• How to reset your MacBook or Mac to the original factory settings
  • Clone your hard drive and securely wipe the original
  • Remove all your personal data and set up a clean installation of Mac OS X and macOS Sierra

If you are planning to sell your old Mac, or if you are trying to fix issues with an old Mac by doing a clean install of your software, you will first have to reset your Mac to factory settings. Just how easy is it to wipe a Mac?

Luckily it's is easy to remove everything from a Mac before you sell it on - and it's very important that you do so if you don't want to leave yourself open to identity theft. However, as well as removing your personal information, before selling on an old Mac you do need to ensure a clean version of Mac OS X or macOS Sierra is installed or you might be hearing from the buyer.

Our guide to clearing all your information and data from a Mac enables you to reset your Mac  to an unblemished factory state, as it was fresh out of the box. Discover how to wipe all your personal information from your iMac, Mac Pro, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air or MacBook.

Here are the general steps to reset your Mac's drive (they are outlined in detail below):

Before you do anything make sure you are connected to the internet so you can download the latest copy of the Mac operating system that is able to run on your Mac, this is likely to be macOS Sierra, but an older Mac may need an older version of OS X.

This feature will take you through the following steps in detail:

  1. Use an app like SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner to clone your internal hard drive to an external drive. This enables you to access all your old files, and the drive can be re-cloned to the internal drive if you want to restore your Mac.
  2. Deauthorize your iTunes store account. (You should also deauthorize any third-party apps, such as Photoshop, that are locked to your Mac).
  3. Turn off FileVault (if you are using it).
  4. Sign out of iCloud.
  5. Restart the Mac in Recovery Mode (hold down Command and the R key during restart).
  6. Use Disk Utility to erase the hard drive. Click on Disk Utility > Continue. Select the main volume and click Unmount then Erase). Quit Disk Utility (Disk Utility > Quit Disk Utility).
  7. Click Reinstall OS X and Continue. Follow the instructions to reinstall Mac OS X.

Read next: Should I buy a secondhand Mac (or a new Mac)? | Which Mac should I buy? Desktop Mac buying advice | Selling your old Mac - How to find out what it is worth

Step 1: How to clone your Mac hard drive

Carbon Copy Cloner

The process of resetting a MacBook to factory settings gets rid of all your data from the Mac. Obviously, you should transfer data from your old Mac to a new one, but it's worth making a clone of the whole hard drive and keeping it around for a while. The best way to do this is using a program like Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper along with an external hard drive (both options are now paid for, sadly). Choose your main hard drive in the source, and your external hard drive in the Destination. Now click on Clone.

You should be able to boot from the cloned external hard drive. To test this, reset your Mac and hold down Option when you first boot up your Mac. Use the arrow keys on your Mac to select the external drive and tap Enter. This cloned drive can be re-cloned back to the main drive if you decide to restore your Mac, or it can be used to access all the original files from your computer after you have wiped the internal hard drive.

(Even though the software is bundled with Mac OS X, it's worth noting that Carbon Copy Cloner is now a paid-for app.)

Read next: How to recover your Mac from a backup

Step 2: How to De-Authorise iTunes on a Mac

De-authorise iTunes

You should deauthorise your computer from iTunes. This means that it will no longer be linked to your iTunes account. You can only use up to five Macs to play music and movies that are locked to your iTunes account, so you shouldn't pass that on to another person. Open iTunes and click Store > Deauthorize This Computer. Enter your Apple ID and password and click De-authorise.

See: How to remove your Apple ID completely: shut down your iTunes Store, iCloud and other accounts

Step 3: How to turn off FileVault on a Mac 

FileVault

FileVault encrypts the files on your hard drive, and it’s better to turn it off before going any further (you'll be wiping the files soon so security shouldn’t be a concern). Open System preferences and click on Security & Privacy and FileVault. Check that it says FileVault is turned off the for the disc [main hard drive]. If not click on the padlock icon in the bottom left, enter your password and click on Unlock. Now click Turn Off FileVault.

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Step 4: How to disable iCloud on a Mac

Disable iCloud

Open System Preferences and click on iCloud and tap on Sign Out Now. To remove all your personal data, click 'Delete From Mac' on each popup (although you’ll be wiping the hard drive in the next step anyway).

See: How to set up iCloud | How to delete or reset an iPhone or iPad

Step 5: How to restart a Mac in Recovery Mode

First of all make sure you are connected to the Internet (a quick Google search should suffice). You will need an internet connection to install Mac OS X or macOS Sierra.

Restart the Mac by clicking on Apple > Restart and hold down the Command and R keys until the Recovery Mode Utilities window appears.

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Step 6: How to erase the drive on a Mac

Erase Mac OS X drive

Select Disk Utility and click on Continue. Now choose your main Startup Volume (typically called Macintosh HD in the sidebar on the left, and click on Unmount). Now choose the Erase tab and click Erase to wipe your hard drive. Note that this permanently erases all data on the hard drive so don’t do this unless you’ve cloned the drive or are happy to never have to get something from that drive again. When it’s finished exit the program by choosing Disk Utility and Quit Disk Utility.

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Step 7: Re-install Mac OS X or macOS Sierra on a Mac

Install Mac OS X

Now click on Reinstall OS X or macOS Sierra and continue to follow the on-screen instructions. This will download and install a blank copy of Mac OS X or macOS Sierra on the Mac. Do not enter your Apple ID and password during setup though; allow the person buying the Mac (if that's the case) to finish the setup process themselves.

Read next: How to reset an iPhone, erase the contents of an iPhone and restore from a backup | Which Mac do I have: How to identify your Mac's model, year and serial number