How to Reset Your MacBook or MacBook Pro

Need to wipe it or get rid of it? Follow these steps

A photo of a woman backing up her Macbook Pro.

William Van Hecke/Corbis/Getty Images 

If you've begun to encounter weird glitches and problems with your MacBook or MacBook Pro that no amount of troubleshooting will solve, it may be time for a fresh start. Here's how to reset a MacBook Pro.

Back Up Your Data Before You Reset Your MacBook Pro

Even if you never plan to use your data again, make sure to back it up, just in case. The last thing anyone wants is to permanently delete something important. MacBook Pro users should use Time Machine to back up your MacBook in case you need to restore your information.

  1. Open Time Machine on your computer.

    A screenshot of the macOS Time Machine application.
  2. Connect an external hard drive to your machine. While you can use iCloud to back up your data, you cannot back up the OS or your applications to the cloud.

  3. When Time Machine is set up, you can tell it to make automatic backups. You can also back up your computer by selecting "Back Up Now" from the Time Machine menu.

    Select the drive you want to backup to.
  4. Allow enough time for the backup to complete.

  5. Once the backup is finished, disconnect the external drive.

  6. Make sure all accounts are logged out and your iTunes account is no longer authorized on your MacBook Pro.

How to Factory Reset MacBook Pro

Now that you have backed up all of your information, you can begin the process of resetting the MacBook Pro. Before you reset your computer, make sure you have a solid Internet connection so you can download the latest version of macOS after the reset. If possible, connect your machine directly to your router or modem.

You should always reset your MacBook Pro to factory settings before selling or disposing of it. Dropping a file into the Trash and emptying it isn't enough, as there are still ways to restore the file later. A factory reset ensures your data is erased from the machine and cannot be recovered.

  1. Shut down your MacBook.

  2. Restart the laptop in Recovery Mode. There are three ways to do this, and they each require a keyboard combination.

    • The first is to hold down Command+R as the MacBook boots up. This will open the standard version of Recovery Mode and allow you to install the latest version of macOS.
    • The second is to hold down Option+Command+R. This will allow you to upgrade to the latest version of macOS that is compatible with your machine.
    • The third way is to hold down Shift+Option+Command+R. This will install the version of macOS that came with your computer, or the closest version available if that OS can no longer be downloaded.

    Regardless of which method you use, keep the keys held down until the Apple logo appears.

  3. In the window that appears, click Disk Utility.

    Disk Utliity can show some or all connected devices.
  4. In the Disk Utility window, click View, then click Show All Devices.

  5. Choose the drive you want to erase. It will likely be titled "Macintosh HD."

  6. Click Erase.

  7. Quit Disk Utility and return to the previous window.

  8. Click Reinstall macOS.

    A photo of the macOS Recovery Mode window.
  9. Follow the steps you see on-screen. Allow sufficient time for the installation to complete. This can take several hours to finish.

  10. When the OS has been installed, the machine will restart. After this, you'll be prompted for your Apple ID and username.

  11. If you reset your MacBook Pro in order to sell it, press Command+Q to shut down the machine. This will leave it like new.