Yesterday, I prepared my M1-based Mac Mini for return to Apple and was reminded of how terrible this process is on Apple’s desktop platform. And as is so often the case, the M1 chipset breaks with the past. But in this case, this process is now both terrible and dangerous, and it can lead to one bricking their Mac by mistake.
What bothers me about this kind of thing, beyond the obvious, is how no one ever discusses it. We’re so buried in stories about how damn fast M1-based Macs are, about how they’re going to change everything, that we often lose sight of the basics. And while Windows certainly has its issues, this is a great example—and not the only one—where Microsoft saw the problem and fixed it years ago. Apple? They started off terrible and only made it worse.
Imagine you want to sell, give-away, or trade-in your Windows PC. In Windows 10, you simply open Settings, navigate to Update & Security > Recovery, and choose the “Get started” button under the Reset this PC heading. During the short wizard-based utility that appears, you’re asked whether you want to “Remove everything” and, if so, whether you want to “Clean data,” which will securely clean the drive of all of your personal information if selected. The process can take 20-45 minutes, depending on the computer, but it’s straightforward and painless.
Now imagine that you want to sell, give-away, or trade-in your (Intel-based) Mac. First, you need to know a non-discoverable keyboard shortcut (Command + R) that you hold down while powering on the Mac from a dead stop. Then, from the recovery environment, you have to use Disk Utility to wipe out your Mac’s hard drive and then install whatever version of macOS that came with the Mac. The process usually takes over an hour, depending on the Mac, and every step (except perhaps the last one) is confusing and non-obvious; most, for example, will choose the install option first, only to discover then that they need to erase the disk first. But whatever, you do a Google search and most will figure it out.
Now imagine you have an M1-based Mac that you want to sell, give-away, or trade-in. In this case, you need to know a new but still non-discoverable…