My macbook (feb 2008 white) sold on ebay, but I haven't shipped it yet. I'm concerned about my privacy. I can't wipe the hd clean because I sold the computer with valuable software on it. What files should I remove so that the person who receives the computer can't log into my accounts? And what other things should I do to ensure my privacy is safe?


The simple solution

Create a new admin account, then use it to delete your personal account(s).

When you delete a user, you have the option of performing a "secure erase" on their home directory:

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Assuming you haven't stored any personal files outside of your home directory, this will do the trick.

The paranoid solution

If you want to be really thorough, the only way to ensure that none of your personal data remains is to securely wipe the drive. You can do this from Disk Utility by clicking "Security Options" on the "Erase" tab:

enter image description here

After that, reinstall your applications. None of your personal data will remain.

  • How can you do this, if you only have 1 drive, and you're trying to delete all the data on it? – orokusaki Dec 28 '12 at 16:26
  • 1
    You can launch Disk Utility from an OS X installation disc or recovery partition. – jmk Feb 4 '13 at 2:13

Here is another way to do it:

  1. Create a new user.
  2. Encrypt the old user's personal folder with FileVault using an insane random password. (E.g. 100 random characters.)
  3. Remove old user and select to remove user data.

As all the old user's file are encrypted and then erased, even if those files are restored they would be useless without the encryption key.

This solution assumes that no software is installed as "for this user only" as that software would be removed with the old user.

  • thanks. is there any way I can check to see if the software is installed for multiple users – Kirby Oct 21 '12 at 15:04
  • If there was only one user on the system when you installed the apps, the apps were installed for all users. To make sure that the apps are for all users, go into your user’s folder and check if there is an “Applications” folder. If there is, copy the contents to /Applications and you are good to go. – duci9y Oct 21 '12 at 15:33
  • @duci9y my user's applications folder is empty. – Kirby Oct 21 '12 at 15:46
  • This may be difficult to do in Lion and newer, as old-style FileVault home directories are being phased out. – jmk Oct 21 '12 at 16:50
  • @user176105 Then you are good to go! Just to make sure, test all apps using a temporary user account. – duci9y Oct 21 '12 at 17:21

Don't skip the first steps of the process: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201065

Especially signing out of iTunes is very much recommended to avoid running into limitations of the maximum number of the devices active.

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Here is one way to do it:

  1. Take a full backup
  2. Secure wipe the hard drive. (Software like DBAN should do the job nicely.)
  3. Reinstall Mac OS
  4. Restore apps, but not personal files, from the backup.
  • Disk Utility also has the ability to securely erase drives. – jmk Oct 21 '12 at 16:56
  • @jmk Yes, but it doesn't allow you to erase the system drive so that won't help you in this case. – LapplandsCohan Oct 21 '12 at 20:06
  • Obviously, you need to boot from another drive (DBAN included). All OS X installer/recovery drives come with Disk Utility. – jmk Oct 21 '12 at 20:41

A guide from here https://macback.us/sell-macbook-pro/

1 - Create a backup
2 - Sign out of iTunes
3 - Sign out of iCloud
4 - Sign out of iMessage
5 - Erase and reinstall OS X

you can also use rm -rfP ~/stuff. usage with sudo may or may not also be required

from there you can target various folders and files for secure deletion

 -P          Overwrite regular files before deleting them.  Files are overwritten three times, first with the byte pattern
             0xff, then 0x00, and then 0xff again, before they are deleted.

keep in mind that if you are removing symbolic links you are only removing their references and not the origin files.

  • Just deleting everything might not be the best approach. Also overwriting is not really necessary if one uses encrypted disks. – nohillside Dec 21 '20 at 13:30
  • my suggestion in this case is to help those who wish to target specific folders or files (without perscribing what those files should be) on an unencrypted volume. at no point did I suggest to 'just delete everything' and did not have a reason to assume encryption @nohillside – lfender6445 Dec 21 '20 at 16:08
  • It might help to turn this into a complete answer then, right now it just consists of "use rm -P" which may be misleading. It might also be worth pointing out that -P may not work es expected on SSD and flash drives. – nohillside Dec 21 '20 at 16:24
  • i disagree but invite you to edit my response if you think it needs it tuning – lfender6445 Dec 21 '20 at 17:45
  • It's your answer :-) But keep in mind that the question was "What to Remove before selling Macbook?" so simply removing stuff (without logging out of iCloud etc) may not work very well. – nohillside Dec 21 '20 at 18:00

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