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How to Reset Your MacBook Pro in 3 Steps (with Photos)

Is your MacBook Pro not running as smoothly as it used to? You‘re not alone. According to a survey by Rocket Yard, the top three performance issues reported by Mac users are a slow-running machine (21%), low storage space (19%), and unexpected freezes or crashes (16%).

Resetting your MacBook Pro can help resolve these common issues and restore its original performance and reliability. It‘s also an essential step to take before selling or giving away your laptop to ensure your personal data doesn‘t end up in the wrong hands. In fact, a study by Blancco Technology Group found that 78% of used hard disk drives and SSDs still contain personal data from previous owners.

In this expert guide, we‘ll walk you through the process of resetting your MacBook Pro step-by-step, complete with photos. By the end, you‘ll know exactly how to:

  1. Backup your important files and data
  2. Sign out of your accounts and services
  3. Erase your MacBook Pro and reinstall a clean version of macOS

Let‘s dive in!

Reasons to Reset Your MacBook Pro

There are several scenarios where resetting your MacBook Pro may be necessary or beneficial:

  1. Performance Issues – Over time, your MacBook Pro may become slow, freeze up, crash unexpectedly, or take a long time to boot up. Resetting can clear out digital clutter and give you a clean slate.

  2. Malware Infections – While less common than on Windows PCs, Macs can still be infected with viruses or malware. According to Malwarebytes, the number of Mac threats increased by over 400% from 2018 to 2019. If you suspect an infection, resetting and reinstalling macOS is the most thorough way to remove any malicious software.

  3. Selling or Gifting Your MacBook Pro – If you plan to sell your used MacBook Pro or gift it to someone else, resetting it first will erase all your personal data and files and make it ready for the next owner to set up. A study by the University of Hertfordshire found that 35% of used hard drives sold on eBay still contained personal data from the previous owner.

  4. Major macOS Upgrades – Although not always required, resetting your MacBook Pro before installing a major new version of macOS can ensure the upgrade goes smoothly and you don‘t carry over any software issues to the new OS.

  5. Troubleshooting – If you‘ve tried other solutions to fix problems with your MacBook Pro but nothing else has worked, resetting it may be a last resort to resolve stubborn issues.

Types of MacBook Pro Resets

Not all resets are the same. Here are a few different types of resets you can perform on a MacBook Pro, from least to most thorough:

  1. Soft Reset (Force Restart) – If your MacBook Pro is frozen and unresponsive, you can force it to restart by pressing and holding the power button until it shuts off, then pressing it again to boot back up. This can resolve minor system hangs.

  2. SMC Reset – The System Management Controller (SMC) controls various hardware functions on your MacBook Pro, including:

  • Battery and power management
  • Fans and thermal management
  • Keyboards and trackpads
  • Displays and video ports

Resetting the SMC can resolve issues related to these components. Here‘s how to do it on most modern MacBook Pro models:

i. Shut down your MacBook Pro
ii. Press and hold the Control, Option, and Shift keys on the left side of the keyboard, then press and hold the power button
iii. Hold all four keys for 7 seconds, then release them
iv. Press the power button to turn on your MacBook Pro

SMC Reset

  1. NVRAM/PRAM Reset – Nonvolatile Random-Access Memory (NVRAM) or Parameter RAM (PRAM) stores certain settings like volume, display resolution, time zone, and startup disk selection. Resetting this can resolve issues with those settings and startup problems. Here‘s how:

i. Shut down your MacBook Pro
ii. Press the power button to turn it on, then immediately press and hold the Option, Command, P, and R keys together
iii. Continue holding the keys for about 20 seconds, until you hear the startup sound for the second time or see the Apple logo disappear and reappear
iv. Release the keys and allow your MacBook Pro to finish booting up


  1. Factory Reset / Reinstall macOS – The most complete type of reset is a full factory reset, which involves erasing your MacBook Pro‘s startup disk and reinstalling a fresh copy of macOS. This will erase all data on the drive and returns the laptop to its factory default state. We‘ll go over the detailed steps for this type of reset below.

How to Factory Reset Your MacBook Pro

Step 1: Backup Your Data

Before erasing everything on your MacBook Pro, it‘s critical that you first backup any important data, documents, photos, or other files you want to keep. The factory reset process will permanently delete everything on the hard drive, so a current backup is essential to avoid losing your files.

There are a few ways to backup your MacBook Pro:

  • Time Machine – Apple‘s built-in backup tool can automatically create backups of your MacBook Pro to an external storage drive. According to Apple, about 30% of Mac users regularly backup their computers with Time Machine. To set it up, connect an external drive, open System Preferences > Time Machine, and click "Select Backup Disk."

Time Machine Backup

  • iCloud – Important data like photos, notes, contacts, and calendar events can sync to Apple‘s iCloud servers. As of 2021, Apple provides 5 GB of free iCloud storage to all users, with paid plans for up to 2 TB. Make sure iCloud syncing is enabled for the types of files you want to backup by going to System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud.

  • Cloud Storage Services – Third-party cloud storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive can also sync files from your MacBook Pro to the cloud for safekeeping. Dropbox usage among Mac users increased by 17% in 2020. Install the relevant app and follow the prompts to configure folder syncing.

  • Manual Backups – Connect an external USB drive, open Finder, and manually copy over any critical files and folders to the external drive. Be sure to properly eject the drive before disconnecting it to avoid data corruption.

For the most comprehensive backup of your entire MacBook Pro, use either Time Machine or create a complete manual backup to an external drive. Cloud services are convenient for syncing specific file types but may not backup your complete system.

Whichever backup method(s) you choose, make sure your backup is fully up-to-date just before starting the reset process. Don‘t proceed until you are 100% certain you have a restorable copy of anything you can‘t afford to lose permanently.

Step 2: Sign Out of Accounts and Services

To avoid any issues or data conflicts when resetting your MacBook Pro, it‘s best to sign out of your various accounts and services first:

  1. Apple ID (including iCloud, iTunes, App Store) – Open System Preferences > Apple ID, click Overview in the sidebar, then click the "Sign Out" button. Enter your Apple ID password if prompted. Uncheck the option to keep a copy of your iCloud data on the MacBook Pro.

  2. iMessage – Open the Messages app, go to Preferences > iMessage, and click the "Sign Out" button.

  3. Other Accounts – Depending on what email, productivity, and other accounts you use on your MacBook Pro, open those apps (like Mail, Outlook, Skype, etc.) and sign out of each account individually.

The goal is to deactivate and unlink the MacBook Pro from being able to access your personal accounts and data. After completing the factory reset, you‘ll be able to sign back into any needed accounts.

Step 3: Erase MacBook Pro and Reinstall macOS

With your data backed up and accounts signed out, you‘re ready to wipe your MacBook Pro and restore it to factory settings with a fresh install of macOS. Here‘s how:

  1. Restart your MacBook Pro. As soon as you hear the startup sound, press and hold the Command+R keys on the keyboard until you see the Apple logo. This will boot you into macOS Recovery Mode.

MacOS Recovery Mode

  1. The macOS Utilities window will appear. Select "Disk Utility" and click "Continue."

  2. In Disk Utility, select your MacBook Pro‘s built-in startup disk (usually named Macintosh HD) from the sidebar on the left. Click the "Erase" button at the top of the window.

  3. In the dialog box that appears:

  • Enter a name for the disk, like "Macintosh HD"
  • For format, choose either "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)" or "APFS" depending on your macOS version
    • macOS 10.12 Sierra and earlier use Mac OS Extended
    • macOS 10.13 High Sierra and later use APFS
  • Click the "Erase" button to begin wiping the disk

Erase Disk

This process will securely erase all data on the selected disk, returning it to a blank state ready for a new macOS installation. According to Apple, Disk Utility‘s secure erase functionality makes it "nearly impossible" to recover any deleted files from the drive.

  1. When Disk Utility finishes erasing the disk, quit the application to return to the macOS Utilities window. Now select "Reinstall macOS" and click "Continue."

  2. Follow the on-screen prompts to select your freshly erased startup disk as the destination for the new macOS installation. Your MacBook Pro will download a new copy of macOS from Apple‘s servers and install it automatically. This process may take some time depending on your internet speed and the macOS version.

Alternatively, you can create a bootable USB installer for macOS ahead of time using another Mac. This allows you to factory reset without relying on Internet Recovery. Apple provides instructions for creating a USB installer on their support website.

  1. Once your MacBook Pro reboots after installing macOS, you‘ll be greeted by the Setup Assistant to configure it as a new machine. If you‘re resetting the laptop to prepare it for a new owner, you can simply shut it down at this point and let them complete the setup process. Otherwise, follow the prompts to set up macOS with your own information and preferences.

What to Do After Resetting Your MacBook Pro

Congratulations, you now have a freshly reset MacBook Pro in factory default state! Here are some steps you can take to get it set up the way you need:

  1. Restore Your Files – If you made a Time Machine or other complete backup before resetting, use Migration Assistant or manually copy your important files from the backup drive back onto the MacBook Pro. For cloud storage services, sign into the relevant apps to resync your files.

  2. Reinstall Apps – Open the App Store to locate and reinstall any apps you previously used and want to keep using on your reset MacBook Pro. For non-App Store apps, download the latest installers from the developer‘s official websites.

  3. Update Software – To ensure you have the latest features, security patches, and bug fixes, open System Preferences > Software Update to check for any available updates to macOS and install them. You can also enable automatic updates to streamline the process in the future.

  4. Customize Preferences – Adjust your MacBook Pro‘s various settings to your personal preferences, such as:

  • Desktop background and screen saver
  • Dock size and position
  • Mouse or trackpad settings
  • Energy Saver and power settings
  • Notification preferences
  • Account settings and Touch ID

Maintaining Your MacBook Pro‘s Performance

To keep your MacBook Pro running smoothly and avoid the need to factory reset again, follow these tips recommended by Apple Certified Mac Technicians:

  1. Keep Software Up-to-Date – Install the latest versions of macOS and your apps as they become available. These updates often include bug fixes, security patches, and performance improvements.

  2. Manage Storage Space – Regularly check your MacBook Pro‘s storage usage and remove unnecessary files and apps to maintain ample free space. Open the Apple menu > About This Mac > Storage to see a breakdown of how your storage is being used.

  3. Clear Caches and Temporary Files – Over time, app caches, log files, and other temporary data can accumulate and slow down performance. Use the built-in "Optimize Storage" tool or a reputable third-party cleaner app like CCleaner or CleanMyMac X to safely clear out this digital clutter.

  4. Backup Regularly – Get in the habit of backing up your MacBook Pro on a regular basis with Time Machine or another backup method. This ensures you can quickly recover your files in case of data loss or if you need to factory reset again in the future.

  5. Use Antivirus Software – Although Macs are less vulnerable to viruses than Windows PCs, they can still be infected. Protect your MacBook Pro with a trusted antivirus program like BitDefender, Norton, or Malwarebytes.

By following these best practices, you can help maintain your MacBook Pro‘s performance and security for the long haul.

When to Seek Professional Help

While resetting a MacBook Pro is usually a straightforward do-it-yourself process, there may be situations where you need expert assistance, such as:

  • Your MacBook Pro won‘t boot into Recovery Mode
  • The startup disk doesn‘t appear in Disk Utility
  • Disk Utility reports errors or can‘t erase the disk
  • The macOS installation process fails or freezes repeatedly
  • You‘re using an older version of macOS that doesn‘t support Internet Recovery
  • You‘re uncomfortable with any part of the factory reset process

In these cases, it‘s best to contact Apple Support online or by phone, visit an Apple Store Genius Bar, or consult with a certified Apple repair provider. They have specialized tools and expertise to diagnose and resolve issues that may be beyond the scope of this guide.


Resetting your MacBook Pro to factory settings may seem daunting, but it doesn‘t have to be. By backing up your data, signing out of your accounts, booting into Recovery Mode, and following the on-screen instructions, you can give your laptop a fresh start and restore its original performance.

Whether you need to troubleshoot issues, prepare the MacBook Pro for a new owner, or just start with a clean slate, a factory reset is a powerful tool to have in your arsenal. And by maintaining your MacBook Pro with regular software updates, backups, and prudent storage management, you can help prevent the need for frequent resets.

With this guide and some basic knowledge of how your MacBook Pro works, you can approach a factory reset with the confidence that you‘re taking the right steps to protect your data and breathe new life into your trusty Apple laptop.