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How to do a factory restore on macOS

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A factory restore returns your MacBook or iMac to its original state (when you first purchased the device). There may be several reasons why you want or need to do this, such as the machine is not working as well as it used to or you are planning to sell the laptop or desktop computer. Whatever the reason, there may come a time when a factory reset is your best option.

But how to achieve such a feat? Is this something only IT people should attempt? Believe it or not, Apple has actually made this process pretty painless, especially if you’re using macOS Monterey on M1-based hardware. I will show you how to do a factory reset on macOS Monterey, with Intel and M1 (Apple Silicon) hardware.

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This process will delete all your data.

So, if you have important files on your laptop or desktop, make sure to back them up to an external drive or cloud account first before proceeding with this process. That said, restore.

Restoring to M1-based hardware

Apple has made factory restore incredibly easy with macOS Monterey running on M1-based devices. To do this, make sure your device is plugged in (you don’t want to trust your battery), click the Apple button in the top left corner of your screen, then click System Preferences. Once System Preferences opens, click the System Preferences menu in the top bar, then click Erase all content and settings (Figure 1).

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Figure 1

Screenshot of the System Preferences menu on a Mac

Perform a factory reset on macOS Monterey from an M1-based MacBook Pro.

You will be prompted to enter your user password, then click OK. The resulting popup window (Figure 2) informs you of everything that will be done.

Figure 2

Screenshot of the menu to erase all content on a Mac

Are you ready to erase everything from macOS?

If you are sure you want to continue, click Continue and the process will begin. Your device will reboot several times and eventually land on the familiar “Hello” screen, where you can then walk through the setup process. Once this is done, your device will be as clean as it was when you first bought it.

Restore to Intel Hardware

This process is not that easy as there is no GUI tool to take care of it for you. Instead, we have to do it the old-school manual way. Here are the steps:

  1. If you plan to sell your Apple device, you need to sign out of iCloud and iMessage first. To sign out of iMessage, open the app, then click Messages > Preferences. Then switch to the iMessage tab and select Sign Out. For iCloud, open System Preferences, then click Apple ID. Click the iCloud tab, then click Sign Out.

  2. Restart your computer by clicking the Apple button and then Restart.

  3. When the device restarts, hold down the Command and R keys.

  4. When the Apple logo appears, release the Command and R keys.

  5. You will be prompted to select a user with a password, then click Next.

  6. Type the user’s password.

  7. When the Recovery Mode menu appears, select Disk Utility.

  8. Select the Macintosh HD startup disk and select Erase.

  9. When the following popup appears, make sure the format is set to APFS and click Clear again.

  10. When formatting is complete, click Done.

  11. Click Disk Utility > Quit Disk Utility.

  12. Click Reinstall macOS Monterey, then click Continue.

  13. Click Continue again.

  14. When prompted, accept the EULA by clicking Accept.

  15. Click Accept again.

  16. Select Macintosh HD and click Continue.

  17. Allow the installation to complete (this may take two to four hours).

  18. Once the installation is complete, you can go through the registration process as if the device had just been purchased.

Congratulations, your macOS device should be like new.

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