How to Factory Reset a MacBook Pro

Is it time to completely wipe your MacBook Pro and return it to its factory settings?

Whether you are selling it online, loaning it out to a friend, or returning it to the store, it’s critically important for you to wipe all your data and settings from it so that you can safely give it to the next user.

The next person to use your MacBook Pro may not care about your information, but pirates are everywhere and you never know what someone might do with your personal data.

This article will show you how to factory reset your MacBook Pro so that your privacy will be protected.

Why Perform a Factory Reset?

The hard drive on your MacBook Pro contains your personal images, browsing history, work files, iTunes account, and all sorts of other information, yet far too many people don’t wipe their computers before selling them.

A survey by the Blancco Technology Group showed that 78% of hard drives they bought on eBay had personal or company data still accessible on them. Of those drives, 67% had easily accessible data while the rest required a little work with a data recovery tool to get at the information. Only 10% of the hard drives the company bought had the data securely wiped. The other 90% of sellers were running at least some risk that their data would be stolen.

You may also need or want to do a factory reset if you have been using your MacBook Pro for a long time or have encountered a problem with a software configuration that you just can’t clear up any other way. It’s the last resort for resolving problems.

In either case, it’s important to know how to perform a factory reset without losing your important data.

How To Factory Reset a MacBook Pro

Now that you know why it is so important to factory reset your MacBook Pro (or any computer, for that matter), let’s get to the how. The process is surprisingly simple, and we’ll take it step-by-step.

Step 1: Back everything up

Factory resetting means that your data will be wiped from your MacBook. As such, you’ll want to backup everything that you don’t want to permanently lose.

The easiest and simplest way to do this is to use Time Machine, the backup application built into macOS.

  1. Go to System Preferences and then Time Machine
  2. Follow the wizard to format the target drive and copy all selected files back to your MacBook Pro

It’s that simple. Time Machine makes it very easy to create a backup to take with you to your next computer.

Step 2: Sign out of everything

It’s not strictly necessary to sign out of your apps, but you may want to do so out of an abundance of caution. This makes life easier when you start working with a new computer and also ensures those apps that link themselves to particular devices can link to your new computer quickly and without fuss.

De-authorize iTunes

iTunes authorizes your particular device to stream or play media, so de-authorizing it frees it up for your next computer.

  1. Open iTunes
  2. Click on the Store tab
  3. Then click Deauthorize This Computer
  4. Enter your Apple ID and password and click Deauthorize All


Alternatively, you can follow these steps:

  1. Open iTunes
  2. Click on Store
  3. Select the Account pull-down menu
  4. Select Authorizations
  5. Select Deauthorize This Computer

Disable iCloud

Disabling iCloud is also a good practice as much of your data is stored on iCloud.

  1. Open System Preferences
  2. Click on iCloud
  3. Click Sign Out
  4. Click Delete from Mac for all popup windows

Disable FileVault

Turning off FileVault is useful as it makes the disk erase process work much faster.

  1. Open System Preferences
  2. Click Security & Privacy
  3. Select the FileVault tab
  4. Click on the padlock to unlock settings then enter your password
  5. Click Turn Off FileVault

Disabling FileVault isn’t strictly necessary but in my experience, it does speed up the wiping sequence.

De-authorize other apps

You should also de-authorize any other apps that link themselves to hardware. Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, and any other apps that are linked to your MacBook.

By removing those authorizations from your MacBook Pro now, you will make it simpler to re-authorize them on a new MacBook.

Step 3: Erase the disk

Next, it’s time to reboot your Mac and erase the drive.

Make sure that your MacBook Pro is plugged into a wall outlet and has Internet access via Ethernet or wi-fi before continuing with the erasure process. If your version of macOS is Mountain Lion or older, then you will need your original installation media.

  1. Restart your MacBook Pro
  2. During the boot sequence, hold down Command + R until you see the Apple logo
  3. Click Disk Utility when the menu appears
  4. Click Continue and then Startup Disk
  5. Select Erase from the top menu and Mac OS Extended from the popup menu that appears
  6. Click Erase
  7. Quit the Disk Utility once the process is completed


Depending on the version of macOS you’re using, the wording of the Utilities menu selections may differ slightly. Just make sure that you select the option that wipes the disk completely.

Once the erase process completes, you will have an expensive but attractive paperweight, and you’ll have to reload macOS to get everything working again.

Step 4: Reinstall macOS

Once you select Quit Disk Utility in the step above, you should see a window that mentions reinstallation.

  1. Select Reinstall macOS (or the equivalent wording)
  2. Your MacBook Pro will use Ethernet (or Wi-Fi) to download the latest macOS version automatically
  3. Wait for it to download and then follow the prompts to complete the installation process

This process shouldn’t take long, but depending on your Internet speed, it may take a little bit longer than expected.

For Mountain Lion or previous versions of macOS, you will need to use the original installation media in order to reload macOS. It’s a little old school but still works well.

  1. Select Reinstall macOS (or the equivalent wording)
  2. Follow the prompts to reinstall macOS

The MacBook Pro is a pretty fast machine so the installation process will run quickly. The process itself is robust though, and you shouldn’t run into any difficulties once the install begins.

Step 5: Finishing up

Once macOS has finished downloading and installing, it should present you with the setup assistant. What you do from here depends on what you’re intending to do with the machine.

If you are keeping it and starting again, follow the setup assistant through the process to localize your computer. You can then download all your apps and files as you see fit and begin using your computer once more.

If you are selling it or giving it away, hold down Command + Q to skip the setup assistant. The new owner will want to set up the MacBook Pro according to their own needs so there’s no need to run through this process.

Final Thoughts

That’s all it takes to factory reset your MacBook Pro!

It’s a simple process and shouldn’t give you any problems. By following the steps outlined above, you can factory reset your MacBook without worrying about losing your data or passing on your personal information to the next owner.

4 thoughts on “How to Factory Reset a MacBook Pro”

Avatar Walt Thyng says:
Had some minor problems working through the instructions. I skipped over the stuff I didn’t understand and followed the steps I did. Voila! My Pro is now stupid!
Avatar thomas says:
HI i just followed the instructions for a 2009 MacBook pro and realized I don’t have the original media to finnish the reinstall. Could you offer some guidance On How to get the orginal media? Thanks in Advance
Avatar December says:
It worked to a T! Thank you!
Avatar Charlotte says:
Thank you, v clear instructions!

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