While Macs are definitely nice computers to have, not everyone can afford to buy a brand new one. Thankfully, used Macs are usually just as good as new ones, provided they have received proper care. Needless to say, putting the machine through some tests to see if it works well is recommended.
While physical appearance and hardware is where you should start, they are only part of a larger equation when you buy a used Mac. You also should thoroughly check the Mac’s software, especially if it has not been formatted beforehand.
Here is a list of different aspects of the software of a used Mac that you have to double-check before sealing the deal.
Once you get your Mac, the first thing you should do is head to the root folder, usually named Macintosh HD (or any other name that the previous user might have given that folder) and there, check for other users under the Users folder.
If you find other users, simply head to the Mac’s Preferences and delete them from there.
2. Check for No Previous iCloud Credentials
With how ubiquitous iCloud has become among Apple users, now everyone who has an Apple device also uses an iCloud account.
Furthermore, due to the security features implemented by Apple, having a device linked to an iCloud account severely locks that device’s functionality if a previous user hasn’t signed out of iCloud before selling or giving away their device.
To check this on your secondhand Mac, head to Preferences > iCloud and see if the previous owner is still signed into their account.
3. Look for Forgotten Content
You would be surprised at how many Mac users take all the necessary measures to secure their Mac before selling it and yet forget to delete information in the most basic locations, such as the Notes or Reminders apps.
Other places to look into are mainly Apple’s default applications, like Pages, Numbers or Contacts, as well as the system’s default folders, like the Documents folder for example.
Another important folder to look into is the Applications folder, where previous users sometimes leave apps for which only they have a license.
4. Look into ‘Database’ Apps
Apple is known for constantly trying to remove file management from users, doing so in some of their most important apps, like Photos for example. These apps group files into a single Library file, which in turn takes a lot of space on the hard drive.
The main apps you should look for are iPhoto or Photos and iMovie, which place their libraries in the Pictures and Movies folders respectively.
Important Note: You can easily check for detailed information on the space of your Mac’s hard drive using great apps like Daisy Disk, which we reviewed here.
5. Secure Sensitive Information
There is an app on the Mac that stores a ton of very sensitive information. It is Keychain Access, which is in charge of keeping user passwords and other credentials safe.
When getting a second-hand Mac, make sure that this utility is empty, since some Mac apps like Safari sometimes use information in Keychain to automatically log in to websites and other services, and you don’t want to be accidentally logged in to a stranger’s account.
Additionally, the previous user might have set up their Mac to share files and folders via the local network. So unless you want to accidentally share some important information, double-check this in the Sharing section within your Mac’s Preferences.
Lastly, FileVault is another very important element of the Mac security-wise. It is used to encrypt the content of your Mac’s hard drive and the previous user might have enabled it and then forgot about it.
Even worse, only the previous user has the password needed to disable it, so make sure you check this in the Security & Privacy section on your Mac’s Preferences panel.
6. Clean Up the Preferences Panel
One last thing you should take care of before getting your Mac is to make sure the Preferences panel is free from additional, third party utilities.
Utilities like these (flash or others) tend to expire from time to time and most likely are deeply linked to other apps on your Mac, so it is better to remove them and start from scratch, installing only the ones you want.
And there you have it. Make sure you go through all of these if you are considering getting a secondhand Mac. It might be a bit of work, but it will pay off in the long run.
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