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How to Perform a Clean Install of macOS Sierra



This is how to perform a clean install of macOS Sierra. We’ll walk through how to create a bootable macOS Sierra installer on USB and why you may want to perform a clean install of macOS Sierra.

Apple changed the name of OS X to macOS this year. We’ll cover performing a clean install of macOS Sierra from OS X El Capitan, but it will also work if you are coming from an older version of OS X.

Many users will only need to upgrade to macOS Sierras, but if you suffer from a slow Mac on OS X El Capitan or you have a lot of files and apps that you want to wipe for a fresh start a clean install is a good idea.

macOS Sierra Clean Install vs Update

How to wipe your Mac for a clean macOS Sierra install.

How to wipe your Mac for a clean macOS Sierra install.

Performing a clean macOS Sierra install means wiping your Mac and starting over from scratch. Anything you don’t have backed up will disappear with no way to recover it on your own.

A normal macOS Sierra update installs right on top of OS X El Capitan and keeps all of your files and apps in place so that you don’t lose anything.

No matter which option you do, we recommend that you have a current Time Machine backup so that your data is safe.

What You Need to Perform a Clean macOS Sierra Install

Make sure that your Mac can run macOS Sierra and then you’ll need the following items.

  1. Download the macOS Sierra installer from the App Store.
  2. A 16GB Flash Drive that you can erase.
  3. USB C Adapter if you have a MacBook
  4. Time Machine Backup

You’ll need to download the macOS Sierra installer from the Mac App Store once it arrives on September 20th.

How to Make a macOS Sierra Installer on USB

Bootable macOS Sierra Installer - 3Once you download the macOS Sierra installer do not proceed and install macOS Sierra. Instead you should close the file and proceed to create a bootable macOS Sierra install drive.

Make sure your USB drive is name “Untitled”. To do this Open Finder, right click on the USB drive name on the left and then choose Rename.

You can either make a bootable macOS Sierra installer USB drive with Terminal or with Install Disk Creator. The Install Disk Creator file is free and this is an easier option for most users.

To use Install Disk Creator, Open the app. If prompted allow the app to run.

Bootable macOS Sierra Installer - 1

Choose your USB drive that we just named Untitled. Click Select the OS X Installer and then choose the macOS Sierra Installer you just downloaded at the start of this guide. Now click Create Installer. If prompted enter your password. Wait while this completes.

You can also use Terminal to make a bootable macOS Sierra Installer. We recommend using the utility above unless you are experienced with Terminal.

You now have a bootable macOS Sierra installer on USB that  you can use to perform a clean macOS Sierra install.

Perform a Clean macOS Sierra Install

Now that you are all prepared, it’s time to actually perform a clean install of macOS Sierra.

Start the macOS Sierra clean install.

Start the macOS Sierra clean install.

Plug your USB drive in to your Mac. Turn off your Mac. Now turn your Mac on and hold the Option/alt key.

Click on the Install macOS Sierra USB drive to the right of the screen. Click on the Up Arrow.

Now you will need delete your hard drive to perform a clean macOS Sierra installation. To do this choose Utilities -> Disk Utility from the menu bar.

Clean Install macOS Sierra - 2

Erase your Mac hard drive.

Click on your hard drive, normally it is Macintosh HD. Click Erase and then make sure you choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled) as the format.

Name the hard drive, we recommend Macintosh HD. Then click Erase.

Start the macOS Sierra clean install.

Start the macOS Sierra clean install.

Once that completes you are ready to install macOS Sierra on your empty hard drive. You should see an installer screen with Continue at the bottom. Click on it and follow the on-screen prompts to finish your clean macOS Sierra installation.

12 New macOS Sierra Features Worth Upgrading For

Siri on Mac

Siri on Mac

With macOS Sierra you now get access to Siri for Mac. This brings the personal assistant you are used to using on your iPhone and iPad to your computer. There is no access to Siri on OS X El Capitan.

Siri for Mac can do almost all the things you already use it for on your iPhone, but now it can delivery many more features that will help you be more productive.

You can use Siri to send a message while you are working on something important, but that's not all. Siri for Mac can help you locate files and you can even have Siri narrow down those files as you search for them.

When you find a Siri result that you need to keep handy, you can pin it to the Notification Center so you can quickly access it again. When you find an image, result or other item of interest with Siri, you can drag and drop it into a document.



  1. Peter

    09/30/2016 at 2:31 pm

    Followed this tutorial. Now have a wiped HD and the USB drive doesn’t come up as a bootable option, so now reinstalling El Capitan.

  2. Chris Logan

    10/12/2016 at 4:44 pm

    Did you make sure the flash drive was finished in disk creator? It fooled me the first time I rushed it
    The second timebi.made site it completed

  3. Brian Gentle

    10/16/2016 at 2:10 pm

    Hi, I can’t even get beyond the first step! The Sierra download goes straight to installation without any intermediate stop, so I can’t create the install file. When I forced the installer to stop, the resulting file was not recognised by Disk Creator. I really want to try a clean install, as I want to reformat the HD to have just one partition instead of two. Thanks for your help.

  4. LongLuong

    05/01/2017 at 6:42 am

    Bravo with macOS Sierra….years before I should wait
    15 hours….or more…or sometime fail, bring Mac to Best
    Buy fixed……now I could reinstall new MacOS within half
    hours… need to use Time Machine to back up my files….Thanks a lot…please let me know how to clear…many scrap in my Mac…..and how to delete 100…
    of junk mails at the same time….no one by one ….THANKS

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