I have a late 2011 MacBook Air with an SSD and Lion. I used it for a while and then I activated FileVault 2. Now the data is encrypted, but I need to securely erase it so I can sell the computer.

I thought about erasing it with gparted by installing it on a USB.

Any suggestions?

  • It's my understanding after a TRIM command, there is no real way to still recover deleted data from an SSD drive.
    – Gerry
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 8:48
  • What do u means Gerry? so after deleted it's yet secure?
    – James
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 22:28
  • For link purposes: How to securely erase an SSD drive? (2011-08-19) Commented Dec 9, 2012 at 0:41

9 Answers 9


If you have a USB Flash Drive of 8 GB of size, you can make a Lion Installer and use it to securely erase the Drive.


You can also make a USB Bootable Recovery Disk as explained here by Apple:


Once you have done either you can hold down the OPTION key while restarting your computer and booting from it.

When it loads up, it will give you a few different options, you will need to use the Disk Utility part and highlight your HD and choose the Erase Tab. Under the erase settings will be a security option when you can write the disk to 0 once or even multiple times.

There is a guide on it here:


See the part where it says

How to Zero erase and install OS X

I hope that helps you out.


The guy at the bottom of this post:


points out a work around to securely erase the SSD drive in the MacBook Air through encryption.

This is what he says:


I found a workaround. Restart the computer and hold option to enter the setup screen. Go into disk utility and select the drive. Erase the drive using "Mac OS Extended (Case-sensitive, Journaled, Encrypted). Make a password for the encryption, it doesn't matter what it is because you won't need it. Hit "Erase". Now select the volume and the "Erase Free Space" and "Security Options" buttons should no longer be grayed out. Click and select your level of security and off you go. I presume "Erase Free Space" and "Security Options" should do the same thing because you just erased the drive so all space is considered free. This worked for me so let me know if it helps.

Let me know if that's works, this should securely erase the drive since it will then be encrypted.

Also, in the future with Lion be sure to use FileVault 2 so that you don't have to worry about this again.

  • yes, that's it,thanks and how much secure is it?
    – James
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 0:14
  • @james I updated my answer to be more helpful with some information I found.
    – de_an777
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 2:13
  • ok thanks i will try this procedure next week and i will inform here if it's ok. thanks!!
    – James
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 13:16
  • and how much secure is this procedure? the controller will really erase each sector on ssd?. thanks!
    – James
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 9:08
  • @james Technically yes, once the drive is encrypted, you'll be able to erase the drive with the security options, and it can pass over up to, if I remember correctly, 35 times. That should securely erase everything. The drive should be really really blank now. You could even do that again if you want, just don't wear out the SSD too much if you don't have to.
    – de_an777
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 12:51

It looks like securely erasing an SSD is a different chore than erasing a traditional hard drive. Unconfirmed, but it looks like Apple is actively disabling the legacy erase techniques for SSD drives, since they don't work as noted in Ask Ars: How can I securely erase the data from my SSD drive?

As pointed out in a recent research article, there isn't a standard method for securely deleting data from a solid state drive. Hard disk drives have had this problem solved for ages, and can execute a secure delete by filling the space occupied by an incriminating file with zeroes or multiple writes of different characters...

The overwriting procedure that works so well for HDDs doesn't work as well for SSDs for a couple of reasons. One is that many SSDs have extra storage space that's not accessible by users. This is called over-provisioning, and some deletion tools won't give you access to this area (if you can go through the BIOS and uninstall your drive, you can get full access). While the research paper noted above that overwriting did obscure all of the data in some of the SSDs they tested, some still had old readable data on them after twenty overwrites. This can happen because of firmware bugs, and unless you're able to physically confirm that this procedure works on your SSD of choice, it's not reliable enough for a real secure erase.


Likewise, it is almost impossible to securely delete an individual file on an SSD, because the way that SSDs write and delete files is scattered, and a user has no control over what an SSD is doing where. If that's the kind of security you're looking for, your best bet is encryption, which we will cover in a little bit.


Many SSDs today also come preinstalled with secure wiping utilities that are meant to actually eradicate data from cells. But of the twelve drives tested by those researchers, only four of twelve erased their data reliably, and one that claimed to be securely erasing everything was just doing the old "forget where everything is and leave it there for now" trick, and all the data was still retrievable. Some drives are known to have better erase tools than others—for instance, drives with Indilinx controllers have a "Sanitary Erase" that deletes all data and restores drives to their out-of-the box condition.

Your best bet going forward is to use encryption and then throw away the encryption key to "securely erase" it. So going forward, if you are concerned with security and you're using SSD, you may want to enable FileVault2 immediately before you start putting data on the SSD. Unfortunately, for data that's already on the drive, it may be extremely difficult to securely delete it, depending on the SSD used in the MacBook Air. There maybe be a reset tool for the SSD from the manufacturer, but seeing how it's an Apple OEM specific part from a 3rd party vendor, it's probably going to be unlikely to exist.

If security is an issue, you may want to hang onto the SSD or destroy the SSD to be the most secure.

If your MacBook Air supports Lion Recovery Mode, and you're using full disk encryption such as FileVault2, you will not need anything else to do it other than following the steps below.

  1. Boot your MacBook Air into Recovery Mode by holding down Command+R while booting it.

  2. Open the Disk Utility Program, select the drive you want to securely erase.

  3. Select the "Erase" tab.

  4. Click "Security Options..."

  5. Drag the slider to the Most Secure setting or somewhere in between and then select "OK".

  6. Then click "Erase..." and follow the remaining on-screen prompts.

Note: For more information on how secure the Disk Utilities Secure Erase feature is, see About Disk Utility's erase free space feature

  • 1
    this procedure show me grey button and even if how much secure it is? thanks
    – James
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 9:42
  • Which button is grey?
    – MrDaniel
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 14:47
  • security options
    – James
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 22:29
  • If you encrypt the disk first it's not greyed out anymore -- just not sure if it's "safe" to do (SSD damage?).
    – Tuinslak
    Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 19:17
  • It may be the case that Apple is accounting better for SSDs now a days. It be the case that since it's encrypted it does not really do anything more when you tell it to secure erase it, its an unlink and done kind of thing. If you have a spare drive see what it does if it sits there for hours erasing, that's bad. Almost instant its probably doing like I said...
    – MrDaniel
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 20:57

You can do this by booting into the Recovery partition, launch Terminal from the Utilities menu and use the diskutil command.

Enter diskutil secureErase or man diskutil for some explanation how erasing with diskutil works. To find the diskidentifier of the volume you want to erase (for instance disk0s2), enter diskutil list.

The following example will erase a volume with US DoE 3-pass secure erase:

diskutil secureErase 4 disk0s2


You should enable FileVault encryption, then erase the drive the standard way. Erasing the drive the standard way erases the metadata, but not the actual files, but if the drive is encrypted before it is erased, someone tying to recover the erased files would just find jibberish.

The term for this is cryptographic erasure and the huge benefit of this is the erase is basically instantaneous when you wipe the keys that can unlock the data.


If you're on Lion, odds are you have the new recovery partition installed.

What you can do to erase your hard-drive is to boot into the Recovery partition by holding down command-R when you start your notebook.

This will boot your computer into a limited mode, where you will be able to access Disk Utility. From there, select the partition you want to erase, and then Erase it. Select Security Options... to make the erase complete and secure, so that the data won't be accessible again.

  • 1
    thanks for your answer, did u do this process? i tried but security option seems gray, how i can unblock them? btw are u sure it's secure? i read some post here and there about unsecure wipe ssd is. thanks!
    – James
    Commented Jun 17, 2012 at 23:18
  • @James: are you sure you launched it from the Recovery partition? If it's still gray, try unmounting the HD first (from a Terminal). Also, I'm not completely sure about whether this is 100% effective for SSDs, maybe this article -- arstechnica.com/security/2011/03/… -- can help.
    – houbysoft
    Commented Jun 17, 2012 at 23:34
  • yes, infact i can initialize it but not with security option enabled :( I did after reboot so i'm sure it's unmounted, if not i think i can't initialize it. thanks for your suggest (link) but it just say as solution: encrypt, ok but i did it but only after some times i used it unencrypted. so i don't want the files in that period are recoverable. i don't know if it's clear, i hope…so any suggestion to solve this?
    – James
    Commented Jun 17, 2012 at 23:47
  • 3
    You cannot securely erase SSDs this way.
    – Gerry
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 8:23
  • it's so strange apple did give us some kind of method to erase secure ssd, it can't believeble. what about gparted, do u think it's secure?
    – James
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 9:28

If you boot from an external drive or recovery mode it is also sufficient to zero the internal disk if it's an SSD. One pass is enough. Use Disk Utility to discover what device the internal disk uses (probably /dev/disk0). If you see a partition like /dev/disk0s2 then the disk is /dev/disk0). Use "Get Info" to find out the mount point.

Then quit Disk Utility and load the Terminal and do:

diskutil zeroDisk /dev/disk0

Afterwards it will be necessary to repartition and format the disk, which you can do from Disk Utility or the command line.


The wipe options were not visible for me in any of the other answers. Here's a simple way that worked on my Macbook 12.

Boot into recovery by holding Command+R on startup.

From the utilities menu, choose Terminal. Use the following command to wipe the main disk:

diskutil secureErase 0 /dev/disk0

It took about 10 minutes on a 250gb SSD.

Also see diskutil list and just diskutil secureErase for more options.


So you mean if you format the drive, someone may use the recovery software to see your data?

Just delete the files you don't want anyone to see then copy dummy data until the disk is full, delete the dummy data, and your previous data is completely gone.

  • so it's the same as make a 7pass secure formatting in utility disk?
    – James
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 0:16

Go to Recovery by pressing CmdR while restarting and erase your Mac's disk in Disk Utility. Then, reinstall the OS.


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