How to Restore My MacBook to Factory Setting

by Jeff Grundy
You must have an active Ethernet or Wi-Fi Internet connection before you can restore OS X on your MacBook.

You must have an active Ethernet or Wi-Fi Internet connection before you can restore OS X on your MacBook.

Restoring your MacBook's factory default settings can be necessary in a number of situations. For example, if your MacBook ever becomes infected with malware or a poorly written application corrupts OS X settings, the operating system may become unstable or not boot at all. Another time you might want to restore default settings is when you plan to sell or give your MacBook to someone else. Restoring the MacBook's original settings and factory software erases any private or sensitive information you may have on the notebook and creates a clean slate for the new user so he can customize the laptop to suit his own needs.

Connect a USB hard drive to the MacBook and back up any important documents or personal data files before restoring the MacBook's factory default settings.

Connect an RJ-45 Ethernet cable to the MacBook or ensure that you have the wireless network login credentials need to access a nearby Wi-Fi router.

Shut down the MacBook laptop. Connect the AC power adapter to the MacBook and restart the laptop. As soon as the MacBook starts to reboot, press and hold the "Command-R" keys. Continue to hold the keys until the "Apple" icon appears on the display screen indicating that the MacBook is booting. After a few seconds, an Apple Desktop with an OS X menu bar and a "Mac OS X Utilities" window appears on the screen.

Click the Wi-Fi menu item in the Mac OS X Utilities window to configure wireless network access if connecting to a Wi-Fi router. Select the SSID or network name for the router from the list and enter a username and password for the network if required. If you are using a wired Ethernet connection to access the router, you do not need to configure wireless settings.

Click the "OS X Recovery" or "Internet Recovery" icon in the Mac OS X Utilities window -- the icon you see depends on the model of MacBook you own and the version of OS X installed on it -- then click "Reinstall OS X." Wait a few seconds for the laptop to connect to the Apple servers on the Internet. If you purchased your MacBook at an Apple store, the system prompts you for the Apple username and password for the account created when you bought the laptop. After connecting to the Apple servers, the MacBook downloads the latest version of OS X compatible with the laptop along with any other programs that shipped with the notebook. After downloading the required version of OS X and supporting applications, the OS X Recovery or Internet Recovery partitions and formats the hard drive and reinstalls the components automatically.

Click the "Restart" button when it appears in the Mac OS X Utilities window, then wait for the MacBook to reboot. Log in to OS X with your Apple username and password when prompted. After you log in to the MacBook, you find the desktop and other settings for the laptop returned to factory defaults.

Reconnect the USB hard drive to the MacBook and copy any saved documents or data files back to the laptop.


  • The image file for OS X is over 4GB in size. Consequently, it may take many hours to download and install the recovery operating system, depending on the speed of your Internet connection.


  • You must enable DHCP on your wired or wireless router before you can restore your MacBook with the OS X Recovery or Internet Recovery utility. DHCP enables the router to assign dynamic IP addresses to computers connected to it. If computers on your network use static IP addresses, configure and enable the DHCP server on the router before attempting to restore your MacBook.
  • You cannot connect directly to a DSL or cable modem when performing the system restore. To restore OS X on your MacBook, you must connect to the Internet through a router that supports DHCP and enables the connection protocol on the modem before assigning an IP address to the laptop.
  • Never attempt to restore OS X on your MacBook without first connecting the AC power adapter. It may take several hours to download and reinstall OS X on your MacBook. If the battery fails during the restore process, it could damage the hard drive.

About the Author

Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Photo Credits

  • Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images