac for any other reason, you can still maintain your privacy and protect your data by performing a factory reset using one of your other devices:

  • An Apple device: navigate to the Find My app to locate and reset your Mac.
  • A PC or an Android smartphone: locate and reset your Mac by visiting the iCloud web portal.

From the Find My app or the iCloud web portal select your Mac, then tap or click the button labeled “Erase Mac.” Be sure to follow the onscreen prompt to confirm that you would like to erase all content and reset all settings on the Mac that you selected. 

Should I factory reset my Mac if it feels slow and unresponsive?

No, at least not right away. While factory resetting your Mac takes only a few clicks, it can be cumbersome, and your data may be impossible to retrieve once you reactivate your Mac, especially if you do not frequently back up your computer. Initiating a factory reset should be regarded as a drastic last-resort method, as there are a number of alternative ways to fix unresponsive apps and system freezes on a Mac.

How can I factory reset my Mac without upgrading to macOS Monterey?

To factory reset a Mac that is running a version of macOS that is earlier than macOS 12.0 Monterey you will need to back up your data, turn off FileVault, restart your Mac in recovery mode, erase your hard drive, then reinstall macOS.

Image credit: Thomas Lefebvre via Unsplash. All screenshots taken by Brahm Shank.

Brahm Shank
Brahm Shank

Self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur and tech enthusiast Brahm Shank is captivated by the impact of consumer tech: “It’s profoundly moving when people discover that the phone in their pocket or the tiny computer on their wrist has the power to enrich their lives in ways they never imagined.” Apple, Inc. and its unique position at the intersection of technology and the creative arts, resonates deeply with Brahm and his passion for helping people unleash their potential using technology. Over the years, Brahm has held various podcasts - including famed technologist David Pogue of The New York Times on topics such as Big Tech and digital wellness.

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