MacOS Big Sur Factory Reset Guide: Restore Your Mac to Factory Settings

macos big sur factory reset

Performing a factory reset on macOS Big Sur can be a crucial step for various reasons. Whether you’re planning to sell or give away your Mac, facing unresolved system issues, or simply aiming for a fresh start, a factory reset ensures a clean slate. This process removes all personal data and settings, reverting the system to its original state. Our guide will walk you through the necessary steps to successfully reset your macOS Big Sur, provide essential tips for a seamless transition, and address common queries related to the process.

Preparing for a Factory Reset

Before initiating a factory reset on your macOS Big Sur, it’s vital to take several preparatory steps to ensure that your data is safe and that the reset process goes smoothly.

Backup Important Data

The first and most critical step is to back up your important data. Losing valuable documents, photos, or application data can be distressing, but it’s entirely preventable. Use the following methods to secure your files:

  • Time Machine: Apple’s built-in backup solution is the most straightforward way to back up your entire system. Connect an external drive and select it as your backup disk in Time Machine preferences to start the process.
  • Cloud Services: For additional safety, consider using cloud storage services like iCloud Drive, Dropbox, or Google Drive. These platforms offer a convenient way to store your important files offsite.

Sign Out of Apple Services

To prevent future users from accessing your personal information or purchasing content with your accounts, sign out of all Apple services:

  • iCloud: Go to System Preferences > Apple ID > Overview, and click “Sign Out.”
  • iTunes: Open iTunes, click Account > Authorizations > Deauthorize This Computer.
  • iMessage: In the Messages app, choose Messages > Preferences, click on your iMessage account, and select “Sign Out.”

Checklist Before Factory Reset

  • Backup all important data
  • Sign out of all Apple services (iCloud, iTunes, iMessage)
  • Deauthorize iTunes
  • Disconnect any external devices
  • Note down any important software licenses

Deauthorize iTunes

Deauthorizing your computer from iTunes is crucial, especially if you’re reaching the limit of authorized devices for your Apple ID. To deauthorize:

  1. Open iTunes on your Mac.
  2. From the menu bar at the top of your computer screen, choose Account > Authorizations > Deauthorize This Computer.
  3. Enter your Apple ID and password when prompted and click “Deauthorize.”

Taking these steps ensures that your Big Sur factory reset will be as smooth and secure as possible, paving the way for a fresh start on your Mac or for its new owner.

factory reset macos

Steps to Factory Reset macOS Big Sur

Resetting macOS Big Sur to its factory settings involves a few critical steps. This process ensures that all personal data is erased, and the system is restored to its original state. Here’s how to accomplish this:

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Entering Recovery Mode

To start the factory reset process, you must first enter Recovery Mode. Recovery Mode is a special utility built into the Mac that allows you to perform various system tasks, including reinstalling macOS and erasing your hard drive.

  1. Restart Your Mac: Click on the Apple menu and select “Restart.”
  2. Enter Recovery Mode: As your Mac restarts, press and hold the Command (⌘) and R keys simultaneously. Release these keys as soon as you see the Apple logo or a spinning globe. This action will boot your Mac into Recovery Mode.
  3. Select a User: You may be asked to choose a user you know the password for. Select the user and enter the password to continue.

Erasing the Hard Drive

Once in Recovery Mode, the next step is to erase your Mac’s hard drive. This process will remove all data and prepare the disk for a fresh installation of macOS Big Sur.

  1. Open Disk Utility: From the macOS Utilities window, select “Disk Utility” and click “Continue.”
  2. Choose Your Hard Drive: In the sidebar of Disk Utility, select the hard drive you wish to erase. It’s typically named “Macintosh HD” unless you’ve renamed it.
  3. Erase the Hard Drive: Click the “Erase” button, then choose the following options:
    • Format: Select “APFS” if you’re using an SSD or “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” for older hard drives.
    • Scheme: Choose “GUID Partition Map.”
  4. Confirm the Erase: Click “Erase” to start the process. Once completed, exit Disk Utility to return to the macOS Utilities window.

Reinstalling macOS Big Sur

With your hard drive erased, the next step is to reinstall macOS Big Sur.

  1. Start the Installation: From the macOS Utilities window, select “Reinstall macOS” and click “Continue.”
  2. Follow the On-Screen Instructions: The installer will guide you through the necessary steps. Choose your erased hard drive when prompted where to install the OS.
  3. Complete the Installation: The installation process may take some time. Once it’s finished, your Mac will restart.

Setting Up Your Mac (If Keeping)

If you plan to keep your Mac, you’ll need to go through the initial setup process after reinstalling macOS Big Sur.

  1. Follow the Setup Assistant: Once macOS Big Sur is installed, you’ll be greeted by the Setup Assistant. Follow the on-screen instructions to configure your Mac. This includes setting up your Wi-Fi, creating a user account, and signing in with your Apple ID.
  2. Restore Your Data: If you’ve backed up your data, now is the time to restore it. You can use Time Machine or manually copy files from your backup storage.

By following these steps, you’ve successfully completed a Big Sur factory reset. Your Mac is now in a like-new state, whether you’re passing it on or starting fresh for yourself. Remember, taking the time to properly prepare and execute each step ensures the security of your personal information and the optimal performance of your Mac.

After the Factory Reset

Once you’ve successfully reset your macOS Big Sur, a few immediate steps are recommended to ensure your Mac operates smoothly and securely.

First Steps After Reset

  • Check for Software Updates: Navigate to System Preferences > Software Update to download and install any available updates for macOS. This ensures your system is up-to-date with the latest features and security enhancements.
  • Adjust System Preferences: Customize settings such as Dock preferences, desktop wallpaper, and security settings to suit your needs. Don’t forget to set up Time Machine for future backups if you plan to keep the Mac.
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Restoring Data

If you’re retaining your Mac, restoring your data is the next crucial step.

  • Time Machine: Connect your backup drive and use the Migration Assistant (located in the Utilities folder) to restore your files, apps, and user settings from a Time Machine backup.
  • Manual Restoration: If you’ve backed up data to cloud services or an external drive, manually download or copy the files back to your Mac.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Even with careful preparation, you might encounter issues during the reset process. Here are solutions to some common problems.

Recovery Mode Not Working

If your Mac fails to enter Recovery Mode:

  • Check Keyboard Functionality: Ensure your keyboard is functioning correctly. Wired keyboards are more reliable for this process.
  • Use Internet Recovery: Restart your Mac and immediately press Option-Command-R or Shift-Option-Command-R to start up from macOS Recovery over the Internet.

Installation Errors

During macOS installation, you might face errors such as “This copy of the Install macOS application is too old to be opened on this version of macOS.”

  • Create a Bootable Installer: If persistent, consider creating a bootable installer for macOS Big Sur using another Mac.
  • Check Date and Time: Ensure your Mac’s date and time are set correctly. Incorrect settings can prevent macOS from installing properly.

Data Restoration Problems

Restoring data can sometimes be less straightforward than expected.

  • Verify Backup Integrity: Ensure your backup is complete and not corrupted. Attempt to access the backup on another Mac if possible.
  • Use Migration Assistant: For issues with Time Machine restores, try using Migration Assistant to selectively restore files, settings, and applications.

By following these steps and troubleshooting tips, you can navigate the reset process more effectively, ensuring a smooth transition to a freshly reset macOS Big Sur.


Can I reset my Mac if it doesn’t have macOS Monterey or later?

Yes, you can reset your Mac even if it’s running an older version of macOS. The process involves manually erasing your hard drive via Disk Utility in Recovery Mode and then reinstalling the operating system available for your Mac.

What should I do if I forgot my administrator password?

If you’ve forgotten your administrator password, you can reset it in Recovery Mode. Restart your Mac and enter Recovery Mode, then use the Terminal to reset the password or choose the ‘Forgot all passwords’ option to reset using your Apple ID.

How do I ensure all my personal information is completely erased?

To ensure all your personal information is completely erased, use Disk Utility in Recovery Mode to erase your hard drive. Choose the ‘APFS (Encrypted)’ format for SSDs or ‘Mac OS Extended (Journaled, Encrypted)’ for HDDs to securely wipe your data.

Can I perform a factory reset without an Apple ID?

Performing a factory reset without an Apple ID is possible, but you’ll need to skip signing in with an Apple ID during the reinstallation process of macOS. However, ensure you’ve signed out of all Apple services before the reset to avoid activation locks.

What are the risks of factory resetting my Mac?

The primary risk of factory resetting your Mac is data loss. Ensure you have a complete backup of your data before proceeding. Additionally, if not done correctly, you may encounter issues reinstalling macOS, leading to temporary unavailability of your Mac.

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