How to Set up a Used Mac If You Don’t Know Your Username or Password

At Tech 911 this week, we’re solving a fun problem with fun tools. I wish I knew someone older than me – a parent, a brother, a wonderful neighbor – who had an abundance of laptops, smartphones and gadgets to pass me by when they got tired of using them.

Sadly I don’t know, but Lifehacker reader Kyle definitely does. And while free stuff is always interesting and appreciated, there is one oddity about his latest purchase that he needs to solve. He’s writing:

For the purposes of this answer – at least the first part of it – I’m going to assume that you are asking how to log in if you don’t have a username and password. However, this question speaks to a more important point: how do I get access to a machine locked by someone else?

Luckily, we don’t need to worry about any crazy recovery tools or password cracking tips for this, as your ultimate goal is not to log into someone else’s account, but rather use the system in which it was previously created. In other words, we can simply reset your cheese grater to factory defaults and set it up as if it were a brand new system, eliminating the login issue in the process.

The easiest way to do this is provided that the previous owner of your Mac did not set a firmware password , which makes the task much more difficult – just boot into your Mac’s recovery mode at startup. Turn on your computer and immediately start holding Command + R. Continue doing this until you see something happening on your screen (usually an Apple logo or a spinning globe), then you can release the keys.

If you don’t see the macOS “Utilities” window when loading recovery, but instead see something like “macOS Recovery” asking for your user password, click “Recovery Assistant” and select “Erase Mac”. Click the blue “Erase Mac” hyperlink and let it copy – this will clean up your system and allow you to install the new version of macOS from scratch (with whatever username and password you want).

Otherwise, if you get to the main macOS “utility window”, start Disk Utility. select the drive where macOS is installed and choose Erase. When finished, exit Disk Utility and begin the process of reinstalling macOS from the convenient link on the macOS Utilities home screen.

I hope the person who gave you your new Mac turned off iCloud (and Find Me …) before clearing his throat . Otherwise, you will be able to reset your Mac’s NVRAM / PRAM , which will remove the Find Me association. You can then sign in to your iCloud account and you can set up your Mac as if it were yours forever and ever. (You can also just sign in to iCloud as usual , without resetting NVRAM / PRAM, to link the remote Mac to your own iCloud account. I would try both steps.)

This should get you started with your new Mac. If not, or if you still face problems or confusion, write to us!


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