How to reinstall OS X on your Mac

If you've erased or replaced your startup disk, you can use OS X Recovery to reinstall OS X.

You might need to reinstall OS X for these reasons:

  • You see a prohibitory symbol at startup.
  • You inadvertently installed a version of OS X that's older than what came with your Mac.
  • You erased your startup disk, or are setting up a new startup disk.

You don't have to reinstall OS X for these things:

If you need to reinstall OS X, you can use one of these methods:

Reinstall OS X from Recovery

If have a recent Mac, you can use OS X Recovery to reinstall OS X.

  1. Turn on your Mac.
  2. Immediately after you hear the startup sound, hold the Command and R keys on your keyboard. 
  3. Release the keys after the Apple logo appears.
  4. If prompted, select a Wi-Fi network, or connect your Mac to the Internet using an Ethernet cable.
  5. After the Recovery menu appears, select the option to Install OS X.
  6. Follow the onscreen prompts to select your destination disk and install OS X. 

These steps reinstall the latest version of OS X that you previously had installed on your Mac. If you want to reinstall the version of OS X that came with your Mac, hold Command-Option-R at startup instead. This starts your Mac from Internet Recovery.

Restore from a Time Machine backup

If you have a backup of your system that you created with Time Machine, you can Restore from a Time Machine Backup to reinstall OS X and your personal files. Selecting this option erases the drive you're restoring to and restores the version of OS X that was installed at the time you created the selected backup.

  1. Restart your Mac. Immediately hold down the Command (⌘) and R keys after you hear the startup sound to start up in OS X Recovery.
  2. When the Recovery window appears, select the option to Restore from Time Machine Backup.
  3. Select your Time Machine backup disk.
  4. Select the Time Machine backup you want to restore.
  5. Click Continue and follow the onscreen instructions to reinstall OS X and your backed up files.

Erase your drive and install OS X

Generally you don't need to erase your startup disk to reinstall OS X. The OS X Installer is designed to allow you to perform an install in place over the same version or earlier versions of OS X. If you're transferring your Mac to a new owner, you might want to erase your built-in startup disk before reinstalling OS X. 

Important: Before you erase and reinstall, back up your important files. If you’re using a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro, make sure the power adapter is connected and plugged in while performing these steps.

You can use these steps to erase the files on your startup disk and install a new copy of OS X:

  1. Before you begin, make sure your Mac is connected to the Internet.
  2. Restart your Mac. Immediately hold down the Command (⌘) and R keys after you hear the startup sound to start up in OS X Recovery.
  3. When the Recovery window appears, select Disk Utility then click Continue.
  4. Select the indented volume name of your startup disk from the left side of the Disk Utility window, then click the Erase tab.
  5. If you want to securely erase the drive, click Security Options. Select an erase method, then click OK.
  6. From the Format pop-up menu, select Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Type a name for your disk, then click Erase.
  7. After the drive is erased, close the Disk Utility window.
  8. If you’re not connected to the Internet, choose a network from the Wi-Fi menu.
  9. Select the option to Reinstall OS X.
  10. Click Continue and follow the onscreen instructions to reinstall OS X. 

Additional options

If you want to reinstall the version of OS X that came with your Mac, or if you need to reformat your entire startup disk, hold down Command-Option-R at startup instead. This starts your Mac from Internet Recovery.

If you have more than one partition (like Boot Camp) and you want to erase the entire startup disk, you can use Disk Utility to remove partitions or repartition your drive. Start your Mac from Internet Recovery, then use Disk Utility to repartition your startup disk before you erase it. Make sure you back up any important data from all partitions before repartitioning a drive. 

Learn more

When you reinstall OS X using Recovery, your computer's serial number is sent to Apple as part of this process to help authenticate your request to download and install OS X.

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