How to Wipe Your MacBook Pro

Erase your MacBook Pro's hard disk with these easy steps!

A MacBook Pro with TouchBar
Getty Images

The MacBook Pro, as powerful as it is, might need to have its main storage unit erased, either because you're selling the computer or because you simply want to start afresh with a clean disk. This guide explains how to do this, covering how to make a backup of your MacBook Pro beforehand, and how to wipe its hard disk of all the data it has accumulated since you started using it.

How to Wipe a MacBook Pro

A screenshot of the Disk Utility app on macOS.

If you want to save all the files (e.g. documents, photos, music) you've created while using your MacBook Pro, you should first refer to the section below, which explains how to make a backup of your hard disk. However, if you've already backed up your disk, you can wipe it by completing the following process (note: this requires that the MacBook is connected to the internet).

First, you have to boot up the MacBook Pro so that it starts in Recovery Mode. This can be done by pressing and holding Command + R when turning on or restarting the Mac.

Once in Recovery Mode and on the macOS Utilities screen, you should then do the following:

  1. Click Disk Utility

  2. Click Continue

  3. Select your hard disk. You should click on the disk, rather than any 'volumes' nested within the disk (disks usually have such names as 'APPLE SSD', while volumes can have such names as 'Macintosh HD')

  4. Click the Erase button

  5. Enter a name for the disk (e.g. 'APPLE SSD', 'Mac HD', or whatever else you find appropriate)

  6. If you're using macOS High Sierra or later, choose APFS for the Format field. If you're using macOS Sierra or earlier, choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled)

  7. Choose GUID Partition Map for the Scheme field (if shown)

  8. Click Erase

    A screenshot of the macOS utilities app

This will begin the wiping process. However, regardless of whether you're selling your MacBook Pro or using it again yourself, it's a good idea to reinstall macOS after the disk has been erased. Making sure that your MacBook is plugged into your power supply, here's what you do:

  1. On the macOS Utilities screen, click Reinstall macOS

  2. Click Continue

  3. Follow the onscreen instructions to complete the installation

Once the installation has been completed, you'll be brought to the setup/Welcome screen. If you're selling your MacBook Pro you should press Command + Q, which shuts down the Mac on the setup screen, thereby leaving the computer in a 'factory' state ready for its next owner.

However, if you're holding onto your MacBook Pro, you should obviously follow the onscreen instructions to complete the setup process.

How to Make a Backup of Your MacBook Pro

A screenshot of the Time Machine app on macOS

Of course, before you erase your MacBook Pro's hard disk, it's obviously a good idea to create a backup. This applies regardless of whether you're wiping the disk to give the machine a fresh start, or you're selling it, but still want to use your saved files with a new MacBook.

Here's what you do to create a backup using Time Machine, although there are also third-party backup applications you can use:

  1. Connect the external storage device that will contain the backup.

  2. Click the Apple icon in the top-left corner of the MacBook Pro's screen

  3. Select System Preferences

  4. Select Time Machine

  5. Click Select Backup Disk

  6. Choose your external drive, then click Encrypt backups and then Use Disk

If it isn't already in the 'ON' position, you'll also have to click the ON button after clicking Use Disk. Once this has been done, your MacBook Pro will then begin creating a backup. And later on in the wiping process, after your MacBook Pro has been wiped down to its factory settings, you can use the backup you've made by reconnecting your external hard disk to the MacBook and then following the onscreen instructions.

Also, if you're selling your MacBook Pro, one other thing you should generally do before wiping its hard disk is signing out of iTunes, iCloud and iMessage.

For iCloud, take the following path: Click the Apple icon in the top-left corner of the screen > System Preferences… > iCloud Sign Out 

For iTunes: Open iTunes Account Authorizations De-authorize This Computer… > Enter your Apple ID and Password > De-authorize

And for iMessage: Press Command + Space Bar > Type Messages and press Enter > Messages (in the menu bar at the top of the Mac's screen) > Preferences… iMessage > Sign Out