I recently purchased a 3 year old secondhand corporate owned MacBook Pro which has a lot of files from the previous user.

Users are as follows:

  1. admin (admin) from old corporate IT department
  2. myself (admin)
  3. old user no. 1
  4. old user no. 2

Users 3 and 4 must have many files in their respective directories, as only 60GB is available on the drive.

I don't want to do a reinstall unless absolutely necessary, as the unit has some amazing software already installed.

My question is, is it possible to access the old users' accounts so I can delete these files as they are no longer in the country and cannot be reached?

I'm not a power user obviously, but would appreciate any help.

  • Oz, it’s not recommended to use the legacy apps and data, especially they are three years old.The best choice is to format the Mac and reinstall with the latest OS. There are many useful free apps out there. You can slowly building your collection, or maybe try setapp.com for a few months to figure out what kind of apps suit you best. – sayzlim Sep 14 '17 at 15:25

You don't own any of the software on it & will not be able to update it.
You don't even own the OS & will not be able to update that either.
At some point, something will ask for the credentials of the original owner... & you won't know them.

Apple's policy is opposite to that of Microsoft. With Windows the OS & apps belong to the machine & changing the machine's owner is simple. With Apple, everything belongs to the original purchaser - tied to their Apple ID, & they can change machine, taking their purchases with them. They can't, however, give that software away, it is irrevocably tied to the original Apple ID. This includes the OS itself.

Your best course of action is to completely wipe the machine & start over.
As a new owner of a blank second-hand Mac, the new OS you install will now belong to you.

What to do before selling or giving away your Mac should already have been done by the previous owners - & frankly for a company to not wipe its old machines is really unsafe; who knows what sensitive information is still on there... or what spyware, viruses etc...

Start from Step 5 on that page & completely erase & reinstall the OS.

  • 1
    I wouldn't trust a company which would sell me a computer with remaining users data inside, as I wouldn't trust a guy who would sell me an opened bottle of coke with remaining coke inside 😡. – dan Sep 14 '17 at 11:10
  • Can't agree more: "completely erase & reinstall the OS"! – dan Sep 14 '17 at 11:11
  • 1
    tbh, I'd be more inclined to think about who right now should be out of a job. Handing over a machine potentially containing client or company data should be a sackable offence; if not broader scoped - what if it were patient data, or financial? – Tetsujin Sep 14 '17 at 11:31

With respect to previous answers that point out that you don't own the OS or the apps on the computer they are (mostly) right. MacOS is free to use with a Mac. But the OS on the Mac you bought was registered under an AppleID owned by the company you bought the Mac from so updating it will be problematic without the AppleID and corresponding password.

You do not own the Apps installed on that Mac. Period. So updating them without resorting to unlawful copies and/or updaters will be impossible.

Actually removing a user profile is about as simple as it gets. Open System Preferences > Users & Groups and click the lock icon to authenticate yourself. Select the account you want to delete and click the "-" button at the bottom of the left column. You will be given a couple of options, to simply delete the profile or create a disk image of that profile. If you need none of the user specific data then just delete the profile. Repeat as necessary.

Personally I would do as previous answers have suggested, reinstall macOS after you wipe the hard drive. You then start with a clean slate that carries none of the cruft left behind by that Mac's previous users.


The OS installed is not necessarily tied to any AppleID. It might be. If you walk out of a shop with a Mac from the shelf, it will not be associated with any ID. If you install the OS from a stick you prepared it will not be associated with any ID. Although that is the first thing Apple urges you to do once you start up the computer. Anyone can skip this process never associating the machine with any ID. This OS can be updated just fine to the maximum version of the OS installed. And since this is an OS that came with the machine as bought, Apple not wanting money for this I fail to see any legal problem arising from that. Apple wants to sell you the hardware, which you bought, and to push content for which you have to pay again. The OS being just a free giveaway enabling you to get in.

Technically, you can not update non-professional apps from the AppStore since that indeed requires giving the credentials for the AppleID that was used to download them. But again technically, you will most probably be able to update most of the professional (or real applications/programs) software installed on that system until said software is payware and hits the paid-upgrade threshold. Free/libre professional software can be amazing too and you will never have to pay for that, and you can update and upgrade those titles as freely and happily as you like. The OP never stated what kind of amazing software was meant. Legal reinstallation might just be a hassle etc. Reselling should be possible and legal everywhere, even with software that's now defined 'as a service' (meaning: 'just for rent').

Legally you might have a problem with that subspecies of payware professional software. If the original owner sold you the software license as well you should be fine, but certain jurisdictions enforce the unethical business practices of forbidding just that. You may break the law in using that kind of software and if applicable you should strive to improve the legal situation for that by lobbying and urging to change that stupid law.

Back on the Topic of your Actual Question

Legally, technically and ethically: yes, you can delete the files of other users/previous owners and you should delete them; but ethically you should not 'access' these files. Instead you should probably follow Steve's advice or just go to the folder /Users/ and select these folders there:

admin (admin) from old corporate IT department
old user no. 1
old user no. 2

and delete them unseen. That should be possible either via Steve's method or just by dragging the folders there to the Trash.

And finally, I agree that a complete wipe and clean install is probably by far the best option for even more reasons than already stated here.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .