Erasing My MacBook Hard Drive

macOS & Mac Apps

I have an old macbook, early 2008 running Mountain Lion. The wifi stopped working suddenly a few days ago. It was working then stopped. I had not updated or installed anything. I have been trying everything I could find online to fix it but nothing helped. So I decided to erase the hard drive and reinstall the os thinking it might fix things and I've nothing to lose at this point. I held down command r as I restarted. I chose disk utility, then the disk to erase, the format style, and name, then clicked erase. A confirm box came up and again clicked erase. Then nothing happens. I did this several times with same results. Now when I quit disk utility and shut down when I turn the computer back on all thats there is the same window that you start up holding down command-r. I don't know what I've done ore what to do.



Submitted by Tyler Kavanaugh on Saturday, November 28, 2015

That means your hard drive has been erased, and you're now booting from the recovery HD. Proceed to reinstall OS X.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Saturday, November 28, 2015

Actually your disk is now eraced. You did it correct. Now just reinstall yoru os.

Submitted by Betsy on Saturday, November 28, 2015

I never waited more than ten minutes when it seemed to be doing nothing so didn't think it was possible that it erased. Anyway I still can not connect it to my wifi, needed to get the os back, so I guess it didn't work. Thank you both so much.

Submitted by Tyler on Saturday, November 28, 2015

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

It can take some time if you do a secure erase, but otherwise, it should happen pretty quickly. If you can't connect to wifi to reinstall the OS, try connecting to ethernet.

Submitted by Tyler Kavanaugh on Saturday, November 28, 2015

If you can't connect it to Wi-Fi, let's consider this. Can you connect any other devices (iPhone, other computers, etc) to the network? Also, when did this issue start?

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Saturday, November 28, 2015

Remember, there is a bug where if you boot in to the system recovery drive you cannot connect to any wifi network as voiceover will crash, at least it did when accessing that menu. I reported this but don't normally install from there Internet as I have a bootable disk I use instead. I wrote up a chapter on my newest eGuide on how to do this. Contact me privately for more info.

Submitted by Betsy on Sunday, November 29, 2015

And just to be sure I unplugged the modem, waited ten seconds, then plugged it (power cable) back in. It happened suddenly and without cause. I was using the computer and on the internet. Then I left it on for an hour and came back. Before shutting it down I tried to get back on the internet and could not because the wifi had stopped working. I had not installed any apps, I was only using Chrome to manage an email account. And had not had a software update in many weeks. The modem and router are in a place where using the computer would be just about impossible.

Submitted by Betsy on Sunday, November 29, 2015

I erased the drive again this time choosing the slowest secure method. Lo and behold today the wifi is working. I was so happy until I tried to reinstall the OS. Can not do this, apparantly because my Apple ID is not that of the original owner of the Macbook. I bought it used from Ebay.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Sunday, November 29, 2015

You did not register your apple id for app store downloads so you would not be in this situation? I see no way to fix this unless there is a way to register through the recovery console.

Submitted by Tyler on Sunday, November 29, 2015

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

In the OS X Utilities table, select "Get help online." Safari should open as it normally does in the OS.

If you're connected to the internet, go to Sign in with your apple ID and select add products under the my products heading. You will need your Macbook's serial number to register.

Submitted by Betsy on Sunday, November 29, 2015

When I bought the computer, my first non-Windows computer, it was running a fresh install of Mountain Lion. All I did was set it up using my Apple ID which I had because I was already using an iPad. What other things should I have done to avoid this debacle ? I don't want to make the same mistake in the future. Thanks.

Submitted by Betsy on Sunday, November 29, 2015

I will try what you have suggested. I had used the get help online option to get to Safari. Even signed into Icloud thinking I might find something there. I am not able to locate my serial number by clicking the Apple icon now, there is no about this Mac list item as there used to be. do you think I might find it if I remove the battery?

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Sunday, November 29, 2015

Register your product with apple support at the address given in the prior post. I just c heaned up my profile as I saw stuff in there I no longer own.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Sunday, November 29, 2015

  1. Go to the first menu item which will be apple
  2. Click about this mac
  3. Hit vo right until you get to the serial number field
  4. Vo shift c on the long field of number and letters. This will coppy the text to the clipboard.

Good luck

Submitted by Betsy on Sunday, November 29, 2015

In reply to by Tyler

Even though I don't have my serial number I went to the profile webpage anyway. There I get a message saying my version of Safari is too old therefore not compatible. Can not use the website even if I did have the serial number. Maybe I will ask my daughter to take it to an Apple store and I'll pay to get an os installed. And a new battery. Or maybe I ought to give up on it.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Monday, November 30, 2015

Can you not log in with the apple id at all? This is why a boot disk with osx el capitan on it is a good thing, this way you need not go on line. I wrote a chapter on how to do this Here is the chapter in full. For those interested. For those that want to check out my book go here.

creating a boot thumb drive for your brand new Osx El Capitan Installer

The following is modified from this link.
Suppose you want to install from scratch and your mac's hard drive for some reason won't let yo do it via the recovery console. Suppose you just want to reformat your mac and start over, or sell it. This final chapter will walk you through creating a bootable thumb drive that will help you do just that.

What you will need

You will need a flash drive that is at least 8 gigs or higher. You will also need about 15-30 minutes on your hands to wait for the process to complete. You might also need a cup of coffee while you wait. Joking of corse.


First, you will need to if you did not already download the osx 10.11 installer from the app store. This is about a 6 gig download. See the upgrade chapter on how to do this. A side note to the reader here. If you have any important content on the flash drive, move it somewhere else. The drive will be erased of all of its content.

Next connect your USB flash drive to your mac. If you are using a different medium such as an external drive, connect that.

Next hit command plus shift plus c from the finder and hit enter on your new connected drive. After this, name it untitled. This is easier to type, and has no spaces. See the next step.

Now it comes time to launch the terminal. don't worry you don't have to know 100 percent what you are doing. This is going to be a simple copy and paste command.

  • Launch the terminal. Type Command Shift u from the finder, navigate to the terminal and either click, or type command down arrow to open the app.
  • paste in the following command. Remember we renamed the drive "untitled"
    • sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ --volume /Volumes/untitled --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ –nointeraction
  • Hit enter, then enter in your admin password. The sudo command tells the computer you are temporarily God and it is doing things your administrator account is not normally aloud or in most cases able to do.
  • Hit after you enter in your password, hit enter. and wait. Now would be the time to grab that cup of coffee and finish it in about 15 minutes.

When your prompt comes back, that is, when you see for example Sarah's' mac or what ever you saw before pasting in the command you are done. Feel free to rename the flash media to something useful, but remember to rename it untitled if you ever want to update your boot disk. for the convenience of the reader I've included a script with this guide. You can download the script and paste it in to your home directory, launch the terminal and simply type a period, then a slash followed by the script name. Remember to include the extension at the end or the command will die a violent death. and you will need to reenter the command again. You will be asked for your admin password once you type in the command and hit enter. just as if you typed in the command from above. Note should the script fail type the following in to the terminal.

chmod 755 ./

Then press enter. After that try the script again. You will get your password prompt after which the script should work.


The above steps might seem daunting to the beginner but I promise that these steps are as easy as pie, or what ever you want to have while you wait for this process to complete. This is my 100 percent promise.

Submitted by Justin on Monday, November 30, 2015

I would have tried a hard disk clone using an app called super duper. I've used this on several occasions! I personally recommend cloning over time machine backups because, let's say, you then have to restore your mac because you deleted everything, you can boot off the external drive, open super duper, from the external drive of course, and restore that way.

Submitted by Chris on Monday, November 30, 2015

Why do you have to register your product? I always skipped that step. As for the error downloading the OS, why can't you just enter your Apple ID to verify that you want to get El Capitan from the app store? hOw can another Apple ID be assigned to the computer? This is interesting. Then again, I don't have any used macs that have recovery. I have a used 2006 Mini running Snow Leopard, but that obviously can't use recovery.

Submitted by Betsy on Monday, November 30, 2015

I should have kept doing time machine backups but stupidly not only did I stop but even reformatted the portable drive I was saving them to, long ago. I do not think my computer can run the last two newest operating systems, its too old. I am thoroughly disgusted with myself now. I hate spending money on a newer computer because I mainly use an iPad and only need a computer for a few things. Ruined weekend.

Submitted by Chris on Monday, November 30, 2015

What Mac Model is it? I think the late 2008 MacBooks are the only ones that can go past Lion. Was your computer running Lion or Mountain Lion? If it was Mountain Lion, you should be fine for El Capitan. What message do you get when attempting to restore in recovery? I'm beginning to think if it's trying to restore Lion, it won't work since you haven't purchased Lion. If that's the case, I'm not sure how to help. If you really don't feel like fiddling around with the machine, you may just want to take into Apple and have them install something on it. I'm getting the feeling this thing only goes up to Lion.

If it is Lion, you could try buying a Lion USB drive. I'm not sure if those are sold anymore, but if you could get your hands on one of the Lion drives they used to sell, you could simply boot from it and install OS X. That's probably cheaper than having Apple repair it.


After posting this, I looked on Amazon for a drive. Here is one I found for $39. You may want to buy this or find it cheaper on Ebay or something. Regardless, I think this would be a good investment since you now have an OS X install disk you can use if stuff happens.

Submitted by Betsy on Monday, November 30, 2015

I had looked at Snow Leopard dvd thinking it was the latest that could be had as something that could be inserted. So thank you for enlightening me. My daughter has a much newer mackbook pro, I wonder if she can make me a drive I could use. My computer is early 2008. It was built running Lion and according to Apple would not work with Mountain Lion yet it had been upgraded to Mountain Lion when I bought it and seemed to work fine.

Submitted by Betsy on Monday, November 30, 2015

Reading the description of that thumb drive with Lion on Amazon, it sounds like my computer has to be running Snow Leopard in order to upgrade with the thumb drive. My computer is currently running nothing at all.

Submitted by Chris on Monday, November 30, 2015

Well, I guess that flash drive won't work. You could buy Mac OS X Snow Leopard from Apple for $20. Alternatively, you could install Windows on that computer. Interestingly, I hear that those old MacBooks are still very capable of running modern versions of Windows. I'm not sure if you have to use Bootcamp to install Windows if you could just do it directly. I'm not sure how to help you further. You may just get another Mac like the Mac Mini.

Submitted by Betsy on Monday, November 30, 2015

Hm. Thats interesting about Windows I'll look into that. Might be a fun project. Thank you for your advise!

Submitted by Betsy on Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I admit I should have known to make some sort of backup for restoring my Macbook's operating system. But it seems pretty hard of Apple to not allow the current owner of one of their computers to also own the operating system that the computer shipped with. The original OS is as much a part of the computer as the lid and keyboard.