Erase all data from Macbook Pro

Erase all data from Macbook Pro

Note: This post is part of the the series: Reformat Macbook Pro to make brand new. You can always refer back to the table of contents to follow the entire process.

In the last chapter, I showed you how to create an OS X Mavericks boot drive so you can bring your Macbook Pro back to life once it’s wiped completely clean of its contents. We are now at that crucial step. It’s time to erase all of your data from your Macbook Pro (including all the files that are guilty of slowing it down!)

Lets get started and erase all that precious data.

WARNING: If you haven’t already backed up your data, it’s imperative you do so. If you haven’t read or listened to my post on backing up Macbook Pro to Time Machine, please do so. You’ll have a full copy of your data in the event something goes wrong.

Erase all data from Macbook Pro

I know. It’s a scary title. But the reason why you’re doing this is because you’ve gummed up the hard drive and you want it to work better. So we need to unclog it. Erasing data is the answer. But you’ve backed up your data, you’ve got your boot disk, so you’re ready to go. So let’s do it.

  1. Start by shutting your MacBook off.
  2. Restart and quickly press the CMD and the R keys together. Make sure you do this before you hear the startup sound. Hold the keys together for a bit and you’ll be taken to the OSX Utilities screen.
  3. Click Disk Utility and click Continue.
  4. Go to Applications ›› Utilities ›› Disk Utility
  5. Be sure all your external hard drives are unplugged from your Mac.
  6. You will see your hard drive name listed twice. You’ll want to click on the 2nd name.
  7. Click the Erase tab at the top. Don’t worry. Not erasing yet.
  8. Under Format, choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Name can remain what it is or you can change it.
  9. If you really want to delete as much content as possible, run Erase Free Space before you finish the steps. Running it after the next steps will waste your time. Essentially, Erase Free Space overwrites and unused space (not the master content itself).
  10. Choose how secure you want the hard drive by clicking Security Options. If you’re selling your computer, drag the slider to the far right (Overwritten 7 times!). I chose the middle option because I want it cleaned up as much as possible, but don’t mind if some files remain (the less secure, the faster the erase process). The middle option erases over the content three times. Perfecto.
  11. WARNING: This is where the magic happens! Once you click Erase, it’ll start erasing. Bye-bye content.
  12. Now sit back and have more coffee. I’m onto wine now. This will take an hour or two. Take a break.

Congratulations, you’re now on your way to a faster, cleaner Mac.

To continue with the series, head to the next chapter where we boot your new Mac with the flash drive we created with OS X Mavericks. This will tell the computer to come alive once again and install Mavericks – the first piece of software on your empty Macbook Pro.

Josh Benson

Josh Benson writes about the web, technology, TV News and life in general. He's a self-admitted geek and loves being a Dad. He covers the day's news on WFLA-TV in Tampa, Florida. He struggles to learn code and work out but loves all things tech and web!

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  • Ganza Roza

    I think this step is not very clear. Apparently ”erase free space” does not delete the content but the option ”erase”, which is greyed out at this step since it is not possible to erase the hard drive that is booted.

    • Johnny Kilroy

      thanks really big help that’s why my mac ain’t formatting coz of the instructions above..

  • statehate

    Ganza Roza is correct. You cannot erase the drive that is booted. You must shut down your Mac and restart holding Cmd R. From there you can access the Disk Utility and proceed with the steps listed.

  • Jillaine Smith

    Josh can you clarify what the comments below are claiming? (And perhaps adjust your instructions appropriately ?)

    I followed your instructions above and my files are still on the hard drove. Do I need to do what “statehate” says below?

    • Jillaine Smith

      Too impatient to wait. I followed statehate’s instructions. Many many many hours later I have a blank drive. Now let’s see if the boot thumb drive works…

    • Starr

      Now I have a white screen with a circle and a line thru it what do I do

  • I have updated the instructions to clarify the step of Erase. You would not be able to pick a format option if you were going to erase the booted drive, so therefore, you wouldn’t be able to click Erase. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Instructions are updated. Erase Free Space is only used to overwrite blank space and can be beneficial BEFORE you select Security Options and Most Secure before clicking Erase.

    • rojo ibarra

      Mine only shows one disk.

  • jbyrd

    I am holding down “command” and “r” but it will not go into os x utility screen. Please help. I have been trying to reformat for three days and i have pictures to process!

    • Almendra Payán

      Were you able to do it? I am having the same problem.

  • george Stinson

    Yosemite was on my MBP it crashed and would only open in C-R. Disc utility cannot repair (20 tries or so) I needed to download new Yosemite and did so to an external HDD. No recent back-up. I forced open the MBP with C-X and transferred the files to the ext HDD. IF I erase and reformat the MBP how do I move the new Yosemite to the reformatted HDD? I was unable to follow the earlier instructions as I did not anticipate the MBP never booting again. Will some kind of magic happen when I plug in the HDD?

  • george Stinson

    If I erase and reformat the HDD on my MBP AND THEN PRESS THE “on” button, wait for the chime and press C-R will the OSX Utilities dialog box open?

  • Game Emporium

    Thanks. Great tutorial.

  • assaf

    CMD+R is give me that pic and i cant do any thing

    • anon

      nah its stolen

    • Themad Scientist

      That’s a firmware password so yea it’s stolen

  • Tidaly

    If you are really concerned with the next owner recovering your files, which can be done even if you emptied the Trash, then you should format the drive:
    Open Disk utility, select the drive, select the erase tab and click on security options

    Other way is try professional Mac data wiper to erase your data from Mac, I used Safewiper Mac data wiper applicaiton to wipe my Mac.
    See how it works:

    • Zoe Laura

      Safewiper data wiper is a nice tool, it helped me completely wipe my Mac data ! Good!

  • Lmm

    If you have a stolen mac can people do this to your computer to gain access? I have tried to @find my mac” but they are not connecting to the internet thus the lock i have tried to put in place has not yet been activated – can they thus wipe it completely before connecting to wi-fi?

    • me

      Yes they can

  • Anton

    When Im in Disc Utilites and i click on the disc and then go to Erase section, it Does not give me an option to erase i see the button but it is fogged, like i see it but cant click on it… Please Someone Advise 😉

    • Ingrid Viple

      same! help!

  • Cody Larkin

    My mac is just going to a white screen with the apple symbol?? And I can’t do anything from there?

    • Themad Scientist

      Yea he didn’t tell you til the end you need to have another copy of your OS made already because this deletes the system image not just personal data

    • Answers4M3

      Keep holding then CMD & R until it is done booting up and then still hold it until Disk Utility pops up

  • Themad Scientist

    Thanks asshole for not listing steps in the beginning now I’m sitting reinstalling Mac OS Seirra on a Mac book I have to have ready for sale in 20 mins. Fucking assholes writing tutorials then have fine print at the end like oh yea your shit won’t boot so you’ll need to have made this before you erased it? The fuck. Kill yourself

    • Happy Holidays! Perhaps the issue is trying to prep a Mac for sale in 20 minutes. I doubt the tutorial was your first mistake.

      • Themad Scientist

        Not at all it’s called I’ll try his method instead what I usually do. It’s called taking advise from an idiot that’s my first mistake

        • Clearly you’re here just to remove the data. But if you would have read anything you’d understand this is a FULL tutorial about reformatting your Macbook Pro from start to finish. So making an OS boot disk and all the other steps are in the program.

          It pays to follow instructions and not spazz when things don’t go your way. But just for you and frustration, I’ll add a nice big disclaimer at the top so people don’t go through the alleged hell you’ve gone through.

  • julie mol

    doesn’t work

  • Patricia

    My macpro is acting up, before i bring it to be fixed, I would like to erase all my files, notes, etc from the computer. I fllowed the steps you explained and has been erased. Now it is in the same screen that I was before but the file on the left changed name to 500.28 GB apple ssd sd., now what do I do? Or what is next?

    • Nicolas Mayr

      That is perfectly normal, once your disk is cleared, click the Red X button on the top right to exit Disk utility, once that is done, there should be an option that reads; Install OS X (Or something like that), and that will allow you to reinstall the OS X operating system to your drive.

  • AvalonNYC

    Do you know of a single documented case where anyone has every recovered data from a disk drive that was fully erased with a single pass of zeros?

  • This does not work. When I restart the MacBook, hit Command R, and go to Utilities, the button for Erase is greyed out.
    Any other ideas?

    • Alex Rivera

      How u did it I’m lost here I been trying and nothing

  • Andre Brittany

    Restart and hold Command and R keys, then from Utilities on the menu bar, choose Disk Utility, then choose the internal storage and Erase. Quit Disk Utility, then choose from Utilities, Install OS X. That way you have erased all content from the internal storage and installed a clean copy of mavericks.

    Another way is try Safewiper to wipe your Mac clean, no software can recover it.

  • Sanaya Mehta Daruwala

    jMy trackpad seemed to stop working as soon as I hit CMD + R. I have to use enter and space to get to what I need to do but with those I’m unable to hit erase. What do I do?

  • Raiden99

    I was tired asking for people on how to erase all data from my mac . Here is where I got all my questions answered The best facilitator I ever met.

  • Joanne Drohan

    I followed the steps and now the my computer is gray and a question mark is flashing on the screen. It will not do anything, I can turn off but when it comes back up the same thing.

    Please help!!!!

    • Nicky Beal

      I have just had he same thing. Have you managed to fix yours?

    • Natasha

      This has happened to me too. Please help someone

  • Leeann

    Hello, I can’t get the Macbook Pro to open the disk utilities window. I have tried using the command and R buttons and then the options button. Neither will open.

    • Approbe


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    hey josh what do i do when i want my standard account to be administer accounnt when i try to make it an admin account it says to put and admin password and username but who is that possible if im the only user