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How to reinstall macOS Big Sur on Apple M1 Macs

MacBook Pro Apple M1
MacBook Pro Apple M1 (Image credit: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore)

Apple has changed the process for restoring a Mac to factory settings for Apple silicon devices. These steps should be followed for anyone who needs to reinstall macOS on an Apple M1 MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, or Mac mini. You should think about these changes when buying a new Mac.

These steps are part of a broader process that you should follow if you decide to sell your Mac or want to reinstall macOS Big Sur for any other reason.

Which Macs are covered?

These directions are only for late 2020 Macs that use the Apple M1 system-on-a-chip (SoC). These include all late 2020 MacBook Air models and select late 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro models. Some Mac minis (2020) also use Apple silicon.

To find your Mac version

You can confirm your computer version by following these steps:

  1. Click on the Apple icon at the top left.
  2. Choose About This Mac from the menu.
  3. Confirm the chip version on the pop-up box. Compatible devices say "Apple M1" next to Chip.

To confirm your Mac version, click on the Apple icon at the top left, choose About This Mac from the menu. Confirm the chip version, which should say Apple M1. (Image credit: iMore)

If you're using an Apple M1 Mac, you're good to go and continue following these instructions.

What to do first

Before getting started, you should back up your Mac so you have a fresh copy of your data to restore, if applicable. You can restore this information as part of the overall macOS reinstall process.

Restoring your Mac to factory settings

To reinstall macOS on your Apple M1 computer and return it to factory settings:

  1. Shutdown your Mac.
  2. Hold the power button on your Mac until you see the startup options.

To restore your Mac to factory settings, shutdown your Mac, then hold the power button until you see the startup options (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Select Options.
  2. Click Continue under Options.

To restore your Mac to factory settings, select Options, then click Continue. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Choose a user from the list who has administrative authority.
  2. Select Next

To restore your Mac to factory settings, choose user from the list that has administrative authority. Select Next. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Log into the user account using the password.
  2. Choose Continue.

To restore your Mac to factory settings, log into the user account using the password. Choose Continue. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Select Reinstall macOS from the list.

To restore your Mac to factory settings, select Reinstall macOS. (Image credit: iMore)

From here, follow the on-screen instructions to reinstall a fresh copy of macOS.

Questions?

If you have any questions about reinstalling a fresh copy of macOS onto your Apple M1 device, let us know by leaving a comment below.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.

3 Comments
  • Very helpful. What about the clean install and install from Internet? Thank you!
  • I don’t think this is accurate, or is at least incomplete. There is no point at which this procedure erases the SSD which would be necessary to fully prepare a Mac for resale or return to factory settings.
  • You can't restore a MacBook Pro to out-of-the-box factory settings. If you try to do it, you will brick the computer. I had that experience on Saturday. When I first turned it on, I restored my Time Machine backup from my previous MacBook. There were some issues with accessing the Photo Library, and certain folders. I tried restoring to factory settings but the only option is recovery. If you delete any of the data from the drives, it will not restore. There is an article in Forbes talking about it. The only options are to exchange it for a new one, or possibly have an Apple tech repair it. Lesson learned, caveat emptor.