How to wipe your MacBook before selling or giving it away

If you’ve just picked up the 16-inch MacBook Pro or you’re going to soon and you’re going to sell/give away your existing Mac notebook, follow along for how to wipe your MacBook and reinstall a fresh copy of macOS.

Before jumping right in to wipe your MacBook, make sure that you have a current backup. You’ll also want to sign out of any connected accounts.

To head off issues down the line, deauthorize your Mac in the Music app (or iTunes). Navigate to the whichever one you have and in the menu bar click on AccountAuthorizations → Deauthorize This Computer.

It’s also good to sign out of iCloud, iMessage, and FaceTime manually. It doesn’t hurt to sign out of any other accounts under System Preferences → Internet Accounts too.

Also, if you want to have a bootable version of Catalina on a USB drive, check out our video tutorial. It isn’t required to wipe and reinstall macOS on your Mac but it can be handy.

And if you plan on selling your MacBook on your own, it’s probably a good idea to have the butterfly keyboard replaced for free if you haven’t already.

How to wipe your MacBook before selling or giving it away

Boot into macOS Recovery

macOS Recovery will install a different version of macOS depending on the key combination you use when starting up your Mac (no installation discs or macOS loaded onto an external drive is needed). Hold down one of the following key combinations right after powering on your Mac, and let go when you see the globe or Apple logo.

  • ⌘R (Command R) = Reinstall the latest macOS that was installed on your Mac, without upgrading to a later version.
  • ⌥⌘R (Option Command R) = Upgrade to the latest macOS that is compatible with your Mac

As Apple notes on its support page, “if you’re selling or giving away a Mac that is using OS X El Capitan or earlier, use Option-Command-R to make sure that the installation isn’t associated with your Apple ID,” this also installs the latest available software.

For this walkthrough, I’ve used ⌥⌘R which will use macOS Recovery over the internet and reinstall the latest macOS version (this option requires a Wi-Fi connection).