How to Erase & Reinstall a Mac


It may seem like a daunting task to erase a Mac hard drive and reinstall the system software; it is usually a last-resort option. But if you are having system errors or performances issues, reinstalling the Mac system software restores your computer to its original factory settings. It can alleviate any corrupt system or software settings. The procedure completely erases your destination disk. Reinstalling the bundled software, such as iTunes, is a separate, but simple, step.

Things You'll Need

  • Original Mac OS X install disk
  • External hard drive or removable media for backup
  • Back up your user files and all important data on DVDs, thumb drives or external disks. If you are using Time Machine with an external hard drive, make sure it has backed up recently. Plug your computer into your power adapter if you are working on a laptop.

  • Insert the "Mac OS X Install DVD" that came with your computer into the optical drive. Alternately, insert the "MacBook Air Software Reinstall Drive" into the USB port.

  • Click the "Apple" menu. Scroll down to "Restart." Click the "C" key as the Mac starts up. Choose your preferred language on the "Install Mac OS X" window. Click on "Utilities," then select "Disk Utility."

  • Choose the volume you want to erase on the left pane of the "Disk Utility" window. Click "Erase." Respond to the confirmation dialog box asking if you want to erase the volume, then click "Erase." Wait for the hard drive to wipe out the data.

  • Click "Continue" at the "Mac OS X Snow Leopard Installer" screen, then agree to the software license agreement.

  • Click the hard drive that was erased, as indicated by a green arrow, then click "Install." Wait for the system software to install, then click "Continue." Your computer will restart.

  • Select your country locale, then click "Continue." Note the migration window that appears. Click "Do not transfer my information now" if you want to transfer your user documents and backed-up data later. Set up your wireless service if applicable, then click "Continue." Enter your registration information, and click "Continue." Alternately, skip the registration.

  • Log into your Mac OS X server if applicable, or click "Continue." Create your user account by entering a login ID and your password. Click "Continue" to create account. Remember your password and user login; you will need it later.

  • Choose an avatar for your user account by taking a picture with the built-in camera; or select an icon. Click "Continue." Click "Go," then eject the "Mac OS X Install DVD" by dragging it to the Trash or by clicking the "Eject" button on your keyboard.

  • Install the bundled applications from the "Applications Install Disk" or 'MacBook Air Software Reinstall Drive." Double-click to install your preferred applications. Click "Continue" and agree to the terms of each software package. Click "Install." Click "Restart" to restart your computer after the bundled software has been installed.

Tips & Warnings

  • This procedure will completely erase your hard drive. Make sure you back up your data first.

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  • Photo Credit Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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