How to Factory Reset MacBook Pro without Losing Data

There are times when factory resetting your MacBook Pro becomes a necessity. You may be planning to sell your MBP to someone else or trying to fix a software-based issue. You may already know that the process of resetting a Mac to factory settings is an easy task.

However, data loss is one of the key concerns people have while trying to reset their Macs. Just because you are selling your MacBook Pro to someone else doesn’t mean that you should lose everything you have stored on the device. This brings us to a question: can we factory reset MacBook Pro without losing data?

And the short answer is YES. By following the right procedure and a curated set of tools, you can reset your Mac to factory settings. While the reset process wipes your MacBook Pro SSD clean, there still are convenient ways to access what you have stored.

Without further ado, let’s check out how you can make this possible.

Part 1. Why Factory Reset Your MacBook Pro?

Here are some reasons why you may want to reset your MacBook Pro in the first place.

  • You want to sell or give away your MacBook Pro to someone. In this case, a proper factory reset can help you protect your data security and privacy. Besides, you make things easier for the new user.
  • You are facing some software-related issues on your MacBook. We are talking about persistent errors and bugs. Therefore, you need a solution that brings your MacBook Pro’s software side to normalcy.
  • You feel like you have a very cluttered Mac, filled with files and apps. A full factory reset can help you start afresh. We recommend this after upgrading to a major version of macOS — say, Big Sur.
  • You can try resetting your Mac if it is performing very slowly. In this case, a factory reset would work to clear various junk and temporary files from the system.

Regardless of the reason, we take it that you don’t want to lose your data. For instance, even if you’re about to sell, give away, or trade-in your MacBook Pro, you have to keep your data secure for the next device — it doesn’t have to be a Mac.

However, as we said, a regular data reset removes every bit of information from your MBP hard drive. That is why we have to take some precautions to prevent the loss of data. In this article, we have detailed every aspect that you should take care of.

Part 2. Set Up Your MacBook Pro for Factory Resetting

As we said, factory resetting is a straightforward process. However, there are a few precautions you have to follow if you want to prevent data loss.

1. Back Up Data from Your MacBook Pro

Because preventing data loss is our primary concern, we first have to back up essential data from your Mac. How much data you want to back up depends on why you are factory resetting your MacBook Pro. If you’re planning to sell your current MBP and get a new one, you may need a full backup. However, if you just want to start afresh, selective data backup would do the job.

We recommend two of the popular options, from which you can choose.

Method 1. Time Machine Backup

Time Machine is the official backup utility on macOS. You can use this tool to take continuous backups of the system and restore them with ease. You must note that the Time Machine supports only full system backup.

That is, when you take a Time Machine backup, you back up everything on your MacBook Pro — including files, applications, and system preferences. So, when you restore the backup, everything will be back to how it was. Though Time Machine allows you to exclude some directories, selective backup is not an option here.

Therefore, Time Machine is not the best option if you want to back up only some essential files for later use. So, if you are looking for selective backup, you should check out the second option. You should also keep in mind that the Time Machine app requires an external drive. You can’t back up your data to cloud services, either.

To back up your data using Time Machine, you have to.

Step 1. Connect a compatible Hard Drive or Flash Drive to your Mac

Step 2. Open System Preferences >> Time Machine

Step 3. In the upcoming window, click on Select Backup Disk and choose the external drive

Time Machine – select backup disk

You can also decide if you want to encrypt the backups.

Step 4. Choose to Erase your drive when asked to select an option

Time Machine - Erase

Step 5. Now, you can wait until Time Machine takes a complete backup of your Mac system.

You must keep in mind that these backups are not bootable. That is, you can restore contents from backups only after you have reinstalled macOS on your MacBook Pro. Time Machine also allows you to restore the backups to a new MacBook if you wish. So, this is ideal if you want to transfer your entire Mac experience from the old MacBook Pro to the new one.

Despite the shortcomings, Time Machine is the ideal solution if you would like to have a full backup of your Mac data.

Method 2. Get Backup Pro

Get Backup Pro is a professional-grade backup solution for Mac devices. Compared to Time Machine, it offers so much control and customizability over the back-up, cloning, and syncing functions.

Most importantly, Get Backup Pro allows you to select what you want to back up. It comes with an intuitive interface that can enable seamless management of backup projects. Besides, you can create bootable disk clones and synchronization triggers.

We recommend Get Backup Pro if you want to do a selective backup of data from your MacBook Pro. It also comes with options to select the desired folders/apps. You can even drag and drop files and folders that you need in the backup.

To back up your MacBook Pro data using Get Backup Pro, you have to

Step 1. Connect an external storage device to your MacBook Pro

Step 2. Open Get Backup Pro and choose the Backup tab

Step 3. Press the + button to add new Project

Get Backup Pro – Add new project

Step 4. Provide the name for the new project

Step 5. In the upcoming window, you have to choose some options, such as the destination and schedule. One thing to be noted here is that you don’t have to erase the external drive. Get Backup Pro is able to intelligently place the backup files in a separate folder. This is an awesome advantage compared to what Time Machine is offering.

Get Backup Pro – project details

Step 6. You can press OK, and Get Backup Pro would create the project.

Step 7. Now, you can use the File+ and AppData+ buttons to add content that you want to back up

Get Backup Pro – add files

Step 8. Now, you can wait until Get Backup Pro completes the backup process.

Get Backup Pro – processing

You will also receive a notification once the backup process is complete. By the way, if you don’t like having all your backups in a single location, you can create multiple projects and split the backup data.

2. Deauthorization of iTunes

This step is necessary if you are selling/trading-in your MacBook Pro. Deauthorization of iTunes means that you are disconnecting the MBP from your iTunes account. In case you didn’t know, you can only allow up to five devices to access your iTunes account/content.

Therefore, it is essential to deauthorize a device before you sell it to someone.

If You Are Using macOS Mojave or Earlier

  1. You have to open iTunes
  2. Go to Account >> Authorizations >> Deauthorize This Computer
  3. You may have to confirm your action once

Deauthorization of iTunes on Mac

If You Are Using macOS Catalina or Later

  1. Open the Music app
  2. Go to Account >> Authorizations >> Deauthorize This Computer
  3. You may have to confirm the action

As we said, this step will make things easier for the new owner.

3. Turn Off FileVault

FileVault is a technology that Apple computers use to encrypt the hard drives. You may want to turn this off before you give your MacBook Pro to someone else. Thankfully, the process is easy.

  1. Go to System Preferences
  2. Go to Security & Privacy and choose FileVault
  3. Click on the Lock icon and provide your account password
  4. Now, you can press the Turn Off FileVault button to proceed
  5. You may have to enter the password again to confirm the task

Turn off FileVault on Mac

4. Disable iCloud

It is also vital to unlink your MacBook Pro from your Apple iCloud account. In addition to making setup easier for the new user, this step will offer you enhanced privacy.

If you are using macOS Catalina or later,

  1. Go to System Preferences
  2. Click on Apple ID
  3. Choose Overview from the sidebar menu
  4. Now, press Sign Out
  5. Once you confirm, you are good to go

Disable iCloud on Mac

If you are using macOS Mojave or older,

  1. Go to System Preferences
  2. Choose iCloud
  3. Press on the Sign Out button
  4. Confirm your action when asked to

5. Sign Out of iMessage

You have to sign out of your iMessage account, especially if you want to sell the MacBook Pro to a stranger. To do this,

Sign out of iMessage on Mac

  1. Open iMessage
  2. Choose Messages >> Preferences
  3. Now, choose the iMessage tab and press on Sign Out

This process may take a few seconds, and you have to wait until the iMessage column is empty.

6. Erase Touch Bar Data

Last but not least, we have to get rid of Touch Bar data. This step will override any changes that you have made to the default arrangement of Touch Bar icons. Of course, you don’t need this step if you use a non-Touch Bar version of the MBP.

To do this,

Step 1. Open Terminal

Step 2. Enter the following command and press Enter

xartutil --erase-all

Step 3. In the next string, type Yes and press Enter

Step 4. Now, you can Quit the Terminal app

Now, you have cleared all your Touch Bar preferences.

Part 3. Reset Your MacBook Pro

Now that you have prepared your MacBook Pro for a factory reset, shall we check out the process?

Before we begin, make sure that,

  • Your MacBook Pro is connected to a power source or has more than 80% battery
  • You have a stable internet connection (wired or wireless) with good download speeds

If these are fine, you can begin with the first step.

Step 1. Restart Your MacBook Pro

1. Go to the Apple menu and choose Restart

2. When your MBP is restarting, press and hold the Command + R keys.

3. macOS may ask you to choose a language.

4. This should open up the macOS Utilities.

macOS Utilities

You should be able to see the macOS Recovery window, as shown above.

Step 2. Erase the Hard Drive via Disk Utility

1. Choose Disk Utility from the available options and press Continue

2. In the upcoming window, choose the main drive from the sidebar menu. In the screenshot, the drive is named Apple SSD.

3. Click on the Erase button on the top toolbar and a dialogue box would appear. Here, you can provide the Name and Format for the new drive. You have to choose AFPS for the best experience. Similarly, you have to choose GUID Partition Map as the Scheme of the drive.

Erase ssd

4. Press on the Erase button on the bottom and wait for a few seconds while your Mac erases the hard drive.

5. Once you get a Success message, you can quit the Disk Utility

Step 3. Reinstall macOS

Now, you will be back on the macOS Utilities interface. From here, we can reinstall macOS from scratch.

1. From the options, choose Reinstall macOS and press Continue

Reinstall macOS

2. In the next window, you have to select the partition where you have to install macOS

3. Make sure that you have connected to the internet connection

4. Once the download is complete, you can see an Installer window, as shown below.

Set up the installation of macOS Catalina

5. Press Continue and follow the instructions, as shown on the screen.

Once the installation is done, you can see the Setup Wizard, which asks you to enter your details.

Set up Mac

If you plan to sell your Mac, you can stop everything at this point and shut the lid. You can confidently hand over the device to the new owner or the trade-in program.

However, if you’d like to have a fresh start, it’s time to enter your Apple ID and get started. The Wizard would also ask you to set your preferences on FileVault, Siri, Find My Mac, etc.

Once you have done that, we can move to the data restore section.

Part 4. Restore Files from the Backup

In case you forgot, we had taken the full/selective backups of the MacBook Pro in the beginning. Now that your Mac is set up, we have to restore the content you need.

Method 1. Restore Time Machine Backup

You could have done this while setting up your Mac. However, if you haven’t, don’t worry. macOS ships with a Migration Assistant to make this task easier. To restore data from a Time Machine backup,

Step 1. Make sure that you have connected the external drive where you stored the Time Machine backup.

Step 2. Now, go to Finder >> Applications >> Utilities >> Migration Assistant.

Migration assistant

Step 3. Please note that the Assistant will quit all other apps. You can press Continue to proceed.

Step 4. Now, your Mac will ask you to select the source you’d like to restore the content.

Step 5. You can choose From a Mac, Time Machine backup, or another startup disk.

Choose Time Machine on Migration Assistant

Step 6. Now, your Mac will start searching for potential Time Machine capsules connected to the device.

Select Time Machine drive

Step 7. In case you want to move data from another Mac, you can choose that option as well.

Now, you have to wait until the Migration Assistant completes the task. Once this is done, you can start using the new Mac with all the files and apps you had in the previous one.

Method 2. Restore from Get Backup Pro Backup

If you had chosen the Pro option, you have advanced control over restoring the data from the external drive to the MacBook Pro. This seems convenient when you are getting a fresh start with your MacBook Pro, but you don’t want to paste everything from the system.

To make this work, you have to,

Step 1. Connect the external drive, in which you had stored the Get Backup Pro backup file

Step 2. Open Get Backup Pro and press the ‘Restore’ button that you can see at the bottom

Get Backup Pro - Restore

Step 3. Get Backup Pro will automatically detect the latest backup file from the connected drive

Step 4. You can choose the desired restore location and the files you want to restore

Get Backup Pro – Restore to custom folder

Step 5. You can press the Restore or Restore Selected button and wait

Step 6. Get Backup Pro will notify you once it has restored everything to the selected location

As you can see, this method works equally fine when you have a full and partial data backup with you. More importantly, it is good to have control over everything you do.


We hope we have covered everything you should know about factory resetting MacBook Pro without losing data. As you may have noticed, we have recommended only the most trusted options out there. The choices we have covered are either from official Apple guides or based on our reliability tests. So, in the long run, these tools will help you manage your data and Mac in a better way.

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