Whether you’re planning to buy a new Mac or have one for the holidays, your current Mac doesn’t have to end up in a closet. So what do you do with it? If you don’t plan on giving it to a lucky friend or family member, you can trade or sell it to help pay for that new Mac. Here’s how to get the last bit of value out of your old Mac.
Apple has a support document with good instructions on what to do before you sell, give away, or trade in your Mac. But we have some experience in that department that can help you get the most out of your trade-in or sale.
Treat your Mac well
The physical condition of your Mac plays an important role in what you can get in return during a trade-in. If you have a Mac that you want to keep for a while, but know you’ll eventually trade or sell it when you upgrade, do what you can to take good care of it.
Desktop Macs such as the Mac mini and iMac are easy to maintain because they will hardly move from their location. Wipe away the dust that builds up over time, inside and out. Dust build-up can actually make your Mac work harder to keep itself cool, so regular dusting will also keep your Mac running efficiently. If you have an iMac, keep your screen pristine by cleaning your screen every few weeks with a soft cloth. Screen protectors are also available, but they require a lot of patience and a good amount of skill to apply properly.
Laptop Macs are more susceptible to damage, as they are intended to be taken with you to work remotely. Use a good quality laptop bag and always keep in mind that you are using an expensive investment – we have all seen many people at our local coffee shop carelessly handling their laptops. Don’t be that person. Speaking of coffee shops, try to keep drinks and food away from your MacBook in case something gets spilled.
Be careful with how you use it. For example, if you are connecting a USB device, do not blindly try to plug it into any port. Walking around with a connector in the port of the Mac can scratch the casing, creating an unsightly scuff that can leave a bad impression on someone evaluating your computer.
Keep the original box (you don’t need the shipping box) and documentation. If you have the original cables and adapters, keep those as well. People sometimes upgrade to faster chargers or longer cables, so keep the originals with the box. If you don’t have these items, no problem, you can still trade or sell your Mac. But you’ll probably get more with it, especially if you sell it privately.
Clear your data
Save your data
When you’re ready to trade or sell your old Mac, be sure to back up the data on it. If you haven’t backed up your Mac before, we recommend purchasing an external storage device.
The easiest way to back up is Apple’s built-in Time Machine. Using Time Machine is ideal because you can use it to perform a data recovery on your new Mac, which will then take over all your old settings, files, and apps so that your new Mac will be configured just like your old one. You can also use a third-party backup service or cloud storage like iCloud or Dropbox to store important files like your Documents folder, photos, and media files. You can restore that file to your new Mac, but all apps must be downloaded from the App Store or the developer’s website. You will also need to redo your settings on your new Mac.
Authorize your Mac from your Apple ID
This is an important step. Apple keeps track of the devices you use, and if you don’t sign out, the new owner of your old Mac may not be able to set it up. To sign out, use your iPhone, iPad, or another Mac, go to your Apple ID account at appleid.apple.com, and sign in with your username and password. Go to the Devices section of the webpage, where you will see a list of devices associated with your Apple ID. Click on the Mac you want to deauthorize and a pop-up will appear. Click on the Remove from account knob. A confirmation window will appear and you will need to confirm that you want to perform this action.
Once that’s done, make sure the old Mac is signed out of iCloud by checking the System Preferences. You should also make sure it’s signed out of Messages, which you can check in the Messages app.
Reset the NVRAM on Intel Macs
Intel Macs use NVRAM to quickly access certain settings. To reset the NVRAM, turn off your Mac. Then hold down the Option, Command, P, and R keys on the keyboard and turn on the Mac. Keep holding those keys while your Mac boots up, then reboot. When you hear the startup chime a second time or see the Apple logo appear, disappear, and reappear, you can release the keys. This is not necessary on M1 Macs.
Erase the storage device and reinstall macOS
Before proceeding with clearing storage and reinstalling macOS with macOS Recovery, make sure your data is saved and you’re connected to Wi-Fi. This is how you start the process:
On an Intel Mac, hold down the Command+R keys while turning on the computer.
On an M1 Mac, press and hold the power button while turning it on.
The macOS recovery menu appears. You can then use Disk Utility to erase your Mac’s disk. (Apple has detailed instructions on how to do this for Intel and M1 Macs.) When Disk Utility finishes, exit the app, then click Reinstall macOS in the recovery menu to install the operating system.
Sell your Mac
Okay, now that your old Mac is literally ready to go, you need to decide where to sell it. There are several third-party sites you can go to, although you may not get as much as you could by selling directly to someone through eBay, Facebook Marketplace, or Craigslist. But selling to a reseller can be ideal if you want to avoid the hassle of dealing with other people. Here are some of the more popular repurchase sites and what they offer.
With Decluttr, you get an offer for your Mac that’s locked in for 28 days. They will cover the shipping costs and will inspect your item to confirm it is in good condition. If Decluttr changes the offer based on their evaluation, you can request that they return the computer to you, and they will pay for the shipping costs. If you agree, you will receive payment via PayPal or direct deposit. [Disclaimer: Decluttr is a past sponsor of the Macworld Podcast.]
Note that while Decluttr’s site has a section labeled Sell Your MacBook, that section also has areas where you can sell Mac minis, iMacs, and Mac Pros.
Gazelle only buys (and sells) MacBooks – it seems you can’t sell a desktop Mac on the website. After informing the condition of your item, they will provide a quote that is valid for 30 days and will cover the shipping costs. After they receive your Mac, they will examine it and make you a new offer if the Mac doesn’t match the initial evaluation. If you decline the new offer, you can get your Mac back, but you’ll have to pay shipping costs. They will pay you with a check, via PayPal, or an Amazon gift card.
Swappa is a marketplace where you sell directly to other people. To ensure transactions are secure, Swappa verifies listings, handles PayPal-only payments, and organizes shipping. The costs charged by Swappa are included in the prices quoted. If you’re hesitant to post on eBay or Craigslist, Swappa is a good alternative.
Trade in your Mac
You might not get as much as you could by selling your Mac to a person or a third-party service, but trade-in is almost hassle-free and convenient. Trade-in is often also possible if a Mac is not in salable but working condition. You will usually be compensated with a gift card, store credit or credit towards your purchase.
The trade-in process with Apple is quick and easy. Apple asks a few questions about the condition of your machine (you must provide the serial number) and then the offer can be applied to a new purchase. Apple will contact you after inspecting your Mac if it needs to revise its offering.
Amazon has a trade-in program, but at the time of writing, it doesn’t appear to be open to Macs of any kind. You can submit iPads, iPhones or other non-Apple devices and they will pay you with an Amazon gift card. It takes a while to process your trade-in and you can get more on other sites, but if you shop at Amazon often, it’s a compelling service.
Best Buy has a trade-in program, but you’ll need to find your exact model before you can start the process. Some older iMacs and Mac minis are available, but for the most part it’s limited to MacBooks. You get a Best Buy gift card.
Walmart has a program in partnership with CExchange, but it’s only for Mac laptops. You get a Walmart eGift card.