If you’ve bought a new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac or Mac Mini recently, there’s a good chance it’s using Apple’s own processor, the Apple Silicon M1, instead of an Intel chip. In your day-to-day use, you likely won’t notice any difference at all, and that’s a good thing. However, when it comes time to reset your new Mac, either because you’re selling it or troubleshooting, there are completely new steps to completely wipe your Mac.
More specifically, the steps to access Recovery Mode, the tool you need to use to reset your Mac, have changed. Below I’ll walk you through how you’ll get to Recovery Mode and how to use all of the options it includes. (Side note: The easiest way to tell if you have an M1 Mac is to click on the Apple icon in the menu bar followed by About This Mac and look at the Chip section.)
And as a forewarning, I experienced an issue after wiping the Mac and trying to reinstall MacOS. From what I can tell, it doesn’t look like the problem is widespread, but it’s still frustrating for those who experience it. At the bottom of this post, I’ll go over troubleshooting steps and explain how I fixed it.
How to access MacOS Recovery on an Apple Silicon Mac
For as long as I can remember, forcing a Mac to boot into Recovery Mode where you can repair the hard drive, wipe your personal information or reinstall MacOS has consisted of restarting the computer and holding Command + R on the keyboard.
That trick will no longer work on an Apple Silicon Mac. In fact, the new process is much easier. Turn off the computer, and then press and hold the power button. When the Apple logo first appears, you’ll see text just below it letting you know to continue holding it in to access startup options. Keep pressing the button for about 5 seconds until the text switches to “Loading startup options.” Next, click Options > Continue.
Select a user with administrator privileges and enter the account password when asked.
The new recovery tool gives you a few options
After signing into a user account, you’ll see a partial list of recovery options.
Restore from Time Machine: Use this option if you want to restore your Mac from a previous Time Machine backup. This is helpful if you’ve lost a bunch of files, changed settings, or installed an app that’s caused severe issues with your Mac.
Reinstall MacOS: If you’re having issues with MacOS, you can try this option to reinstall the latest version of MacOS without deleting any of your files or losing any data.
Safari: You can use Apple’s browser to search and troubleshoot how to fix your Mac.
Disk Utility: The tool you’ll use to repair, troubleshoot or erase your hard drive.
In the menu bar at the top of the screen you’ll also have access to other apps and tools like Terminal, Share Disk and Startup Security Utility.
Erase the hard drive, reinstall MacOS
To completely remove all of your information from the hard drive and reinstall MacOS, open Disk Utility and then select the internal disk labeled Macintosh HD. If there’s an option title Erase Volume Group, check the box. Otherwise, click Erase and follow the prompts. Leave the volume name and format alone, but for reference, it normally is “Macintosh HD” for the name and you should use AFPS for the format.
A few seconds later, the hard drive will be completely wiped, taking with it all of your files, user accounts and apps.
Once that’s done, close Disk Utility and then select Reinstall MacOS from the list of options. You’ll be asked to select where you want it installed, which should be Macintosh HD (or whatever name you gave your hard drive if you decided to change it).
Your Mac will then download the latest version of MacOS, install it, and when it’s finished, it’ll be as if it was never set up.
I ran into two issues, but here’s the fix
I followed the steps I outlined above — the steps Apple recommends on its support page — but ultimately ran into an issue when trying to reinstall MacOS. I kept getting an error message that there wasn’t an authorized user available to approve the installation. A quick internet search led me to this Reddit thread where others who’ve run into the same issue were offering advice.
Ultimately what I ended up doing to complete the restore was use the Disk Utility to select the “Data” drive that’s grayed out and erase it, as well. Once it was erased (again, using AFPS format when promoted), I was able to install MacOS with no issues.
But my problem didn’t stop there. I was unable to create a new user account after reinstalling MacOS. Instead, the test MacBook Pro would freeze when I tried to create the default user account. Thankfully, that same Reddit thread has a solution for this as well. It’s a bit technical, but worked for me. You can find the details here, should you run into the same issue.
Once you have your Mac reset, you can return it, sell it to someone, or set it back up with a clean slate. Ready to become a MacOS Pro? Here are some tips that will help make you one.