Macmaps: Selling Used Macs guide

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A companion page on where to buy used and refurbished Macs is also on this website. Identifying your Mac is covered by a tip I wrote on Apple Support Communities.

Here are tips for selling:
  • Deauthorize your music store account for machines you are about to sell. See Apple Article 93014 to learn how.
  • Backup your data before selling it.
  • Verify the hardware tests OK with the included discs*. The directions for the hardware test the link for Intel Macs on their restore discs, and PowerPC Macs on their restore disc will help you determine if any user detectable hardware issues are present. These will not give you bad RAM all the time. See my Bad RAM FAQ, in event you have any possibility of bad RAM, due to Kernel panics.  The 'D' key at startup works for Macs that did not ship with installation discs to run the hardware diagnostics at startup.
  • If you are considering selling a notebook or Mac Mini because the power adapter no longer works, note the guide I have on How to prevent power adapters from fraying. It is possible you may be able to get a replacement power adapter before selling it, so that the buyer does not have to incur that cost.
  • Include the original installation disks for any included applications, and destroy your own copies unless you have license for another copy. If you aren't sure which disks are the original ones, it is necessary to identify your Mac, and look at what operating system it came with using Apple Article 25517 and 1159. Note, Macs whose hardware changes on or after July 20, 2011 do not have prebundled installationd discs, or USB Flash drives. For those Macs, any software you include, you can't have made a copy of for yourself, unless you requested an extra license in most instances. Original installation discs are not available for post July 20, 2011 Macs, as Lion or later shipped on those Macs. For them, the restore directions here apply. I have also written additional tips on What to do when a Mac does not have the original discs
  • If you forgot your system administrator password, don't leave that up to the buyer to reset. Here's an Apple Article to reset the password for 10.6.8 and earlier, and 10.7 and later.
  • The newest Mac models, be sure to turn off the Secure Boot settings mentioned in this article:
  • Make sure your PRAM battery is current. Any Mac older than 3 years may need a PRAM battery replacement. This is different from the battery the notebooks have which are easily removable. Almost all Macs have them, except the few which are marked "n/a" on "Backup Battery" column of Apple's Article 86181 in their knowledgebase. If you have a notebook which needs a battery replacement, take it to an authorized service center to have it replaced as those are particularly difficult to replace and require extra parts most desktop PRAM batteries do not.
  • Buy any licenses for software you wish to keep.
  • You can't keep the restore disks* for the computer. If you lost the disks, contact AppleCare for replacement as these are important for the ability to restore the software, and troubleshooting if a software or hardware issue exists. Note, these Macs do not have restore discs:
    • iMac of an EMC of 2496; 13,x and later.
    • Mac Mini 5,x and later.
    • Macbook Air 4,x and later.
    • MacBook 8,x and later (no Pro no Air in the name)
    • Mac Pro 5,1 with EMC 2629; 6,x and later.
    • MacBook Pro with EMC 2555, 2563; 9,x and later.
  • If your Mac is still under AppleCare discuss with AppleCare how to transfer your AppleCare to the buyer.
  • Boot off the installation disks to zero the hard disk. Follow Apple's instructions on Article 107437.
  • Inform the buyer of Apple's article 61802, and 301468 on how to restore software.
  • Check the current price for your type of machine with existing used and refurbished Mac shops.
  • If you choose to migrate data from one machine to a different machine, consider the processors of both machines. If they are both the same using the Migration Assistant should work fine if both have Firewire, and the machine being sold has Target Disk Mode support.
  • If there is an apparent hardware issue, before passing it on to someone else, check the Exchange Repair programs page to find out if your Mac can still be repaired out of warranty.
  • Some Macs if they lack the original installer discs can still be prepared to have at least internet restore for Mac OS X 10.7 or later setup for future users: using the firmware found on this article
  • An optional type of installation would use ChangeShortName. Note this type of installation may require reinstalling some software, and you would need to reregister any registered software in that name.
  • Note which products are vintage or obsolete, this will help avoid unnecessary hassles when it comes to ordering parts that are hard to find, that Apple can't supply. In other words, make sure you have all the working parts together.

  • How to move data between two CPU Macs before selling?

    If one is PowerPC and one is Intel, you are better off using just Target Disk Mode, and only copying critical files and folders, and installing the rest on the different machine separately. Similarly you can save the critical files and folders to CD and DVD, or an external hard drive or flash drive if your machine doesn't have Firewire. This is done by the following steps:

    1. Backup your data first before attempting this. This is vitally important in case you make a mistake below.

    2. Startup your new Mac for the first time, go through the setup and registration screens, but do NOT migrate data over. Get to your desktop on the new Mac without migrating any new data over.

    3. Startup your old Mac in target disk mode, and connect the Firewire cable between the two Macs. If your Mac doesn't have Target Disk Mode capability, setting up an ethernet network may also work to move data, but it won't work with the Migration Assistant necessarily.

    4. Copy from your old Mac: Users - yourname folder the following to the equivalent folder on your new Mac, replacing the contents of the new Mac:

    Music if you used iTunes.

    Pictures if you used iPhoto or Apple Photos

    Movies if you used iMovie

    Library folder's Mail and Mail Downloads folder if you used Mac OS X Mail

    Library folder's Applications Support folder's Addressbook

    Library folder's Calendar folder (for iCal)
    Library folder's Safari folder

    Library folder's Preferences folder's

    Once you have done transferring those contents, restart the new Mac and test to make sure the contents are there for each of the applications. If you used any other applications you want to transfer data over from, feel free to ask me where the files are stored, or ask Apple Discussions or the vendor discussion board that is relevant.5. Please note starting with Mac OS 10.13 High Sierra, Apple has an automatic formatting option for Macs with SSD that happens during installation. If you chose to upgrade the Mac, it will not be visible to older operating systems. This could affect the buyer's ability to upgrade their own data. Discuss with the buyer if possible, whether or not they want 10.13 or newer installed and explain to them the new file system limitations.

  • * Macs that shipped new on or after July 22, 2011 did not ship with discs.   MacBook Airs prior to this date shipped with USB Sticks with the operating system.   March 14, 2010 and earlier Intel Macs (released new January 7, 2006 and later) support the retail 10.6 installer (does not say DropIn, OEM, or upgrade on it, nor a specific Mac model, and has a picture of a Snow Leopard on front), and it can be launched with an Option key at startup with a wired keyboard.  Newer Macs use the Internet Restore (Intel, M1 chip)function for the operating system after all the other precautions have been taken for your old data.

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