Whether you're planning to buy one of the new Macs unveiled at Apple's Unleashed event or have
your eyes on an M1 Mac, your current Mac doesn't need to end up in
a closet. So what do you do with it? If you aren't planning to give
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 every last bit of
value out of your old Mac.
Apple has a support document that has good instructions on what
you should 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
Your Mac's physical condition plays a key role in what you can
get in return during a trade-in sale. If you have a Mac that you
plan to keep for a while but know that you're going to eventually
trade or sell it when you upgrade, do what you can to take good
care of it.
Desktop Macs like the Mac mini and iMac are
easy to maintain since they won't move from their location very
much, if at all. Wipe off the dust that accumulates over time—i
nside and out. Dust build-up can actually make your Mac work harder
to keep itself cool, so regular dusting also makes sure your Mac
runs efficiently. If you have an iMac, make sure your display
remains pristine by clean your screen with a soft cloth every few
weeks. Screen protectors are also available, but they
require a great deal of patience and a good amount of skill to put
Laptop Macs are more prone to damage since
they're meant to be brought with you to work remotely. Use a good
quality laptop bag, and always keep in mind that you're using a
pricey investment—we've all seen plenty of people at our local
coffee shop handle their laptops carelessly. Don't be that person.
Speaking of coffee shops, try to keep beverages and food away from
your MacBook, in case a spill happens.
Be careful with how you use it. For example, if
you're connecting a USB device, try not to blindly plug it into a
port. Feeling around the Mac's port with a connector can scratch up
the case, leaving an unsightly look of wear 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, save those, too. People sometimes upgrade to faster
chargers or longer cables, so keep the originals with the box. If
you don't have these items, that's okay, you'll still be able to
trade or sell your Mac. But you'll probably get more, especially if
you sell it privately, with them.
Wipe your data
Save your data
When you're ready to trade or sell your old Mac, make sure you
back up the data that's on it. If you haven't backed up your Mac
previously, we recommend getting 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 restore on your new Mac, which then pulls over all
of your old settings, files, and apps, so 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 save
important files, such as your Documents folder, photos, and media
files. You'll be able to restore those file to your new Mac, but
any apps will need to be downloaded from the App Store or the
developer's website. You'll also need to redo your settings on your
Mac from your Apple ID
This is an important step. Apple tracks what 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 and go to your Apple ID account at appleid.apple.com,
then log in with your username and password. Go to the Devices
section of the webpage, where you'll see a list of devices
associated with your Apple ID. Click on the Mac you want to
deauthorize and a pop-up appears. Click the Remove from
account button. A confirmation dialog will appear, and you'll
need to confirm that you want to perform this action.
Once that's done, on the old Mac, make sure it is logged out of
iCloud by checking system preferences. You'll also want to make
sure it it logged out of Messages, which you can check in the
You can deauthorized devices through the Apple ID management
Reset the NVRAM on Intel
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 power on the
Mac. Keep holding down those keys as your Mac boots and then boots
again. If you hear the boot sound a second time or you see the
Apple logo appear, disappear, and then reappear, you can let go of
the keys. This isn't necessary on M1 Macs.
storage device and reinstall macOS
Make sure your data is saved and you're connected to Wi-Fi
before you proceed with erasing the storage and reinstalling macOS
using macOS Recovery. Here's how to start the process:
- On an Intel Mac, hold down the Command+R keys while turning on
- On an M1 Mac, press and hold down the power button while
turning it on.
The macOS Recovery menu will appear. You can then use Disk
Utility to wipe your Mac's drive. (Apple has detailed instructions
on how to do this for Intel
and M1 Macs.) When Disk Utility is finished, quit the
app, and then click on Reinstall macOS in the Recovery
menu to install the operating system.
The macOS Recovery menu.
Sell your Mac
Okay, now that your old Mac is literally ready to go, you need
to decide where you're going to sell it. There are several
third-party sites that you can go to, though you may not get as
much as you could from 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 buyback sites and what they offer.
With Decluttr you get an offer for your Mac that's locked
in for 28 days. They cover the shipping costs, and will inspect
your item to confirm that it's 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 cover the shipping
cost. If you accept, you'll receive payment through PayPal or
direct deposit. [Disclaimer: Decluttr is a sponsor of the
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.
Decluttr will buy your desktop of laptop Mac.
buys (and sells) MacBooks only—its website does not appear to allow
you to sell them a desktop Mac. After letting them know the
condition of your item, they provide a quote that's good for 30
days and they cover shipping. After receiving your Mac, they'll
examine it and may make you a new offer if the Mac doesn't match
the initial evaluation. If you turn down the new offer, you can get
your Mac back but you have to pay for shipping. They pay you with a
check, through PayPal, or an Amazon gift card.
Swappa is a
marketplace where you sell directly to other people. To make sure
transactions are secure, Swappa verifies listings, handles the
PayPal-only payments and organizes the shipping. The fees Swappa
charges are included in the posted prices. If you're hesitant about
posting on eBay or Craigslist, Swappa is a good alternative.
Trade in your Mac
You may not get as much as you could by selling your Mac to a
person or third-party service, but trade-ins are almost hassle-free
and convenient. Trade-ins are also often available when a Mac isn't
in sellable but working condition. You usually get 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 your machine's
condition (you need to provide the serial number), and then the
offer can be applied towards a new purchase. Apple will contact you
if it needs to revise its offer after inspecting your Mac.
Your trade-in value can be used thowards the purchase of a new
Mac on Apple.com.
Amazon has a Trade-In program, but as of this writing, it does
not seem to be open to Macs of any kind. You can submit iPads,
iPhones, or other non-Apple devices, and they pay you with an
Amazon gift card. It takes a while to process your trade-in, and
you can get more at other sites, but if you shop at Amazon
frequently, it's an attractive 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