How to Restore MacBook to Factory Settings

There comes a time when a man has to accept there are other things in this world and as with anyone working in an IT background such as myself I naturally geared towards Microsoft way of things and more specifically Windows for any corporate environment.

heroMy previous IT job was primarily Windows based and this place I am working for now is no different.

However I’ve been lately tempted to experiment with the Apple side of things, more specifically their desktop OS, with Mountain Lion and with their recent changes to make their desktop OS’s more corporate friendly I said to myself “why not give it a try” and I have to say I am quite impressed thus far (although it has only been a mere couple of weeks).

Given the amount of tinkering and configuring that I am doing with a shiny new MacBook Air, there has been a couple of occasions where I needed to just to a restore on the operating system and we all know you normally do not get any bundled disks with a MacBook and so I wondered how would go about restoring and here is how to do it:

How to Restore MacBook to Factory Settings

  1. Start Computer up, holding OPTION key
  2. You should now see two hard drive icons, select the one labelled “Recovery”
  3. Select your language
  4. Click on Disc Utility
  5. Click on Macintosh HD
  6. Select the “Erase” tab
  7. Erase the Disc
  8. Now go back to OSX Utilities – Select “Reinstall OSX”
    The recovery setup should be smart enough to download the latest licensed Operating System for your computer (in my case it was Mountain Lion 10.8.3)
  9. Reinstall to Macintosh HD

And there you have it, I have to say quite user friendly and fairly quick too, obviously depending on your internet connection.

Along the way, I will be providing a few more Mac tips and some minor annoyances I’ve come across and their fixes in the coming posts, stay tuned.

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31 thoughts on “How to Restore MacBook to Factory Settings

  1. Teoni

    Hi I have done the following steps but I don’t see Macintosh HD in disk utilities I only have have 121.33 GB APPLE SSD TS… and untitled. And then underneath I see disk 1 and MAC OS X BASE System so what do I use to reset? ( I have a refurbished MacBook Air)


    1. tokyojerry

      That’s all you are suppose to see. As the instructions express, #7 – Erase the Disc. Exit DU, and then Re-install the OS-X. That simple. Just did it this even for my wife’s 2012 Macbook Air, replaced with the just released Intel Haswell processor-based model (2013-06).

      1. Paula

        Hi I’ve reset my MacBook Air but I didn’t reinstall the OS it’s brand new and will only turn on in Internet recovery mode but this doesn’t seem to be doing anything I can’t have broken it that easily can I? I’ve only had it a few hrs and only did a reset because I’d synced it with my mac computer but decided I didn’t need to and just wanted to take that off.


  2. Ayush

    Is this method going to work if I currently run Mac OS X 10.5.8? It’s not gonna screw up things, right?

  3. Wendy

    For some reason, when I press OPTION while starting up, it only gives me the Mac HD option and no recovery. Why is this?

  4. Kelly

    When I press the control button only one hard drive appears. There is no recovery drive. Please advise

    1. kevin Post author

      Hi Kelly,

      What version of Mac OS are you running? And just confirming, you’re pressing “OPTION” key and not control?

  5. Steve

    Kelly, this usually means that you have no recovery drive. You will most likely need the discs that were supplied with your MacBook. Maybe you should try getting advice from your local Apple shop as they should be able to advise you of your options.

  6. mike

    Hi, I’m fixing my friends MacBook. It’s an older model(a1181) and when it gets past the loading screen it comes to another blank screen and the only thing I see is the mouse. I just booted up and pressed the option key but only one hard drive showed up. There was no recovery option. Can you possibly explain what’s wrong?

    1. kevin Post author

      If it’s only one drive, that means then either the recovery partition has been deleted or it never was created in the first place when macbook was purchased. I am unfortunately not too familiar with the older OS versions whether they all had recovery partitions. In this case, Apple store might be a best option.

  7. Dolores

    Hi there!
    I have the same problem as Kelly. I just get the option of one drive and it is not the recovery drive. I am pressing option key while starting. I have MacBook MacOSX version 10.6.8.


    1. kevin Post author

      Hi this means you unfortunately don’t have a recovery drive. In which case, usually Apple store might be a better option it looks like.

    2. Rose

      I had to hold down COMMAND + R keys during startup until the apple logo appeared. That got me to the correct screen. Holding down OPTION only logged me into regular system.

      Here’s the article on support about restarting in recovery mode:

      On MacBook Air 2011
      OS 10.8.4 (i think anyway, it’s currently being wiped so I can’t look that up)

  8. Mike

    Hey! I got it erased and downloaded OS X 8.5 I believe, but when it is installing, it get down to 5 mins left, and I get an error, saying try again. I’ve done this three times. Ideas?

  9. Melinda smith

    Thanks for the easy tips! I was having issues with slowness and some unstable apps and wanted to clean boot. My 2009 MacBook had the recovery partition and is downloading the latest OS X now! You might want to explicitly call out that your steps will require your machine to be connected to the Internet to work without a disk.

    1. kevin Post author

      Yes that is correct you will need to have a ready internet connection. Also keep in mind depending on your version it could be a hefty download.

  10. Art

    If not recovery drive, then use the OS that came with the Mac. Usually come in 2 DVDs depending on the version you own. If you are trying with the new iMac – late 2012 to 2013, the Mac doenst even have a Dvd unit, so, the Kevin’s solution shown in this page is the right path to follow. I did it and worked fine. Btw, thanks Kevin.

    You could also try to create a booteable USB thumbdrive and start from there too. Best regards guys.

  11. Ken

    Thanks Kevin. Pretty simple.
    Although I had to wire connect to my modem instead of using my WiFi
    The WiFi connection drops off sometimes and with a 2 hour download it just wouldn’t stay stable long enough to complete.

  12. Curt Owens

    Hi there. With the help of your post and the comments of your readers, your blog really help me in restoring my Mac. Thanks so much. An easy step by step is what I need.

  13. Ali Saifullizan

    Hello Kevin,

    I could not find any hard drive icons with labelled “Recovery”.
    How it could be like that?

  14. DannyTT

    Hi Kevin, when starting up my laptop while holding the option key, I don’t see a recovery hard drive, I only see Macintosh HD, there’s only one hard drive that I see, please help?


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