How to Erase M1 Mac Before Returning It

If you plan on trading in your existing MacBook or sell it, then the one important step before you give away your machine is to factory reset it, so that all the data that you stored and used on the laptop gets erased and doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

In this post, we’ll explain to you things you should know before you proceed to erase your M1 Mac, whether the process is the same as resetting an older MacBook, and how you can get it done without any issue. Let’s get started.

Why do you need to erase data before returning a Mac

You can factory reset your MacBook or any Mac device for safely erasing all of the data inside of it before you move on to your next device. This way, you can be sure that your data doesn’t fall into the hands of the wrong person and isn’t misused by anyone else. Besides this, there are a bunch of reasons why you might want to erase data on your Mac:

  • To reset user data before selling or trading in your Mac/MacBook
  • To remove unwanted software that you otherwise can’t uninstall
  • To make your Mac faster with a complete refresh

Is the erase and restore process the same as that on Intel-based Macs?

No. Unlike on Intel-based Macs, Apple’s own M1-based Macs will require you to use a different method to access the macOS Recovery tool. In earlier Macs, you were able to get to the macOS Recovery screen by simply pressing and holding the Command (⌘) and R keys after powering ON your system.

Using the same set of keys on the new MacBook doesn’t bring up the macOS Recovery tool since Apple has changed the way you can access it on the new Macs powered by the M1 chip. The guide below will help you better understand how you may be able to erase and restore Apple M1 Macs easily.

Supported Mac devices to use this Erase method

The following Mac computers are the only supported devices that can be erased using the restore method in this post:

  • MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2020)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • Mac mini (2020)

How to erase and restore M1 Mac before returning it

You can proceed to factory reset your Apple Silicon-powered Mac without needing any set of additional tools. To get started with the erase and restore process, you can turn ON your Mac by pressing the power button. After turning it ON, press and hold on the power button until the startup options pop up.

On this screen, select ‘Options’ (the one marked with a cogwheel icon) and then click on the ‘Continue’ button.

When the Mac boots into macOS Recovery,  you will need to select the administrator account from the list of options and then enter the password to gain access to erase the user data.

You will now be able to see the utilities window in macOS Recovery. Here, select ‘Disk Utility’ and then click on the ‘Continue’ button below.

Inside the Disk Utility screen, wait for the drives to load and then select the ‘Macintosh HD’ drive from the left sidebar.

On the right-hand side of this screen, click on the ‘Erase’ button at the top. When the ‘Erase Macintosh HD’ dialog pops up, click on the ‘Erase Volume Group’. This is a necessary step, as all of the data inside your Mac will now be removed and the recovery tool will now create a new volume as “Macintosh HD”.

To complete the erasing process, click on ‘Done’ and then close the Disk Utility by pressing Command (⌘) and Q keys on your keyboard or by going to Disk Utility > Quit Disk Utility from the menu bar at the top.

Now, you can install a fresh copy of macOS Big Sur by selecting the ‘Reinstall macOS Big Sur’ from the Utilities window and then clicking ‘Continue’.

You can follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation process, press on ‘Continue’ and then agree on Apple’s terms and conditions to use its software by clicking ‘Agree’.

You will be asked to select the disk you want to install the new copy of macOS on. Select ‘Macintosh HD’ as your option and click on ‘Continue’.

macOS Recovery will now start installing a new copy of macOS Big Sur on your MacBook or Mac device. Your Mac device will restart a few times, so wait a while before the installation gets completed.

After your installation is complete, the setup assistant will appear when you boot up your Mac. If you have decided to give away your Mac, then you might not want to enter your details and log in using your credentials in this system. You’ll thus need to quit the setup assistant by pressing Command + Q keys on your keyboard and then click on Shut Down to keep it ready for the next user to use it.

How to fix “Failed to personalize the software update” error

Some users are facing issues when following the method above to reinstall macOS on their new Apple M1 Macs. When trying to wipe macOS back to its factory settings, users are unable to reinstall macOS from macOS Recovery and are instead getting an error message that reads “An error occurred while preparing the update. Failed to personalize the software update. Please try again”.

If you’ve run into this error, Apple has offered the following fix that would let you solve the problem and complete the restoring process. You don’t need any tool other than your Mac to try to fix the issue using this method.

To get started, turn ON your Mac, and immediately after the power ON sequence commences, press and hold the power button until you can see the startup options window. In this window, select ‘Options’, and then click on ‘Continue’.

Enter your username and password to get to the Utilities window. When this window pops up, go to the Menu bar, click on ‘Utilities’, and then select the ‘Terminal’ option.

When the Terminal window appears, type “resetpassword” and then press the Return key on your keyboard. This should open the Reset Password window. Click this window to make it active, and then head over to Recovery Assistant > Erase Mac from the menu bar.

In the window that opens next, click on ‘Erase Mac’ and then confirm the process by clicking on ‘Erase Mac’ to confirm. Your Mac will restart when this process is complete.

Select a preferred language during the startup screen, and then you will have to activate macOS by clicking on ‘macOS Utilities’ after startup.

You will need an active internet connection for the activation process and after the activation is complete, you can click on the ‘Exit to Recovery Utilities’ option. Apple suggests that you perform the reset password and activation process at least twice to get the error resolved.

After this, you can proceed to install a fresh copy of macOS Big Sur as you did in the previous section which is selecting the ‘Reinstall macOS Big Sur’ from within the Utilities window.

What else can you do?

If you’re greeted with the personalization error when restoring macOS as a new copy, then you are forced to use the Apple Configurator to resolve the problem. For this, you may need the following devices and tools to get the issue resolved:

  • A secondary Mac running macOS Catalina 10.15.6 or later
  • Apple Configurator 2 installed on the secondary Mac
  • A USB-C to USB-C charging cable
  • A USB-A to USB-C cable

Apple has neatly explained what you may need to do to erase and reset your M1 Mac when the firmware revival process is unsuccessful. You can check this Apple Support page for a detailed walkthrough on what to do to restore your Mac using a secondary MacBook or any other Mac device. Keep in mind that this method requires you to establish a physical connection between your M1 Mac and your secondary Mac device.

Was the above guide helpful in erasing and resetting your Mac to its factory condition?


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Ambivalent, unprecedented, and on the run from everyone's idea of reality. A consonance of love for filter coffee, cold weather, Arsenal, AC/DC, and Sinatra.


  1. Didn’t mention any of the “activate mac” windows that pop up before you can reinstall Big Sur. I thought I bricked it. Otherwise, good stuff, thanks.

  2. No, I only get a message say Have tried everything I have founf on the net, but nothing works even with 2 macs. I do not believe I will use a Macbook Air with M1 one more time. It is now ready for my dustbin.

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