We’re tackling a fun issue with geeky hand-me-downs in this week’s Tech 911. I wish I knew someone older than me—a parent, a brother, an awesome neighbor—who had laptops and smartphones and gadgets galore that they could pass my way when they were sick of using them.
Unfortunately, I don’t, but Lifehacker reader Kyle certainly does. And while free stuff is always fun and appreciated, there’s one quirk with his latest acquisition that he needs help solving. He writes:
For the purposes of this answer—at least, the first part of it—I’m going to assume that you’re asking how to log into a machine when you don’t have the user name and password. This question speaks to a larger point, though: How do I access a machine that someone else has locked down?
Thankfully, we don’t need to worry about any kind of crazy recovery tools or password-cracking advice for this one, since your ultimate goal is not to get into an account that isn’t yours, but to use a system on which that account was previously created. In other words, we can just reset your cheese grater to its factory defaults and set it up as if it were a brand-new system, eliminating that login issue in the process.
The easy way to do this—assuming your Mac’s previous owner hasn’t set up a firmware password, which makes things a lot trickier—is to simply boot into your Mac’s recovery mode when you start it up. Power on your computer and immediately start holding Command+R. Continue doing this until you see something happen on your screen (typically an Apple logo or a spinning globe), then you can release the keys.
If you don’t see the macOS “utilities window” when recovery boots, and instead see something like “macOS Recovery” with a prompt asking you to enter a user’s password, click on Recovery Assistant and select Erase Mac. Click on the blue “Erase Mac” hyperlink and let ‘er rip—this will wipe your system and allow you to set up a new version of macOS from scratch (with whatever user name and password you want).
Otherwise, if you make it into the primary macOS “utilities window,” launch Disk Utility. select your drive that has macOS installed on it, and select Erase. When done, quit out of Disk Utility and begin the process of reinstalling macOS via the handy link in the main “macOS Utilities” screen.
I’m hoping the person who gave you your new Mac disabled iCloud (and the “Find My…” feature) before coughing it up. Otherwise, you should be able to reset your Mac’s NVRAM/PRAM, which deletes the “Find My” association. You can then sign into your iCloud account, and you should be able to set up your Mac as if it was always and forever yours. (You might also be able to just log into iCloud as normal, without resetting your NVRAM/PRAM, to associate the erased Mac with your own iCloud account. I’d try both steps.)
This should get you up and running with your new Mac. If not, or if you’re still encountering any issues or confusion, write back!
Do you have a tech question keeping you up at night? Tired of troubleshooting your Windows or Mac? Looking for advice on apps, browser extensions, or utilities to accomplish a particular task? Let us know! Tell us in the comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.