Perhaps you’re considering selling your Mac and want to make sure your personal data doesn’t go with it. Or maybe your system has been misbehaving recently, and you believe a fresh start could be beneficial. Regardless of your reasons, understanding how to properly and safely clean your macOS is an essential skill.
In this guide, we’ll guide you through the process of thoroughly cleaning your macOS, ensuring it’s as pristine and fresh as the day you first powered it on. We’ll break down each step in simple terms, so you don’t need to be a tech expert to follow along.
So, whether you’re a Mac user attempting this for the first time or someone who’s navigated the Apple landscape a few times but wants to ensure you’re doing things correctly, this guide is for you. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty.
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Step 1. Backup Your Data
Use Time Machine or your preferred method to backup all important files, photos, and documents.
Step 2. Sign Out of All Accounts
- Go to "System Settings"
- Click on your Apple ID on the top left
- Scroll all the way the bottom on the right side and click "Sign Out"
- Open the Messages app.
- Click on “Messages” and then select “Settings” from the menu bar.
- Select the “iMessage” tab, then click on “Sign Out”.
Note: For those using macOS Mojave or earlier versions, you will also need to sign out of iTunes. To do this, open iTunes, navigate to ‘Account’ > ‘Authorizations’, and click on ‘Deauthorize This Computer’.
Step 3. Unpair Bluetooth Devices (Optional)
If you’re passing the Mac to a new user, you might want to unpair Bluetooth devices.
Navigate to "System Settings" and select "Bluetooth".
Click on the “i” (information) icon for each device, then select “Forget This Device…”.
Step 4. Restart in Recovery Mode
Restart your Mac and immediately hold down Command + R until you see the Apple logo. You’re in Recovery Mode when you see the macOS Utilities window.
Step 5. Erase Your Disk
Next, you will need to erase your disk. This will remove all files, applications, and settings on your Mac. Once again, make sure you’ve backed up all the necessary items before you proceed with this step.
- Open “Disk Utility” and click on “Continue”.
- In the sidebar, select your startup disk, which is usually named “Macintosh HD” by default. If your disk is divided into volumes, choose the volume you wish to erase. Unless you’ve renamed it, this will also be called “Macintosh HD”.
- Click on the “Erase” button.
- You’ll be prompted to enter a name for the disk or volume. You can name it “Macintosh HD” or any other name of your choice.
- From the Format menu, select either “APFS” or “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” to format it as a Mac volume. The Disk Utility will display a compatible format by default.
- Click “Erase” again to start erasing your disk or volume. Once the process is complete, exit the Disk Utility.
Step 6. Reinstall macOS
- In the macOS Utilities window, choose “Reinstall macOS”, then click on “Continue”.
- Follow the provided instructions to proceed with the macOS reinstallation.
- Wait for the macOS installation to complete. Your Mac will automatically restart once the process is finished.
Bonus: Don’t Complete Setup
If you’re selling or giving away your Mac, don’t complete setup for the new user. Press Command + Q to shut down the Mac. When the new user turns on the Mac, the Setup Assistant will guide them through the setup process.