My recently purchased MBP 16 (used, from eBay) suddenly crashed and upon restart, would not find the internal SSD to boot up. It would show the questionmark-folder icon flashing. After rebooting and pressing the option key, I didn't see anything. Not my internal SSD nor my connected Windows Bootcamp drive. I had previously asked the seller to remove the device from his "Find My" App. I quickly gave him a call, and indeed that was what had happened.


  • MBP is bricked and won't recover from the Internet (error 2004f, 2003f and 2005f)
  • Won't start Bootcamp
  • Doesn't "see" macOS Big Sur installation drive (for manual recovery by reinstalling the OS)
  • Recovery Mode doesn't work at all
  • Resetting NVRAM won't help
  • Seller pretty much remotely bricked it by accident

The seller called Apple Support and they told him that he probably remote erased my whole machine, which is usually done after theft or losing a device. He did it by accident via his iPhone, which did not distinguish between the option to simply remove a device and completely erasing (and locking) it.

After contacting the Apple Support Chat, we didn't really come closer to finding a working solution. He told me to try and manually install it via a removable drive to run the macOS Big Sur installation or to bring it in for repair.

All of this pretty much happened, because the device wasn't properly reset and prepared to be sold per Apple's official documentation.

Does anyone know what I can do on my end to repair this? Any feedback and/or help is very much appreciated. I do hope that this thread can serve as a reference point for others encountering the same issue in the future.

Related: "How I sold an old Mac and unknowingly had access to its location for over 3 years"

  • Is this a question? If you are asking for something in particular, I would update the post, otherwise, someone will most likely mark it as off topic.
    – Salocor
    Jan 25, 2021 at 22:01
  • Be sure to put the answer in the answer section. Questions should have enough detail to be answerable. This reads like a blog post. See the tour for more details.
    – bmike
    Jan 25, 2021 at 22:10
  • Will do, I'll restructure the question now. Jan 25, 2021 at 22:24
  • Ask ebay for a return/refund. You might need to explain in your case that the seller made the item unusable or didn’t follow guidelines before selling. They are at fault and you can get a refund. It happened to me a few times when buying apple stuff that the devices were not unpaired and it’s a real pain but it also prevents theft I guess... Jan 27, 2021 at 17:17
  • 1
    Thanks everyone for your answers! I was able to restore the MBP via WiFi. It restored the recovery partition, from where I was able to reinstall a clean copy of Catalina. I then proceeded to update it to Big Sur and used Migration Assistant to import my Timemachine backup (everything except system settings). Restoring directly from Timemachine, without installing a clean macOS Catalina copy first, resulted in startup crashes, I figured that's because Big Sur based backups can't be properly restored to a Catalina machine. TLDR; Everything is fine now and works like a charm. Feb 1, 2021 at 12:54

2 Answers 2


Apple covers exactly what to do to protect both sellers and buyers when exchanging hardware.

Often, only the original purchaser, with proof of purchase can get Apple to bypass an activation lock or firmware password.

  • Thank you very much for your answer. Very helpful indeed. On topic: a firmware password was not set by the previous owner. The second article reads: "If you reset your device and erase all content and settings, Activation Lock is turned off." In this case Activation Lock should be off. Shouldn't I be able to reinstall macOS now? Jan 25, 2021 at 22:34
  • Don’t let my small portion of an answer prevent yours. Feel free to crib any parts of mine for yours as well @JonathanArbely
    – bmike
    Jan 25, 2021 at 22:35

Apple: When a machine gets erased without "Activation Lock" being turned on, it's not possible to restore the machine via Internet or external drive for several hours, as the internal drive will unmount itself periodically. This is to "prevent abuse of the remote reset function". Resetting NVRAM won't help with that.

I was eventually able to restore the device via WiFi and reinstall a clean copy of macOS.

See comment in OP for more info.

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