Did you just buy your first new Mac? Here's how to set it up!

If you are new to Mac and are about to set up your new MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, or Mac Pro, you might want a little preparation before you begin. It is easy to set up your new Mac if you follow the on-screen instructions, but you may not understand what those instructions mean. I'm here to help walk you through each step so you don't worry that you might be doing something wrong.

How to set up your new Mac

  1. Press the Power button on your Mac to turn it on.
  2. Select a language.

    • This is the language that your computer will be written in across the system.
  3. Click Continue.

    Select a country, then click continue

  4. Select a keyboard layout.

    • This is how your keys will type out onto your computer, no matter what the physical keyboard looks like.
  5. Click Continue.

    Select a keyboard language, then click continue

  6. Select your Wi-Fi network.

    • If you are connecting to the internet using Ethernet, select Other Network Options and select Ethernet.
  7. Enter your Wi-Fi password if you are using Wi-Fi.

  8. Click Continue.

    • This may take a few minutes. You may see a spinning wheel and "Looking for networks." This is normal.

      Select a Wi-FI, enter a password, then click Continue

  9. If you are setting up your Mac as a new computer, select Don't transfer any information now.

    • If you are transferring from another Mac, follow these instructions.
    • If you are transferring from a PC, follow these instructions.
  10. Click Continue.

    Select Dont transfer, then click continue

  11. Tick the box for Enable Location Services on this Mac.

    • This service is important for use with Siri, Maps, Spotlight suggestions, and more. If you don't want Apple to have access to your location, do not tick this box.
  12. Click Continue.

    Select Turn on location services, then click continue

  13. Sign in with your Apple ID.

  14. Click Continue.

    Sign in with Apple ID, then click continue

  15. Click Agree to agree to the terms and conditions.

    • You can read each section of the terms and conditions by clicking More.
  16. Click Agree to confirm.

    Agree to terms and conditions, then agree again

  17. Enter a Full name for your computer. If you signed in with your Apple ID, this will populate automatically.
  18. Enter Account name. If you signed in with your Apple ID, this will populate automatically.

    Enter Full name and account name

  19. Enter a password to secure your Mac.

    • This will be your administrator password, which is used to create new accounts and access system features across your Mac.
  20. Enter a Hint to help you remember your password.

    • This hint will appear on your Lock screen if you type in the wrong password on your Mac.

      Enter a password and a hint

  21. Tick the box to Allow my Apple ID to reset this password.

    • This is a little less secure if someone else has access to your Apple ID and password, but is convenient if your forget your password.
  22. Tick the box for Set time zone based on current location.

    • This will only work if you enabled Location Services in step 11.
    • When enabled, your date and time will change when you visit new locations across time zones.

      Tick the box to allow Apple ID to reset password, then tick the box to automatically set time zone based on location

  23. Click Continue.

    • iCloud will begin syncing if you signed in. This may take a few minutes. You may see a spinning wheel and "Setting up account." This is normal.

      Click continue, wait for iCloud to sync

  24. Tick the box for Turn on FileVault disk encryption.

    • FileVault encrypts the contents of your Mac's hard drive.
  25. Tick the box for Allow my iCloud account to unlock my disk.

    • Allowing iCloud to unlock your disk is the same thing as allowing iCloud to reset your Mac's password.
  26. Click Continue.

    Tick the box for sync FileVault, then tick the box for  Allow Apple ID to unlock FileVault, then click Continue

  27. Tick the box for Store files from Documents and Desktop in iCloud to store everything on your desktop and your Documents folder.

    • This is part of macOS's Optimized Storage feature.
    • Only tick this box if you are sure you have enough iCloud storage to fit all of your Desktop and Documents folders to sync. {.update}
  28. Click Continue.

    Click the box to store Desktop and Documents folders in iCloud, then click continue

  29. Tick the box to Enable Siri on this Mac.

  30. Click Continue.

    Tick the box to enable Siri, then click continue

At this point, your Mac will finalize all settings and iCloud syncing for setting up your Mac. This may take a while. You may see a spinning wheel and "Setting up." This is normal.

After your Mac has finished setting up, you may receive pop up notifications to sign into various mail and social networking accounts. Click Allow, Continue, or turn on for each notification to sign in.

Set up will finalize, then enable various accounts

Any questions?

Do you have any questions about the set up process on your new Mac? Let me know in the comments and I'll help you out.

Originally written January 2015. Updated October 2016 to reflect changes to macOS.

Peter Cohen contributed to an earlier version of this article.