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If you plan to sell or transfer your Mac to a new owner, you’ll need to take some important steps in advance and not just hand over the device as-is. We’ll go through exactly what you should do before you ever change ownership of your Mac, including backing up all your files and data, deauthorizing your computer through iTunes, wiping all data to secure so that no future owner can access your old things, and finally. , installing OS X restarts so cleanly that the Mac starts up in the original setup menus as if it were brand new.

On with us!

1: Backup everything using Time Machine

Backup Time MachineThe first thing you want to do is backup all your important Mac. Because many apps can be re-downloaded from the App Store, this means focusing primarily on important files and documents stored on your computer.

As usual, the easiest way to make a full backup of your Mac is with Time Machine. Start a last minute manual backup to keep everything on your Mac:

  • Connect your Time Machine drive to your Mac, then pull down the Time Machine menu icon and select “Backup Now”

This backs up everything on your Mac: apps, files, data, pictures, media, customizations, literally everything. In addition, Time Machine allows you to easily transfer everything to a new machine using Migration Assistant. You can also access critical files that were once on your Mac if you need them again in the future, even if you’ve already moved to another computer.

If you don’t plan on using Time Machine, at least take the time to back up your important files yourself. This might be a better solution if you only want to keep two or two folders in your home directory, say Documents and Photos, and you can copy them directly to an external hard drive or attached USB key. If you have any doubts about keeping certain files, it’s always better to play it safe and back up everything instead of Time Machine.

2: Deauthorize your computer from iTunes

iTunes authorizes individual computers to access DRM (protected) content, and DRM-protected content, such as movies and music, can only be used on up to five Macs. So if you end up owning a Mac, you should first remove your Mac license so that it no longer takes up authorized space. This is very easy to do:

  • Launch iTunes, then pull down the Store menu and select “Deauthorize this PC”

Deauthorize iTunes

Don’t worry, if you decide to change your mind and keep ownership of your Mac, you can always reauthorize your computer through the same menu.

3: Erase the hard disk securely to erase all data

Now that you’ve backed up everything and deauthorized your computer via iTunes, you’ll want to securely erase your entire hard drive so that new owners can’t recover any of your personal information. To do this, restart your Mac from recovery mode and align the primary partition with a protected format:

  • Restart your Mac and hold down the Option key, then select the recovery partition from the boot menu
  • Select “Disk Utility” from the OS X Utilities menu
  • Select the main partition on your hard drive (usually a Macintosh HD) and click the “Erase” tab.
  • Click on the “Security Settings” button and select “7-Pass Erase” (very secure) or “35-Pass Erase” (very secure but much slower) and then click “OK”
  • Click “Erase” to format the drive

Safely wipe all data on your Mac

This may take some time depending on the security method you choose. The 35-pass lasts the longest because it replaces the data on the disk 35 times if you choose that method to wait a while, especially on larger hard drives.

Note for Mac with SSD / Flash storage: Removing the drive is enough for Mac users with an SSD drive, and the security options are deliberately locked down in Disk Utility (although there is a workaround if you’re committed to privacy). This is because it is very difficult to recover data from an SSD in the first place, because of how flash storage works in TRIM to save, replace and delete blocks on the drive.

When you’re done, exit Disk Utility and return to the OS X Utilities menu to continue to the last step.

4: Reinstall OS X.

You are almost done! The final step is to simply reinstall OS X so that the new owner gets the Mac just as if it were new, complete initial setup and all. If you do not use a bootable USB drive, this process requires an Internet connection to retrieve the installer from Apple’s servers:

  • In recovery mode, still select “Reinstall OS X” from the OS X Utilities menu screen (press and hold Option to restart if you are no longer in recovery)
  • Click “Continue” and select the newly formatted “Macintosh HD” partition, then click “Install”

OS X Installer Screen

OS X will be reinstalled, leaving a clean new installation on your Mac. When you’re done, your Mac will start up as if it were new when you first got it, home screen and all.

If you don’t give your Mac to a family member, you probably don’t want to do the new setup yourself, but leave it as is so the new owner can go through the configuration process themselves.

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