How to reinstall macOS

Updated: June 01, 2023
6 min read
How to reinstall macOS
by Daniel Moore
Tech Expert & Writer
Checked by
Quality Control team

Choose one of the three ways, and reinstall your macOS in less than an hour.

Before we start

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1. Connect your Mac to a power source

This step applies to laptops only. If you have a desktop Mac, skip to the next step.

The installation takes a certain amount of time and puts a lot of stress on the processor and disk, so your MacBook may run out of power at the most inopportune moment. To avoid trouble, connect your device to the power adapter, even if the battery is 100% charged.

2. Save important data

A clean macOS installation will format the drive and erase everything on it. So you need to back the data up with Time Machine or save the necessary data manually beforehand.

3. Select the installation method

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You can use an external drive, a recovery partition on the drive, or a remote Apple server as the distribution source to install macOS. The best option depends on your situation and preferences.

Installing macOS from a bootable disk

The most fail-safe and fastest way.

You can install any version of macOS that your particular Mac is compatible with. Of course, you'll need a USB flash drive with at least 8 GB capacity, which you'll need to prepare beforehand.

Reinstalling macOS from the recovery partition

A convenient alternative to the USB flash drive.

The source of the distribution is the recovery partition, which was created during the previous installation. Consequently, after reinstallation, the version of macOS will be the one you are currently using on your Mac.

Repairing macOS over the Internet

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A variant for situations with problems with the disk or where there is no flash drive at hand.

The installer is preloaded on the web, so you must wait. You can install the most current compatible macOS or the original version on your Mac when you purchase it.

Start recovery mode

If the computer has a firmware password, you must enter it to boot into recovery mode.

Depending on your OS installation method, the transition to the restore menu is slightly different. Proceed as follows.

Installing macOS from a bootable disk

Create a bootable flash drive and plug it into one of the USB ports. Turn on or reboot your Mac by holding the Option key until your computer starts. Then, select the USB flash drive in the boot menu.

Reinstalling macOS from the recovery partition

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Turn on or restart your Mac, then press and hold Cmd + R until the computer boots.

Repairing macOS over the Internet

Turn on or restart the computer, then immediately press one of the key combinations and do not release them until the Mac starts up:

  • Option + Cmd + R — to install the current version of macOS.
  • Shift + Option + Cmd + R to install the original OS when you purchased your Mac.

Format the drive

Erasing a disk is done similarly and does not depend on how you reinstall.

  1. First, open "Disk Utility" on the macOS utility menu and select the system drive in the left pane. It is usually called Macintosh HD and is under "Internal."
  2. Click the "Erase" button and specify the file system format. For High Sierra and other early versions, choose macOS Extended (journaled). For macOS Mojave and newer, choose APFS.
  3. Give the drive any name you like. You can leave the standard Macintosh HD name.
  4. Confirm the erase and wait for the process to complete.
  5. Close Disk Utility and return to the main recovery screen.

Install the operating system

Like with formatting, installing the operating system is the same for either option. From the macOS Utilities menu, open "Reinstall macOS" and specify the drive you're using in the partition selection screen. Then, follow the prompts of the installation wizard.

Howly expert is ready to help you with your Mac OS problem


Invalid Date
Amazing step-by-step guide. The breakdown of different installation methods was particularly helpful - it made the entire process seem much less daunting.
Invalid Date
What if my Mac doesn't have a recovery partition? What's the alternative?
Olivia Ramirez
Invalid Date
My MacBook Pro is from 2012, would these steps still apply or is the process different for older Macs?
Invalid Date
For the one with the disk utility error, try restarting your mac and trying the process again.
Invalid Date
This saved me a trip to the Apple Store. Thanks a lot! 😃
Invalid Date
I tried this but got an error message at the Disk Utility step. Now I'm stuck and don't know what to do."
Logan Barnes
Invalid Date
Good guide, but it would be nice if there were more screenshots.
Invalid Date
Just what I needed! 🙌 Cheers from LA

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