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Ask Max: Restoring OS X To Factory Settings

Asked on 10/14/2008:

I have a new Mac Pro running Mac OS X Version 10.5 and an old PowerMac G4. I work at a hospital and our IS guys know nothing about Macs. I have waited from Dec. 07 (when I got the new Mac) until now for our IS guys to get all of the software I need. Back in January I copied all of the info from the old Mac to the new one. That was when I realized that I needed a new set of software for the new Mac (b/c it just made copies of the software and they won't work without the new Mac linked to the old one). I was wondering if there is any way I can reformat the hard drive of the new Mac and have it back to the settings that it had when I got it from Apple? Instead of copying the entire old Mac to the new one, I've decided to just move my job folders and install all of the new, updated software to the new one.

**This was asked in 2008, so the first part of the answer below is relevant for Macs before OS X 10.7 (Lion) was released. Please continue reading below for OS X Version 10.7 and later as well.** 


There is an easy way to get your Mac back to a "Factory Fresh" install of OS X. A set of Install / Restore DVDs is shipped with all modern new Macs**, and are most often grey in color. Look through the box the mouse came in to find the discs. Insert the disc and restart the computer holding down the [C] key. When you boot up of the DVD you will pick your language. Then, from the Utilities menu, select Disk Utility. In there select your hard drive (HD) and use the Erase tab to wipe the drive clean. After you are done, close Disk Utility and continue with the installation from that disk. After you have finished installing, the computer will reboot, taking you back to the original "new Mac" screen.

**Install/Restore DVDs no longer come with new or used Macs. Since Internet Recovery (described below), there is no need for discs, only an internet connection. This works for 10.7 and later. If you're running 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or earlier, you will need an Install / Restore DVD as described above. These are available through Apple, PowerMax, and other sources.

OS X 10.7 (Lion) or later 

Thankfully, we no longer have to mess with DVD. With OS X Recovery, we have a built-in set of tools to install OS X, repair and erase your HD, check your internet connection, and restore from Time Machine backup. It's easy to get into OS X Recovery, too:

Restart your Mac and hold down the Command + R keys until the Apple logo appears. From there, you'll see an OS X Utilities window with the aforementioned options listed. 

Select Disk Utility and erase your HD, just as instructed to do in the first section of this article. After your HD is erased, resintall OS X. This will install the version of OS X that was first installed on that machine. From there, you can upgrade to the latest version if you choose.

Apple Support Article on Internet Recovery.

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