Cleaning your Mac’s hard drive is a different task than it was a few years ago. If you are using macOS Big Sur, you have a recovery tool. As such, formatting your Mac is easier than it used to be.

In this article, we’ll give you a checklist of tasks before formatting your Mac. Before that, an overview of the macOS recovery tool is given.

Introduction to the macOS recovery tool

Apple is now simplifying the formatting of the Mac. In years past, there would have been a dead end between the backup hard drive, the Mac automatic installer, and even the physical recovery disks. In addition, running the process requires the correct boot state.

Now we have macOS Recovery. In short, this disk utility is complemented by a few other tools. It has a nice interface and is easy to use compared to previous versions.

While there is a lot to cover about using MacOS Recovery, much of it is beyond the scope of this article. However, we recommend that you consult Apple official documentsbecause it is well presented and informative.

5 tasks before and after formatting your Mac

All in all, a clean installation of your Mac includes backing up your current system, removing instances of Apple ID from your system, wiping your hard drive with macOS Recovery, and reinstalling through Time Machine.

As such, there are a few things you can do before and after. Let’s go to it!

1. Back up your entire system

The first task is to back up the system. The most integrated way is to use Time Machine.

It should be noted that some users have problems with Apple’s original solution. As such, there are several other solutions available to you. While most users of Time Machine “just works.”

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You may have already turned on automatic backups, so this should already be sorted. However, it is a good idea to perform a final backup to restore each file and folder.

To do this, select “Show time machine in menu bar” from the “System Preferences -> Time Machine” panel. Then click “Backup Now” on the Time Machine icon in the toolbar:

You may have to wait a little while, but once the backup is complete, you can move on to other administrative tasks.

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2. Search for installers of recently used applications

One of the benefits of backing up Time Machine is that your system is preserved, including all your applications and settings. However, it is always a good idea to gather all the installers for the most used applications, as there are some problems in the recovery process that you do not anticipate, and it is not due to macOS.

Our advice is to use screen time to check which apps you use the most during the week.

Grab installers from there and back them up as well. You may not need them, but you’re happy to have them.

3. Collect all licenses and serial numbers for your applications

Another aspect you may lose is the use of passwords, licenses, and serial numbers. These may not be transferred during the return process, but again you will be happy to receive them.

There are a lot of great apps to help you store your keys, but the bad news is that you have to work. However, Bitwarden, 1Password, and others allow important data to be stored.

Once these are in place and stored in the password manager, you can continue the deauthorization process.

4. Unauthorize all applications that use your Apple ID

Apple offers you lots of advice “restore factory settings” to your machine; this also applies to formatting a Mac.

In short, you want to sign out and authorize apps on your computer, such as Apple Music, iMessage, iCloud, etc. In fact, any app that uses a limited number of permissions should be listed here.

While Apple Music may not need your participation, you do, if you use iTunes. In addition, signing in to iCloud is also a good idea, and you can cause problems between your devices if you don’t revoke your iMessage license.

In third party applications Check your purchase history can help you deauthorize certain applications, although like serial numbers, you may need to dig in email or accounts for more information.

5. Restore macOS, files, folders and settings

When everything is done, we recommend that you make a new backup (again to detect the changes). In other words, do whatever, make the backup the last function before formatting your Mac.

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1. Start your computer in MacOS Recovery:

  • On a Mac with Apple Silicon: Choose “Apple Menu -> Shut Down,” hold down the power button until you see “Downloading Boot Options,” choose Settings, click Continue, and then follow the onscreen instructions.
  • On an Intel-based Mac: Choose “Apple Menu -> Restart” and then press and hold immediately Order + R.

2. In the Recovery application window, select Disk Utility, and then click Continue.

3. In Disk Utility, select the disk you want to remove from the sidebar, and then click Eject on the toolbar.

4. Type a name for this in the Name field, click the Format pop-up menu, select APFS, and then click “Clear Volume Group.”

5. When the removal process is complete, click Finish and then select “Disk Utility -> Exit Disk Utility”.

6. In the recovery application window, select “Reinstall macOS Big Sur”, click Continue, and then follow the on-screen instructions.

The last tip is about crashes or general freezing. This is an underdocumented problem that can cause you pain. For example, I had to reinstall Big Sur on an Intel MacBook Pro and transfer data to it via Time Machine.

The process took a few attempts, and there were a few freezes along the way. It’s best to use a wired internet connection whenever possible and set aside time for the process, especially if you’re moving from an old physical disk drive like Time Capsule.

Due to the potential for solidification, you must turn off your Mac by holding down the power button. Restart from there normally and continue the process.


Apple’s approach to formatting a Mac on modern systems is so simple, you might want to make the format weekly! Of course, if you don’t anticipate it, the good news is that by using MacOS Recovery, you can do and dust off in an instant.

If you’re not sure about the different Mac boot modes, we’ve already covered it. Do you have any tips for formatting your Mac that we haven’t covered? Tell us in the comments section below!

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