How to reset your Mac to prepare it for sale

How to reset your Mac to prepare it for sale

Selling your Mac? Clean it up first by reformatting the hard drive and installing a fresh copy of OS X. Here's how

If you're getting ready to sell your Mac, you need to prepare it to get ready to hand it off to its new owner. That means some housekeeping on your part to make the Mac tidy and ready for its new home.

Presumably you've already backed up your Mac, including your personal data files and any apps you use. The easiest way is to use Time Machine, but you can also clone your Mac's hard drive if you prefer.

The application software you've bought for your Mac is yours, and shouldn't (and in most cases can't) be transferred to the new owner. This is especially true for apps you've purchased from the Mac App Store, since those apps are connected to your your Apple ID and password, which you obviously should never share.

The next step is to reformat the drive. If you're running OS X Lion or later, this can be accomplished using your Mac's Recovery System. Here's how.

To reformat your hard drive

  1. Turn on or restart your Mac while holding down the command and R keys.
  2. Hold those keys down until you see the Apple logo.
  3. A window will appear that says "OS X Utilities." Click on the Disk Utility icon and click Continue.
  4. Select your startup disk from the sidebar on the left then click the Erase... tab.
  5. Make sure "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)" is selected in the Format popup menu.
  6. Give your startup drive a name if you want (Untitled or Macintosh HD is usually fine).
  7. Click the Erase... button.
  8. After it's done, click the Disk Utility menu and select Quit.

Et voila! Your Mac now has a completely blank hard drive.

The next step is to reinstall OS X so your Mac will actually be able to work.

If you've followed the instructions so far, you should be back at the "OS X Utilities" window.

To reinstall OS X

  1. Select Reinstall OS X and click Continue.
  2. Follow the instructions on the screen.

For more details, check here:

How to use Mac Recovery System to restore Mavericks

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Peter Cohen

Mac Managing Editor of iMore and weekend Apple Product Professional at a local independent Apple reseller. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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Reader comments

How to reset your Mac to prepare it for sale

5 Comments

Nice little article Peter, one change I would make though is to at a minimum use the one pass zero format option. Sure it will add a little time to the process but there are tools to recover information "lost" with a quick format. Even one pass zero option isn't 100% safe but it's a pretty good compromise if time is an issue.

Good to know.. hoping my rMBP will last a few years though.. May have to look back to this article.

Apple actually released this KB: HT5189
And also, unfortunately the new owner will not get iLife and iWorks anymore.

I just bought a new iMac and followed your steps to erase an old mid 2011 iMac with 10.10.1 to give to my kids, but now when I try reinstall and continue I get all the way to the point where it asked to put in my AppleID to download the copy and a popup window show up saying that it is "not available at the time and to try later." I've tried several times with a WiFi and a wired connection with no luck. Any suggestions?