With around two-thirds of our readers expecting to buy a brand new MacBook Pro, and others looking to upgrade to a refreshed MacBook Air or iMac, we thought it would be useful to provide a quick guide to preparing for the upgrade.

We recommend a seven-step approach …


Step 1: Tidy up your existing Mac

First, if you’ve been meaning to do any reorganising of your existing Mac – deleting old files you no longer need, reorganising folders or similar – it makes sense to do this first. In that way, you’ll be creating a backup of an already-organised Mac, as well as saving time by not backing-up files you no longer need.

Step 2: Create at least one Time Machine backup

You’ll want to leave this until your new Mac arrives, so that the backup is completely up to date. If your normal backup is to a Time Capsule, you may want to do an additional one to an external hard drive. Time Capsules aren’t always located in convenient places for a cable connection, and restoring via WiFi will take a long time.

You’ll also want to use the fastest connection available. Thunderbolt drives offer the fastest transfer speeds. Fastest of all is a Thunderbolt SSD, but they are expensive in larger capacities.

If you have multiple partitions and/or users, make sure you have backups of each.

If cashflow requirements mean you’ll need to sell your existing Mac before you buy your new one, then make more than one backup. You never want to have your data dependent on a single drive.

Step 3: Deauthorize your existing Mac from all Apple services

Although you’ll be wiping your old Mac, it will still be listed as one of your authorised computers for iTunes, taking up a slot you may want to use for another Mac, so you’ll want to de-authorize it before wiping.

  • Go to the Account menu then Authorizations > De-authorize This Computer and confirm

It’s also not a bad idea to sign out of Apple services.

  • Apple menu > System Preferences > iCloud > Uncheck all the cloud options
  • Messages > Messages menu > Preferences > Accounts > Sign out

Assuming you use two-factor authentication (as you definitely should), you want to remove the Mac as a trusted device.

Step 4: De-authorize any third-party apps that require it

Some third-party apps limit the number of Macs on which you can use them, so for those follow the developer’s instructions to de-authorize your Mac so you can use that slot for your new Mac. For example, for Scrivener: Scrivener menu > Registration… > Deactivate.

Step 5: Double-check those backups!

Seriously! If you skipped over step 2 thinking ‘yeah, later,’ this is the time you want to realize that fact – not after step 6. Make sure you have your backup drive(s) to hand, and for those with multiple partitions and/or users, check again that they are all backed-up.

Step 6: Format the drive and reinstall macOS/OS X

These are the steps to wipe your SSD or hard drive and reinstall macOS or OS X as a clean install:

  • Restart your Mac
  • Hold down Option-Command-R
  • Wait for the Utilities window
  • Open Disk Utility
  • Select the Erase option (see important note below*)
  • After erasing, from the Utilities window select Reinstall
  • When the setup assistant appears, press Command-Q to quit and select Shutdown

That leaves your Mac ready for the next owner to go through the setup procedure, exactly as they would on a brand-new machine.

*Important note: for a spinning metal hard drive, you will see a Secure Erase option. It’s important to use this, otherwise someone could recover deleted data from the drive. For SSDs, you won’t see this option as it’s very hard to recover data from an SSD after formatting it, and a secure erase can subject the drive to harmful wear – so Apple removed it from Macs fitted with an SSD.

Step 7: Migrate your Time Machine backup to your new Mac or Setup manually

Some swear by always doing a clean install, manually reinstalling software and copying across their documents, believing that it gets them a more reliable, smoother-running machine. Others say it makes no difference. I’m not going to get involved in that heated discussion, so just use your preferred approach.

For those who want to use Migration Assistant:

  • Connect your Time Machine backup drive to the new Mac
  • Select the Migration Assistant option when it is offered during the setup process
  • Select the ‘From a Mac, Time Machine backup or startup disk’ option
  • Wait for the Mac to recognize your Time Machine drive
  • Select the backup you want (usually the most recent one)

You should then find that your shiny new Mac is configured exactly like your old one, with all your apps, preferences, folder structures and documents.

If you want a quick sale with no hassle, then check out our trade-in service. If you’re instead planning to sell privately, watch out for an upcoming piece on how to maximize the resale value of your Mac.

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