How Do I Remove Data From My Old Mac Before Passing It Along? [Ask MacRx]



So you’ve upgraded to the latest and greatest, and it’s time to give your old Mac to a new owner. But how do you get rid of all your old data and software before making the handoff?

I just pulled the trigger on ordering a new iMac, a nice new 21.5″ i7 quad core. Needless to say I can’t wait, even though it will be my first venture with OS X Lion. I get doing a full backup from my current iMac on my Time Capsule to load up my new iMac when it arrives, but I am wondering what is the best step by step way to prep my old iMac running Snow Leopard, to make it clean and ready to gift to the Grandkids’ family.

All my sordid and questionable web wanderings, inappropriate downloads, etc. need to be gone, this I need help with. How do I get it ready for a new administrator and computer name? What do I do with iTunes to get it ready for them? Is a total wipe of the hard drive desirable? If so I am not familiar with the how to do this. Whatever help you can offer will be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely yours, David

Hi David,

One way is to create a new admin user account, delete the old account(s) from the Users & Groups System Preference Pane, then browse through the hard drive and Applications folder to remove any remaining items. However, probably the easiest way to prepare a system for handoff when you don’t want to include existing data and applications is to do an Erase and Install of Mac OS X.

You can do this with the DVD which originally came with the iMac or with any retail OS X disc which supports your model. Hold down the “C” key to boot off the disc, then follow the instructions presented. When you get to the page which ask whether you want to Install OS X on the computer, click the Options… button and choose the Erase and Install option.

After the reinstall and a reboot you will be asked to setup a new account name and password. Next run Software Update from the Apple menu to update the system to the latest point release. Get all subsequent updates and patches, then you’re good to go.

One caveat: if you reinstall using the Software Restore DVDs which came with the Mac, you will get a fresh copy of the iLife apps along with Mac OS X. If you use a retail OS X installer you will only get the OS; the iLife programs (other than iTunes) are not included. You will need to use a dedicated iLife install DVD to replace iPhoto, iMovie, etc., or download these programs from the Mac App Store after replacing the OS.

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