What To Do Before Giving Away Your Mac

Prepare your Mac for its new owner.
2 hours

It can be really confusing to know what to do before giving away, selling, trading in, or recycling a Mac. Often, Mac users forget to do anything at all, not erasing their private information or taking minimal steps that put them at risk.

Alternatively, if the original Mac user doesn't properly prepare their Mac for the new owner, that new owner might find that they have difficulty signing in to iCloud, the App Store, iTunes, or having other macOS related technical issues.

So, it's really important that Mac users take the necessary measures to protect their old data and make sure their old Mac is ready to go to its new user. In this guide, I show Mac users what to do before they give away, sell, trade in, or recycle and old Mac.

Before you begin, consider checking out our guide on What to Look for When Buying a Used Mac. Now, let's get started!

Note: Please know that the below steps changed with the distribution of the M1 Mac or the Mac with a T2 chip, so the steps for Macs prior to the M1 Mac or Mac with a T2 chip may be slightly different from the ones below.

MacBook Pro ×1

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Save Your Data

Before you do anything, it's important to make sure your data is safe and sound. If there's anything you want to keep, make sure to find a safe place for that data. There are a few ways to make sure you put your data in a safe place:

How to save your data

  1. Backup your Mac- By backing up your Mac, you save everything! This means that you don't have to sift through your data, picking and choosing what to keep. This is the most reliable option for saving data on an old Mac, and the one I recommend. Time Machine, a built-in feature on Macs, allows Mac users to easily back up their data.
  2. Transfer desired files- If you don't want everything on your computer, you can choose to transfer certain files via a flash drive, leaving others behind. This is a risky option because Mac users are often unaware of what they want until they no longer have that data.
  3. Transfer data to a new Mac- If you've gotten a new Mac, and you are getting rid of an old Mac, you can use Migration Assistant to transfer your data to your new Mac. While this is a reasonably good option, there are always potential issues that can happen during data transfers like Migration Assistant. It is still preferable to have a backup and get into the good habit of backing up.
  4. iCloud- iCloud is not a reliable option for transferring data or for making sure your data is safe on a Mac. Macs cannot back up to iCloud. While iOS devices can, Macs never hold all of your data. Even if you are using iCloud to sync data, it's only holding some of your data, and because it's reliant on Wi-Fi, it can be unreliable. This is not to say iCloud isn't a great way to sync and store some data, just not all, and certainly not the only method Mac users should depend on.

Suffice it to say, before you move on, backing up is really important.

Sign Out of iCloud

Signing out of iCloud ensures that it is free for the next user to use it and not holding your private, Apple ID information.

If you use Find My on your Mac, in order to protect your information and more easily find a lost or stolen Mac, this step is absolutely essential. You will not be able to trade it in, the buyer of the Mac will not be able to fully use it, and your information will be at risk.

How to sign out of iCloud:

  1. Click the Apple Logo in the upper left-hand corner
  2. Select "System Preferences"
  3. Click "Apple ID"
  4. Click "Sign Out"
Sign Out of iTunes

Signing out of iTunes (A.K.A the Music app) allows the new owner of your Mac the ability to sign in to iTunes properly and without issue. Depending on the version of macOS your Mac has, you will want to deauthorize your Mac before signing out. This is to allow you the ability to use your Apple ID for iTunes on the devices you love and use after giving away your old Mac.

If you have a Mac with Catalina or later, you may only need to deauthorize your Mac.

How to deauthorize your Apple for iTunes:

  1. Open iTunes
  2. Click "Account"
  3. Select "Authorize"
  4. Click "Deauthorize this Computer"
  5. Enter your credentials

How to sign out of iTunes:

  1. Open iTunes
  2. Click "Account" in the Menu Bar
  3. Click "Sign Out"
  4. Enter your Apple ID credentials to complete signing out
Sign Out of iMessage

Signing out of iMessage is another important step you don't want to skip. Your device list is impacted by what devices you are signed in to, making syncing messages tricky is multiple Macs are listed. It could cause potential problems for the next user of the Mac.

How to sign out of iMessage

  1. Open iMessage
  2. Click "Messages" in the upper-left hand corner of the Menu Bar
  3. Click "Preferences"
  4. Select "iMessage"
  5. Click "Sign Out"
Unpair Unneeded Devices

Removing Bluetooth devices is not an essential step, but can be important if the new owner of your Mac lives in the same home or within Bluetooth range. It would be a bit frustrating if your Bluetooth devices kept connecting to their Mac. Disconnecting them now will save you the trouble.

How to unpair Bluetooth devices:

  1. Click the Control Center icon
  2. Select "Bluetooth Preferences"
  3. Click the "x" to the left
  4. Select "Remove"
Erase and Reinstall the macOS
Apple Support

This process, erasing and reinstalling the macOS on your Mac, will erase all the data on your Mac so that the new Mac owner won't have access to it. It also clears up space on the Mac so that the new user can use it how they'd like.

How to erase and reinstall the macOS:

  1. Shut down your Mac
  2. Hold down Command + R while starting up your Mac.
  3. If you are asked for a User login and password, click your user and password.
  4. Click "Disk Utility."
  5. Click "Macintosh HD." If you do not see Macintosh HD, you may have renamed your hard drive, or may need to click "View" above the disk drop down.
  6. Click "Erase."
  7. Click "Erase" again or "Erase Volume Group." If you have the "Erase Volume Group" option, click it. If you don't, simply erase.
  8. If your disk is locked, you may be asked for Apple ID credentials. Enter them and move to the next step.
  9. Quit Disk Utility in the upper-left hand corner
  10. Click Reinstall macOS and follow the on-screen steps

NVRAM erases any lingering settings, and is an incredibly easy reset.

How to reset the NVRAM on your Mac:

  1. Shut down the mac
  2. While starting up the Mac, hold down the following buttons: Command + P + R for about 20 seconds. You will generally see the Apple logo appear, disappear, and reappear again.
Startup to Setup

Make sure the Mac starts up to set up so that you know the next user can set up and use the Mac.

Create a new user ion your Mac in under three minutes.
3 minutes

If you have multiple people in your household that share the same Mac, or want to create a New User for a temporary guest that includes more access to the macOS like saving documents, you'll want to create a New User. Creating a new user protects the data and information on your user account from being tampered with, accidentally deleted, or accessed by someone you'd rather not see that information. While Macs always come with a Guest User, Guest Users have so few capabilities that creating a new user may be necessary. After all, Guest Users can't even properly save information for later access. So, if you need to create a new user for a friend, child, family member, or guest, follow the steps in this guide so that you can keep your information and data safe, and they can do what they need to do! When you're done, check out our guide on How to Delete a User on a Mac!