How to Get Your MacBook Ready to Sell

Photo: David Murphy

I’m getting rid of my MacBook. It’s nothing personal; I have to swap out my G/O Media-owned device for another, slightly slower MacBook. It’s an annoying process, but it doesn’t take a lot of time. In fact, it probably took me more time to come up with the “checklist of things I should do before you get rid of your MacBook” than to do the actual work.

And now, Lifehacker readers, I impart that knowledge to you. Regardless of the reason, there will one day come a time when you’ll be looking to get rid of your MacBook. When you do, there are a few things you’ll want to do to your trusty laptop before you send it off into the sunset—to ensure data security, a smooth transition, and no hiccups for whoever owns it next (unless it’s going right into the recycling bin).

Turn off FileVault

If you’ve been using FileVault, your Mac’s handy full-disk encryption feature, you’ve been living life secure and happy. However, now that you’re getting rid of your MacBook, it’s time to turn this off. It sounds like the exact opposite of what you’d want to do, I know, but you’ll be wiping your drive and reinstalling a fresh copy of macOS. Disabling FileVault will ensure this process goes smoothly—and it’s a good step to take if you’re looking to reset your Mac back to “factory default” settings.

Screenshot: David Murphy

Click on the Apple logo in the upper-left corner of your MacBook and click on System Preferences. From there, click on Security & Privacy, and then the FileVault tab, to turn the feature off. Depending on the speed of your MacBook and how much data you have, the decryption process could take anywhere from tens of minutes to a few hours.

Turn off Find My Mac

This is probably a superfluous step, but it doesn’t take very long and it’s something you always have to do when you’re getting rid of an iPhone or iPad. So, why not?

Screenshot: David Murphy

I like to take a minute to make sure I’m no longer using Find My Mac on my soon-to-be-gone MacBook. You won’t be able to toggle this off within the app itself; instead, visit your MacBook’s System Preferences and click on iCloud. Uncheck Find My Mac, type in your password for your iCloud account, and you’ll be set.

Deauthorize your computer

I always forget this step, and I invariably have to reset all of my iTunes authorizations more frequently than most. Before you box up your MacBook and ship it off to wherever it’s going, pull up iTunes—or if you’re on macOS Catalina, the new Music and Apple TV apps—and deauthorize your system via the Account menu (and then “Authorizations,” naturally).

Screenshot: David Murphy

If you don’t do this, then you’ll have to deauthorize everything once you hit five authorized computers and you want to access your account (and all your purchased media) on another. You can only do this once per year, but most people don’t need to authorize that many systems so much.

Unlink other accounts

This one is particular based on how many other services you’ve integrated with your device. However, it doesn’t hurt to deauthorize your MacBook with other services like Google or Dropbox (to name two I use frequently).

Screenshot: David Murphy

If you use some subscription service that limits how many devices you can use, make sure you’ve done this before you ditch your MacBook—especially if the only way to do this after-the-fact is to deauthorize everything, which will require you to sign back in on your other devices.

Sync your Messages to iCloud

If you’ve been doing a ton of chatting on your MacBook, and you want to reference these conversations later, make sure you’re synchronizing your messages to iCloud. Open up the Messages app and click on Messages, and then Preferences. Click on iMessage, and select “Enable Messages in iCloud” for your account. Click “Sync Now” to start the process, and give it a little time to throw everything onto the cloud (viewable by any other Apple device with a similar setting enabled).

Screenshot: David Murphy

While you’re at it, you might as well synchronize other data you aren’t already sending to Apple’s cloud—like your Notes, Contacts, Reminders, et cetera—via the iCloud option in System Preferences (or Apple Account and then iCloud, if you’re already in macOS Catalina).

Log out of iCloud

This one’s easy, and it helps ensure that your old MacBook will never be associated with your iCloud account going forward—especially useful for the buyer, who would likely prefer you to have no visibility whatsoever into where they are.

Pull up System Preferences, click on iCloud, (or Apple Account, in macOS Catalina), and click on “Sign Out.” Your MacBook will ensure that your data is correctly synced to the cloud, but you can skip this process if you know everything is already there.

Screenshot: David Murphy

Once you’ve done this, pull up iCloud’s Settings page—on the web—and confirm that your MacBook is no longer listed as one of your devices. If it is, click on it and remove it.

Screenshot: David Murphy

Back up your stuff

You could put this step anywhere, really. Whenever you do it, make sure you do a thorough scrub of your device to ensure that everything critical to you is backed up elsewhere. Whether you’re dumping your photos (or data) to another cloud service, cloning a drive in Disk Utility, dragging and dropping your critical files to a USB-connected external drive, or making ample use of Time Machine, spend some time with your Mac to ensure you haven’t missed anything.

Don’t do this step in a rush. Make a mental map of everything you do in a typical day (or week), and make sure the files you regularly access are saved somewhere else.

Erase all your stuff

When you’re ready to wipe your laptop clean, restart it. As your system boots, hold down Command + Option + R. Once you see your MacBook’s loading screen pop up, you can stop holding the keys down. After a bit of time, you’ll boot into your MacBook’s recovery mode. Open up the Disk Utility app, click on your primary disk or volume, and select the Erase option. I recommend reformatting it with APFS and using the GUID Partition Map scheme (as does Apple).

Once you’ve wiped your drive clean, exit Disk Utility and select Reinstall macOS. This will install a clean copy of the latest macOS version that’s compatible with your device, a nice gesture for whoever is getting your MacBook next (if anyone).


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