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How to erase your old MacBook before selling it

Wipe your Mac clean.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Tempted by a new MacBook Air? Before you box up your old Mac to sell it, you'll need to migrate its data to your new Mac and wipe it clean. Here, you'll learn how to remove all traces of your data and return your old Mac to its factory default state.

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Sign out of your accounts

After migrating your data to your new Mac or making one last backup to preserve your data, it's time to remove all traces of yourself. First, you'll need to sign out of all of your accounts, especially iTunes, which limits you to using the app on only five computers.

First up: iTunes. Open iTunes and go to Account > Authorizations > Deauthorize This Computer. You'll need to enter your Apple ID and password and then hit the Deauthorize button.

Next up: iCloud. Go to System Preferences > iCloud and click the Sign Out button. You'll be asked if you want to keep a copy of your iCloud data on your Mac, but it doesn't matter how you answer because you're going to be erasing everything in a second anyway. The important thing is that you're signed out. And rest assured, the data you have stored with iCloud will remain.

Next up: Messages. Open the Messages app, go to Messages > Preferences and click Accounts. Choose your iMessage account, then click Sign Out.

Bluetooth unpairing

If you're handing down your old Mac to your kid or someone else in your house, then it's a good idea to unpair any Bluetooth devices from it so your mouse or keyboard controls your new Mac and doesn't interfere with your old one. Go to System Preferences > Bluetooth, mouse over the device you want to unpair, click the X button to the right of its name and click Remove.

Factory reset

You need to put your MacBook ($2,349 at Apple) into recovery mode in order to erase all of your data and reinstall MacOS. To enter recovery mode, restart your Mac and immediately press and hold Command-R. You can release the keys when you see the Apple logo.

macos-high-sierra-disk-utility-erase-internal-drive
Apple

Next, you'll see the MacOS Utilities window. Choose Disk Utility, click Continue and select your startup disk -- unless you renamed it, odds are it's labeled Macintosh HD or something similar. Next, click the Erase button at the top of the Disk Utility window and fill out these three fields:

  • Name: Choose a name for the fresh, new volume. Why not go with the tried-and-true Macintosh HD?
  • Format: Choose either APFS or Mac OS Extended (Journaled). The newer APFS is best for solid-state drives, and Mac OS Extended (Journaled) is best for older, mechanical hard drives.
  • Scheme: Choose GUID Partition Map.

Next, click Erase and after Disk Utility does its thing, quit Disk Utility

You should return to the MacOS Utilities window. (If not, restart your Mac again, holding down Command-R while it reboots.) From the MacOS Utilities window, select Reinstall MacOS and follow the instructions to install the operating system. After MacOS has been reinstalled, you'll be greeted by the Setup Assistant, which you can quit out of and shut down your Mac. It's now ready for a fresh start with its next owner.

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