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How to Clean Install macOS (Monterey, Big Sur or Older)

Tips • Aug. 5, 2021

The new macOS Monterey Beta is out, and a lot many of you are already on it. However, the update isn’t perfect, and the Beta nature of the OS brings some compatibility issues and bugs that can take away from the beautiful experience that macOS is. So, if you’re someone with the same problem of bugs and instability and are looking for a fix that can hopefully solve all these issues, then look no further.

Today we’ll be taking a look at how you can clean install macOS on your device, whether it may be the latest and greatest Monterey update, stable Big Sur variant or the older refined versions such as Catalin or Mojave. So, without taking any more of your time, let’s jump straight into the process and get a better understanding of how you can do a clean install of macOS.

Why clean install macOS?

So, now that we have covered all the requirements and essentials for a fresh install of macOS, why should you go ahead and do a clean install when you can easily just do a dirty flash and retain all your data. Well, there are a few reasons, and they are:

  • Improved performance
  • Better stability
  • Increased responsiveness
  • Better compatibility with apps
  • More Storage Space

Note: These are just a few examples of benefits for installing macOS with a clean install. However, a clean install is your best bet for having a stable device if you are facing bugs or errors.

Before doing a clean install

Before you get on with the process of making a clean install of macOS, you have to understand a few things, and these are:

Storage Requirements

The first thing you should be aware of before making any clean install is how much storage space you need. So, make sure that you have a minimum of 60GB of free space for everything to work smoothly. However, if you don’t have the free space required, you can use macOS “Optimise Storage” to clean up the junk or use these third-party tools such as CleanMyMac X, OnyX and Sensei to make some storage space.

Backups

Do note that you’re going to erase all your data and entirely free up the storage drive whenever you do a clean install. So, make sure you make a backup beforehand and then proceed with the installation. You can make a backup from Time Machine by:

  • Click on the Apple menu and then on the “System Preferences” tab
  • Now, click on Time Machine and then on the “Select Backup Disk” button and let Time Machine do its thing

Note: However, if you need a third-party tool for backing up your data, you can use these as the best recommendations:

Compatibility

The other thing that you should know about is the compatibility of your device with the OS. The new macOS Monterey Beta update does not support some older devices, and the last-gen Big Sur also has some compatibility issues with some of the older hardware.

macOS Monterey Compatible devices

  • MacBook Pro (early 2015 and later)
  • MacBook Air (early 2015 and later)
  • MacBook (early 2016 and later)
  • Mac Pro (late 2013 and later)
  • Mac Mini (late 2014 and later)
  • iMac Pro (2017 and later)
  • iMac (late 2015 and later)

macOS Big Sur Compatible devices

  • MacBook Pro (Late 2013 or later)
  • MacBook Air (2013 or later)
  • MacBook (2015 or later)
  • Mac Pro (2013 or later)
  • Mac Mini (2014 or later)
  • iMac Pro (2017 or later)
  • iMac (2014 or later)

Note: If you want to go further back to the older macOS versions, we recommend giving the compatibility chart for macOS a look linked here.

Now that you have learned about all the essential steps. Let’s look at the two methods to clean install macOS Monterey. However, if you still haven’t made a backup of your data, made a bootable USB drive and erased the main disk partition, we recommend you do so and then follow the instructions below.

How to clean install macOS without a bootable USB?

Clean Drive (Important)

Before you start the clean install process, you have to clean your storage drive. This helps remove everything and clean the disk from all errors and buggy software. You can do this by following the instructions below:

Step 1: Turn off your Mac and boot into the recovery mode by holding down the “Command + R” keys after you turn it on again. However, if you have an M1 device, hold down the “Power” key until you see the “Start Volume and Options” tab. Now click on Options and select the “macOS Utilities” button

Step 2: Now, select the “Disk Utility” tab and hit the continue button. After you see a new screen pop-up choose your drive from the top left corner and click on the “Erase” button on the top centre

Step 3: Now, select the Format as “APFS” for newer devices or “macOS Extended Journaled” for older devices and click on the blue “Erase Volume Group” button. This will clean up and format your drive so that you can quickly install a fresh macOS build.

Step 4: Now, shut down your device and erase the drive (steps above). Now, boot into the Recovery Mode again by holding down the “Command + R” keys for the Intel Macs or the “Power” button for the M1 Macs.

Step 5: Next, select the “Reinstall macOS version_name” button and click on the “Continue” button.

Step 6: Now, click on “Agree” and then select the storage drive, and you would have a fresh and clean installed macOS version on your device.

Step 7: Finally, select your WiFi network and follow the on-screen instructions to set up macOS and boot into the home screen.

How to clean install macOS using a Bootable USB Drive?

This process can be a little complex at first. Hence, we recommend using the first method all the time. However, if you’re facing trouble with installing macOS without a USB drive, then, by all means, use this to clean install macOS. Be sure to follow the steps thoroughly as it uses Terminal, and a single extra word can stop the entire process.

Make a Bootable USB Drive

Finally, the last thing you would need to make a fresh, clean install is a USB Drive with a minimum of 16GB of space. You need to make this drive bootable with the OS of your choice, and today we’ll be doing this for macOS Monterey. You can follow the steps below and make the USB drive bootable:

Step 1: Firstly, download the macOS installer and connect your USB Drive to your desktop or laptop.

Download: macOS MontereymacOS Big SurmacOS CatalinamacOS MojavemacOS High Sierra or OS X El Capitan

Step 2: Now, connect the USB drive and Format it through the Disk Utility pop-up and open up the Terminal app

Step 3: Now, enter the following commands for the respective versions and hit the “Return” key:

macOS Monterey: sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ 12\ Beta.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia –volume /Volumes/Installer –nointeraction

macOS Big Sur: sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Big\ Sur.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia –volume /Volumes/MyVolume

macOS Catalina: sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Catalina.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia –volume /Volumes/MyVolume

macOS Mojave: sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Mojave.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia –volume /Volumes/MyVolume

macOS High Sierra: sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ High\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia –volume /Volumes/MyVolume

macOS El Capitan: sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ Capitan.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia –volume /Volumes/MyVolume –applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ Capitan.app

Note: This will start the process for making the bootable drive, and you would have to enter your password when prompted. Finally, wait for the terminal to complete the process, and you will have your bootable drive ready.

Step 4: Now, get your bootable USB drive ready (instructions above) and turn off your Mac. Next, insert the USB drive and turn on your Mac while holding down the “Option” key, and you’ll be greeted with a set of boot options. Select your installer drive from the list and follow the instructions on the screen to have a fresh install of Monterey on your device. Finally, click on “Continue”, and set up macOS and boot into the home screen.

Restore your Time Machine Backup
  • Now that you have a clean install macOS device. You can go ahead and restore your backup to get all your data back. You can do this by:
  • Turn off your Mac and boot into the “Recovery Mode”, following the same steps above.
  • Now, click on the “Restore from Time Machine” option and select the storage drive with the previous backup files.
  • Finally, restore the backup and boot into the OS.

FAQs

How do I wipe my Mac and reinstall it?

You can wipe and reinstall macOS from erasing your drive and then using a bootable USB drive to make a fresh install of macOS. You can follow the steps and instructions above to get an in-depth guide on how you can clean install macOS.

Can I install high Sierra on my MacBook Pro 2011?

Yes, you can still install High Sierra on your MacBook Pro 2011. Apple is known to support their devices for more than 10 years, and High Sierra can still be downloaded from the links above. You can also follow the process to make a bootable USB stick and install High Sierra from it.

Why will my Mac not update?

There are many reasons for your Mac not updating, but the primary reasons for the cause are that your internet connection is not working fine or your Mac doesn’t have the available storage. Finally, you can also check if there is any new update or clear up your storage drive and reinstall macOS from the links above.

Final words

With this, we have reached the end of our journey with the clean install macOS guide and hope that you have successfully reinstalled macOS on your laptop or desktop. However, if you still have any concerns left, please comment down to help you out with a solution as soon as possible.