Want to get a fresh start with your Mac (as if you’ve just purchased a brand new Mac)? You definitely can! All you need to do is wipe your device clean and reinstall macOS. Performing a clean install on your Mac can also be helpful in case your device is running slow, has gathered a lot of data debris, or is behaving strangely.
What Is Clean Install: Clean vs. Upgrade Install
When a new macOS version arrives, you have two choices of installing it: either do a clean install or an upgrade install. The same applies to macOS Monterey. Since it is already available for everyone, you can easily install it whenever you want. But which install option to choose?
- Performing a clean install entails wiping your Mac clean and then reinstalling its operating system. By doing so, all of your documents, photos, apps, and other data located on your Mac prior to this will be gone, and your Mac will be restored to factory settings. After that, the new OS will get installed on a clean and reformatted drive, allowing you to enjoy your “utterly new Mac.”
- Upgrade install means that you’ll be installing the new OS over your old one. Many people choose this option since it is much easier than a clean install. However, sometimes an upgrade install may cause glitches and make your Mac run slow. Which is why it may be better to go the harder way but thus avoid such issues.
macOS Clean Install Types
When it comes to performing a clean install of macOS, you have two options: doing it on a non-startup drive or on your Mac’s startup drive:
- Non-startup drive: Performing a clean install on a non-startup drive is a bit easier compared to the other type since it doesn’t require you to create a macOS bootable USB drive. However, for this method, you’ll need an additional external drive (aside from your Mac’s startup drive). This method allows you to keep your older macOS version and, at the same time, try out the new one.
- Startup drive: If your Mac is having startup issues, running slow, or is behaving strangely, doing a clean install directly on your Mac’s startup drive can solve those issues. Also, this type of clean macOS install involves completely erasing your Mac and restoring it to factory settings. Therefore, it gives you the chance of a second fresh start with your device.
The first method is generally used with beta macOS versions since it allows you to try out the operating system without making any changes to the main startup drive.
What You Will Need and Is Your Computer Suitable
To install macOS Monterey on your Mac, you need to make sure that your device is compatible with this operating system version. Luckily, Apple made it clear which Mac models can run the new macOS.
Here’s a list of the Mac models that support macOS Monterey:
- iMac – late 2015 and later
- iMac Pro – 2017 and later
- Mac Pro – 2013 and later
- MacBook – 2016 and later
- MacBook Air – 2015 and later
- MacBook Pro – 2015 and later
- Mac Mini – 2014 and later
Also, to make it easier for you, here’s a list of Macs that are not compatible with macOS Monterey:
- MacBook – early 2015
- iMac – 2014 and early 2015
- MacBook Air – 2013 and early 2014
- MacBook Pro – 2013 and 2014
Now that you’ve figured out whether your Mac is compatible with the new operating system or not, it’s time to go through the things that you’ll need to make a clean install:
- 💻 Your Mac — it’s pretty obvious, but still.
- 📁 macOS Monterey installation file — just download the operating system without installing it right away.
- 💽 USB flash drive — you’ll need it to load the macOS Monterey install file and then use it to reinstall the operating system on your Mac (it should be at least 16GB).
- 💾 External drive — you’ll need it for your backup (make sure that it has enough space for all your files).
- 🌐 Internet connection — it is necessary for downloading the macOS installation file.
Steps to Clean Install macOS 12 Monterey
Now that you’ve figured out whether your Mac is compatible with the new operating system, you’re ready to move forward. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to do a clean install of macOS.
Back Up Your Mac
When it comes to backing up your Mac, there are two options that you can choose from: using Time Machine or a third-party app. Even though Time Machine is a great app, it lacks some backup features and takes more time to create a backup.
So it is best to go with a third-party app that contains all of the features needed for an effective backup strategy. There are many apps on the market that can help you back up your Mac. However, after testing a few of the most efficient ones out there, we’ve figured that Disk Drill is best for this job.
But first things first—you need to download and install Disk Drill before getting to the main process. To download the app, open the official Disk Drill download page, and click Free Download. After the file has finished downloading, click it, and then follow the onscreen instructions to complete the setup process.
Once the backup is finished, you’ll get a popup window saying, “Disk image created!“. Click Done, and eject your external drive whenever ready.
Get macOS Monterey
Starting October 25, 2021, macOS Monterey became available to the general public. Therefore, if you want to keep your Mac up-to-date and perform a clean install, you should get the macOS Monterey installation file.
You’ll be able to find the macOS Monterey installation file in your Applications folder.
How to Get an Install File for an Older Version of macOS
If you want to clean install your Mac but use an older version of macOS, you can definitely do so. All of these macOS versions can also be downloaded via App Store. Just click the needed macOS version, and follow the same instructions as in the case of macOS Monterey.
Click on the needed macOS version to download the installation file:
Create a Bootable Drive
The next step that you should take is to prepare a bootable macOS drive. Here you have two options: use a third-party app or Terminal.
It is completely up to you to choose which method to use. However, it should be mentioned that using the right third-party app for this job makes creating the bootable drive much easier and quicker, and therefore can save you a lot of nerves.
To create a bootable drive, you’ll need the previously downloaded macOS installer and an external drive of some kind (or a USB flash drive). Keep in mind that you need to format your external drive before loading the macOS installation file onto it.
Now that you’ve prepared your external drive, you’re all set to move onto the next step—creating the macOS bootable drive.
Option A: Disk Drill’s macOS Installer
One of the best third-party apps for this job is Disk Drill. All that you’ll need to do to create a bootable macOS drive is make a few clicks and wait a few minutes while the app does all the work for you.
That’s it! Once the app is finished, you’ll see a popup saying, “macOS installer created!“. Click Done, eject the drive, and you are ready to move on to the next step.
Option B: Manually
If you don’t want to download a third-party app, you can create a macOS bootable installer manually via Terminal. But if to compare this method with the previous one, this one is a bit more complicated since it entails using createinstallmedia commands.
Wipe Your Mac
To be able to clean install macOS, it is essential to wipe your Mac, or in other words, reset it to factory settings.
But before you do this, make sure that you’ve made a backup of your Mac (we covered this in step 1 of this article). It is also important to emphasize the fact that after you wipe your Mac clean, it’s impossible to go back. That’s why you need a backup version of your Mac so that you’ll be able to access any of your files even after the reset.
Now that you’re ready, let’s wipe your Mac clean.
Macs With an M1 Chip
There is one more thing that you should do before reinstalling macOS, which is changing your Mac’s security settings. If you don’t do this, your Mac won’t let you boot from your external drive.
So, first, boot your Mac into Recovery Mode. For M1-based Macs, press and hold the power button until the Startup Options screen appears. With all other Macs, press the power button to turn on your Mac and hold down Command + R until you see the Apple logo.
Then, depending on the type of your Mac, do the following:
- For M1-based Macs — click Options > Continue. Then from the top menu bar, head to Utilities > Startup Security Utility. Choose your system drive and click Security Policy. From all of the options, click Reduced Security and then OK to confirm.
- For Macs with T2-powered chips — click Utilities > Startup Security Utility. Then click Enter macOS password and type it in. From the available options, click Medium Security and Allow booting from external or removable media.
- For Macs without a security chip — click User Account and type in your password when prompted. Then click Utilities > Startup Security Utility. Click Turn Off Firmware Password.
That’s it! Enjoy your squeaky clean and upgraded Mac.
Now that macOS Monterey is out, there’s nothing stopping you from using the new operating system for performing a clean install of your Mac. It is an excellent way to both keep your Mac up-to-date and declutter it from unnecessary apps and files. And by doing a backup of the data stored on your device before that, you’ll be able to access all of your files from your Mac whenever you want (even after the clean install).