How to Reformat Your MacBook Pro

MacBook acting up? Reformat it and get it back on track

MacBook Pro with touchID

Chesnot / Getty Images

If your MacBook Pro is starting to slow down due to age or too many questionable apps and programs, one way to speed things up is to reformat the laptop. This action wipes your MacBook Pro and returns it to factory settings, after which you install a clean copy of macOS over the internet. Reformatting may seem like an extreme measure, but it's easy to do, and it extends the life of a malfunctioning MacBook.

Reformatting is also a good idea if you are planning to sell, give away, or trade in your MacBook Pro. In those cases, don't copy your data back to the laptop after you reformat it.

Reformatting a MacBook Pro erases all the information on the device. Back up your MacBook before proceeding with this option.

If your Mac isn't already set up to back up with Time Machine, transfer all your files to an external hard drive or a flash drive, either of which is a smart investment if you don't already have a backup drive.

How to Reformat MacBook Pro

Reformatting a MacBook Pro erases the system and your data, wiping away any issues that were affecting the device. When it is reformatted, you can install a fresh version of macOS.

Although you can erase your MacBook Pro without an internet connection, you must have an internet connection to install a fresh copy of macOS. Be sure you have an accessible network nearby before you start this process.

  1. Turn on or restart your MacBook Pro using the power button and immediately press and hold press Command+R on the keyboard before the Apple logo or other startup screen appears. Release the keys only after you see an Apple logo, spinning globe, or another startup screen. This process boots the Mac into macOS Recovery mode.

  2. Click Disk Utility > Continue in the macOS Utilities window that opens.

    macOS Utilities window
  3. In the left panel of Disk Utility, choose your Startup disk. It is called "Macintosh HD" by default, but if you renamed your startup disk, select it.

  4. Click Erase at the top of the window. 

  5. Enter a name you want the drive to have after you erase it. Apple recommends using the name "Macintosh HD."

  6. Choose a format, either APFS or Mac OS Extended (Journaled).

    Disk Utility shows the compatible option by default. 

  7. If the Mac asks for the "scheme," choose GUID Partition Map.

  8. Click Erase and wait for the process to complete.

  9. Select Quit Disk Utility from the Disk Utility menu at the top right corner of the screen. 

How to Install a Fresh macOS Version

With your MacBook Pro reformatted, you should be back at the macOS Utilities window. If not, boot back into macOS Recovery as you did to begin the reformatting process.

You must be connected to the internet to complete the macOS installation. Your MacBook Pro prompts you to connect to Wi-Fi to continue the installation process. 

  1. Restart your MacBook Pro and press Command+R on the keyboard before the Apple logo or other startup screen appears. Release the keys when you see an Apple logo or startup screen. This process boots you back into macOS Recovery.

  2. Click either Reinstall macOS or Reinstall OS X and then click Continue.

  3. Click your startup disk in the left panel. It is called "Macintosh HD" by default. If you renamed your startup disk, select it.

  4. Click Install. This process reinstalls the latest macOS version that your computer can run.

  5. When the installation is complete, your MacBook Pro restarts on its own and takes you to the setup assistant.

  6. Set up your reformatted MacBook Pro to your specifications. Transfer the files saved on your external hard drive or flash drive to your computer at this point.