Apple Mac Mini (M1): One More Thing

Posted on January 10, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, Hardware, Mac and macOS with 62 Comments

Yesterday, I prepared my M1-based Mac Mini for return to Apple and was reminded of how terrible this process is on Apple’s desktop platform. And as is so often the case, the M1 chipset breaks with the past. But in this case, this process is now both terrible and dangerous, and it can lead to one bricking their Mac by mistake.

What bothers me about this kind of thing, beyond the obvious, is how no one ever discusses it. We’re so buried in stories about how damn fast M1-based Macs are, about how they’re going to change everything, that we often lose sight of the basics. And while Windows certainly has its issues, this is a great example—and not the only one—where Microsoft saw the problem and fixed it years ago. Apple? They started off terrible and only made it worse.

Imagine you want to sell, give-away, or trade-in your Windows PC. In Windows 10, you simply open Settings, navigate to Update & Security > Recovery, and choose the “Get started” button under the Reset this PC heading. During the short wizard-based utility that appears, you’re asked whether you want to “Remove everything” and, if so, whether you want to “Clean data,” which will securely clean the drive of all of your personal information if selected. The process can take 20-45 minutes, depending on the computer, but it’s straightforward and painless.

Now imagine that you want to sell, give-away, or trade-in your (Intel-based) Mac. First, you need to know a non-discoverable keyboard shortcut (Command + R) that you hold down while powering on the Mac from a dead stop. Then, from the recovery environment, you have to use Disk Utility to wipe out your Mac’s hard drive and then install whatever version of macOS that came with the Mac. The process usually takes over an hour, depending on the Mac, and every step (except perhaps the last one) is confusing and non-obvious; most, for example, will choose the install option first, only to discover then that they need to erase the disk first. But whatever, you do a Google search and most will figure it out.

Now imagine you have an M1-based Mac that you want to sell, give-away, or trade-in. In this case, you need to know a new but still non-discoverable technique, whereby you power down your Mac and then continue holding in the power button as you turn it back on. From there, the process should work as above, except it doesn’t. Now there are two partitions on the drive, Macintosh HD, as before, and Data, and it’s not clear if you need to wipe out just one or both. (Is Data your data? Or is it the OS install partition? Or something else?) Choose wrong and you can brick the Mac. But let’s say you figure it out and reinstall macOS Big Sur, a process that will take 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes, according to Apple. (It took me about 50 minutes.) Setup will appear and it won’t let you create a user account. You bricked it again!

It’s not your fault: This harrowing process is completely of Apple’s making, and it’s the dark underbelly of the macOS experience, especially now that it’s been made even more difficult with the new M1-based Macs. Yes, you can argue that most people won’t need to do this right away, and Apple can fix things so that it’s more obvious and takes less time. But this has been a problem for years, and Apple has simply ignored it.

Let’s put this in perspective. Back in the Windows 8 days, my central complaint was about the non-discoverability of key system user interfaces, like the Charms (bar), which Microsoft initially declined to explain to new users. (This despite internal testing that revealed that users would be much more successful using the new system if they were shown a quick how-to video during Setup.) The theory was that users would organically “discover” Charms and Windows 8’s other hidden UIs as they used the system. The reality is that they would trigger these new UIs inadvertently, and have no idea what they were seeing or how they got there, and would thus have no idea how to get back there. That’s the definition of non-discoverable.

This issue on the Mac is similar, with the caveat that most people will probably Google something like “how to factory reset a Mac” and get to the right place. But this Mac situation is now even more problematic because there are literally two places in the process where you, perhaps someone familiar and experienced with the Mac, can inadvertently brick your M1-based Mac because things have changed and are worse. “Can’t find Charms” rates a 2 or 3 on my imaginary problem scale. Bricking a computer is a 10.

I bring this up because I bricked my Mac Mini while trying to factory reset it using Apple’s instructions. I don’t care all that much because I’m literally sending it back to Apple and if anyone can figure out how to set this right, it’s the company’s own technicians. But this would be a serious problem if I were just starting over, as I do from time-to-time with Windows, or selling/giving away the machine. It would be dead in the water. Support chat sessions would have to happen. I’d probably have to send it back to Apple or bring it into a store for a Genius appointment. Or whatever.

Put a different way, for all the “magic” of the M1-based Macs—and yes, I really am impressed with the performance and compatibility, as I’ve noted previously—the other thing we’re all forgetting, especially on the Windows side of the fence, is that they’re still just Macs. And Macs … suck. I’ve owned one or more Macs continually since I got an iBook in 2001 to test the first version of Mac OS X, and I’ve just never been impressed with this operating system. Nor have I felt comfortable enough using it to ever even considering switching. Apple gets some things right, for sure. But macOS isn’t one of them.

And speaking of perspective, it’s not just Windows that gets this right. Have you ever used the Powerwash feature on Chrome OS? This thing securely wipes out a Chromebook and resets it so that someone else can use it as if it were new, just like the Reset this PC feature in Windows 10. But it does so in minutes. Yes, yes, most Chromebooks have small amounts of storage, I know. But this is a great example of a company, in this case, Google, evaluating a need and how others have addressed that need, and then making it even better. With Apple, they’ve done the same and made it even worse. And it was bad to begin with.

In other words, that whole “grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” thing still applies.

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Comments (71)

71 responses to “Apple Mac Mini (M1): One More Thing”

  1. Avatar

    shark47

    Oh my God! This process was so confusing, even the Senior Support Specialists I spent hours on the phone with were confused. We had to erase drives and then the Macintosh-HD drive didn't show up automatically, so we had to create the partition and rename the drive. End of the day, none of it worked and it had to be shipped to Apple.


    There are things that Windows makes easier and there are those that MacOS makes easier. Overall, I don't think the OSes are that far off. I think it comes down to preference and I tend to prefer the way Windows handles certain things like windows management. (Arguably, this may be because I'm used to it.)

  2. Avatar

    Paul Thurrott

    I am deeply bothered by the personal attacks and commentary that this article has triggered. This is not a standalone review of the Mac Mini, or of the M1 chipset. It's just a quickie "one more thing," literally, that I was reminded of as I prepared to return the device. Regardless, people's views on my "blind spots" of whatever regarding Apple are not true and very much not of interest. And as so many people have attested here, my comments about this issue being real and problematic are, in fact, correct.


    But whatever. I've written several articles about the Mac Mini (M1). Overall, they are highly complimentary to this product. They are.


    Apple Mac Mini (M1) First Impressions - Thurrott.com

    Apple Mac Mini (M1): The Morning After - Thurrott.com

    Apple Mac Mini (M1): The Parallels Desktop Experience - Thurrott.com

    Apple Mac Mini (M1): Winding Down - Thurrott.com


    Taken in context, I've raised one issue, which while not new to M1 is now even worse, and many favorable impressions. And I'm planning on getting an M1-based Mac laptop.

    • Avatar

      prebengh

      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      Yes, you may say you are impartial, but as a Macbook M1 owner I don’t like a comment from your first impressions article like this:

      ”And then there’s performance, of course. It’s early yet, but I will say that I was immediately suspicious of the over-the-top excitement about the performance that the Apple-picked wave-one reviewers gushed about. I have used many, many Macs. So we’ll see what happens there.“

      It sorts of taints the article a bit in my view. But maybe Apple is behind all the hundreds of positive reviews you can easily find on Youtube.

      However I think that after you have tested the unit, your impression has changed.

      • Avatar

        Paul Thurrott

        Dear God. Impartial? I'm not impartial. I've been reviewing tech hardware for over 20 years. I very much have opinions about things. And that early coverage was, yes, quite suspicious. But I'm not close-minded. I'm not asking you to celebrate that. But please don't complain about it.
      • Avatar

        wright_is

        In reply to Prebengh:

        His comment is what I world expect of any unbiased reviewer. He has heard the fanboy reaction, but he is putting that to one side and will see how it really is. I don't see the problem there. That is what every reviewer should do...

        • Avatar

          Paul Thurrott

          Yes, and thanks. And shouldn't this be obvious? Turning everything into an us vs. them thing is literally what's wrong with this world. "Of course, you think that Paul, you have a blind spot with Apple and/or love Microsoft and hate Apple" or whatever other nonsense. Life is not black and white.
        • Avatar

          prebengh

          In reply to wright_is:

          Yes, I agree. But the wording is biased in my opinion. It more less states that Apple provides units to reviewers for positive reviews. But at the time when Paul received the Mac Mini there were already litterally hundreds of positive reviews on Youtube.

          • Avatar

            Paul Thurrott

            Apple provides review units to trusted reviewers, and yes, there is an implication there. I used to get review hardware from Apple, btw. I was a little too truthy for them. We need to be savvy as consumers. If you look at non-sanctioned reviews of the M1 hardware on YouTube or elsewhere, yes, you'll see positive stuff, just like what I wrote. But you'll also see complaints, something that was absolutely missing from that first wave of reviews. You need to think for yourself, and you can't do that properly if you're only getting one side of the story.
    • Avatar

      nbplopes

      In reply to paul-thurrott:


      Please, please don’t get bothered. My intent was not in attacking you, but providing feedback on how the Bug was reported as well as the series considering it seams to be the last one.


      I agree with you, it will take time to properly answer the questions I enumerated. But these are in my view the important ones that need to be addressed by Apple and REVIEWED.


      In this light what I got was:


      1) Same Mac Mini as ever

      2) As far as performance goes, nothing special in context (say at least compared with your NUC how does it do?)

      3) The OS and apps do not feel and behave better. Mostely behave the same. At instances its actually worst (last articles along with One Drive)

      4) Apple addressed the Transition way better than MS with WOA. Brilliant, amazing. Which for me is irrelevant and for sure for a buyer is irrelevant.


      Based on this I would not keep it either! Yet my experience cannot be more different. Which is weird.


      Put this together with something like:


      “the other thing we’re all forgetting, especially on the Windows side of the fence, is that they’re still just Macs. And Macs … suck. I’ve owned one or more Macs continually since I got an iBook in 2001 to test the first version of Mac OS X, and I’ve just never been impressed with this operating system.”


      No, this is not about fences (us against them). No the all thing is not suspicious at all. Kekekeke. Be honest, you are not impressed by any OS but Windows since ever. That is ok, but it’s not more truthfully than the opposite observation. In fact it’s difficult to understand what an OS is fo you. Do you think the Surface Pro X inefficiencies are all down to the chips? What about Rosetta 2, isn’t this a OS component? Does Your Phone in Windows 10 work well?


      Roger out..

  3. Avatar

    richardbottiglieri

    Here is a very good explanation on Ars Technica as to how and why Apple does this. I agree that the recovery process could use some spit and polish. It's a little too easy to make a mistake when you're in macOS Recovery because it isn't clear to the average user what does what. It would be great to be able to trigger this from within macOS, but I think it's unlikely that Apple is going to do that anytime soon.


    TL;DR: at the top level of a disk, a "container" is created. As of macOS 10.15 (Catalina), when you install macOS into a container, you get two new volumes: "Macintosh HD" and "Data". The first volume is where the OS is installed, and this volume is totally locked down for security. You cannot make changes to this volume, and all files contained are digitally stamped by Apple. This above and beyond their System Integrity Protection (SIP) that was introduced several years ago. That's in place to make it impossible (in theory) for anyone other than Apple to modify the system.


    The "Data" volume is where all of your apps and user data live. Basically, stuff that doesn't down from Apple at the time the OS is installed (or updated).


    The Apple File System (APFS) obfuscates all of this and merges these two separate volumes together into one volume in the Finder. So, to the average user, it looks like you have one disk volume, but under the hood, these are really two separate volumes with very different permissions. You can actually see this on the Mac by going into Terminal.app and navigating to /System/Volumes/Data.

  4. Avatar

    solomonrex

    In reply to Truffles:

    No, it's a good point, it's easier on iphones and ipads for example. We don't have to compare them to Windows, just because Paul hates MacOS.

  5. Avatar

    spiderman2

    In reply to Andrusoid:

    oh Paul touched your beloved mac, have a hug

  6. Avatar

    spiderman2

    but but "mac just works"

    • Avatar

      Greg Green

      In reply to spiderman2:

      It really does, more amazingly on arm. It’s an exciting future as they move away from intel’s heat, fans and throttling. Incredible performance for their first desktop chip.


      or as Paul concluded in his previous M1 piece:


      “In the meantime, Apple has again shown us all how to manage an architecture transition properly, and without any drama...And that, folks, is an impressive achievement.”


      comtrast that with WOA, which seems near abandonment by the market and MS.

      • Avatar

        wright_is

        In reply to Greg Green:

        Apple haven't released a desktop chip yet, the M1 Mac mini, like the Intel ones before it, use a mobile (laptop) part.

        Only when we see an iMac Pro or Mac Pro, will we see a desktop chip, if Apple treat the Mac Mini and iMac as they did the Intel versions.

        I agree with the rest of your post, just wanted to make a minor correction.

  7. Avatar

    wright_is

    In reply to Truffles:

    You are forgetting that those were his first look articles. He hadn't had the mini for even a week, let alone time enough to perform a decent review. He decided the form factor was wrong and he is swapping it out for a laptop.

    That is when we will see a full review.

  8. Avatar

    wright_is

    In reply to Jeffsters:

    That is generally bad security practice.

  9. Avatar

    beholderseye

    I can not transfer data from my old imac to new mini m1!!! Using the Migration Assistant app, the two computers will not recognize each other what so ever...at least over wifi....I probably can send over files over bluetooth... Scratch that m1 keeps dropping out and will not except files!!!

    What are people using for there non apple music songs now that you don't have itunes??? Or speakers for the mini???

    • Avatar

      Saarek

      In reply to beholderseye:

      Out of interest what version of Mac OS are you using on the old iMac? iTunes might be gone, but the base music app is still within MacOS and largely operates as it always did.


      Your new Mac Mini still has speakers, but from what I can gather they're terrible. My friend has a pair of B&W MM1's attached to his Mac Mini, but I suspect they are out of the price range of normal people who are not audiophiles.


      For most people the Creative Labs T100's, of if you have a bit more space the Logitech Z625's perhaps.

  10. Avatar

    kingken1986

    Yes, you found the one thing that is harder to do on macOS than Windows 10. macOS is by far the best operating system, it just works, no drivers to mess with (I have a gaming laptop that hasn't worked right since day 1 because of drivers,) the updates are specific to your system and do everything for you. I just got a Mac mini with the Apple M1 chip and its insanely powerful for the price, and I would not switch back to Windows if someone offered me 10,000 dollars. My Mac mini replaces my elderly iMac but I already had the keyboard and Magic Mouse, only had to come up with a monitor. Simply put macOS just works and does it beautifully, its elegant design is something that Microsoft will never catch up with. I'm an IT and when clients ask what's the best computer to get, we all tell them its not a computer, it's a Mac. The two OS's are a world apart. but a Mac is a Mac and a Computer is a PC.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      "macOS is by far the best operating system..." Please. Look, we all have preferences, and needs, and whatever else. If macOS was just "the best," for everyone, we'd all be using it. It's not the best. Not for most.
      • Avatar

        interloper

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        It doesn't matter how good macOS is, the hardware is too expensive for most people to buy so we will never "all be using it".


        That being said, ubiquity does not equal quality. Windows 10 is fine generally, but it's also a complete mess in many ways (and I'm not just referring to the Frankenstein of a UI). The main reason Windows 10 (and Android for mobile) are so popular is they are financially accessible to the vast majority of people.

        • Avatar

          Paul Thurrott

          That's not always true. $999 for a MacBook Air is the right price given what it competes with. I think the right way to look at this is that Apple typical targets the premium parts of each market, but that those products are typically (not always) price-competitive with similar products from other companies (PCs. vs. Macs, etc.). What Apple doesn't do is sell a $499 piece of crap Mac. The PC (and Chromebook) market is flooded with that kind of thing.
  11. Avatar

    ronin

    I’ve been using macOS since I was 10. A lot of people say dumb stuff like that to prove their Apple fan boy/girl status. But this is simply a matter of fact to speak for my experience with macOS of almost four decades.


    I did school work on an Apple 2e using Zardax (I think that was its name), learned basic and pascal in High School. Used a Mac while studying physics at uni, used Windows while in the army, and back to a Mac as an audio engineer running protools. I wrote my Doctoral Dissertation on a Mac. And now work as the Head of Technology where I both code and manage a cloud infrastructure... on a Mac. I also use Linux of various distros and have over the years have used Windows and had to set up wired networks with Windows and Mac computers. I have a Linux workstation and BSD based firewall at home, and use a Mac laptop for when I am on the move.


    Every OS I have ever used sucked in some way. I have bricked them all. But sitting here, writing this comment on an iPhone, after studying SELinux this afternoon, and watching my wife - a devote non-tech person - jump on the latest Fedora Workstation running plasma KDE, and getting something done (despite never having been exposed to the OS before) while listening to my favourite podcast Windows Weekly on my AirPods Pro in perfect blissful isolation from the hustle and bustle of kids and pets, I was stunned into writing (ranting?) at the comment Paul made that Macs suck. Macs suck, windows sucks, anything that is a tool used for work/fun is going to suck at some point. About the only thing that has never let me down is a cold beer at the end of the day.


    However, Mac computers have been an “almost” constant companion. I have learned, worked, communicated, and enjoyed what the OS over the years has provided. All of which has come from other people, family and friends or strangers.


    Macs... suck... maybe. But gee wiz they make some incredible products that just seem to work, keep me in touch with my family, let me listen to great podcasts like first ring daily, and help me achieve my goals every day. At least that’s been my experience, but I guess I’d have to walk a mile in your shoes to know why you hold the options you do.


    I have tried and used every major Windows and Mac release, from the cli OS to the latest. The last perfect device I used with an operating system that didn’t suck was a....


    An operating system paired with hardware is a tool, like a hammer, it is there to provide us humans the opportunity to do a job. After staring at scared kernels running around behind a blue screen so many times, I am positive that there are times a hammer might become the appropriate tool.


    But the fact that Apple have built an SOC ARM based lower power system, and I’ll repeat myself here - that just works - I think has upset many people.


    Particularly when my go to for an aging laptop is to install a simple Linux distro on old hardware. That sucks as it seems unlikely to be possible on the new Mac SOC.


    But Macs in general. I’ve changed my mind, they don’t suck. They’ve provided a useful tool along the way to get stuff done. And that really is all they are. A way to get stuff done. And man have I done a lot of stuff on that Mac. (And Linux, and Windows, and other various gadgets). But I have to disagree with you on this one Paul.


    Macs do not suck in general.


    Which is not to argue that they don’t suck for you though.


    😎 Hakuna matata

  12. Avatar

    tomjar

    I recently bought a Macbook M1 and bricked it through a similar process. I booted up and migrated files over from a hard drive, but after a few days decided to wipe and restart from scratch (probably stupid idea but anyway). It caused crazy complications in which each time I tried to create a username it wouldn't accept the password, and then when I'd restart I'd see a ton of logins that had been populated. I called Apple and was bounced around for hours, it does seem like there's possibly some issue with the way it splits the hard drive into Macintosh HD-data and Macintosh HD, when one is wiped and the other isn't. In the end I just went back to BestBuy and exchanged it, and now extremely happy with the M1 (use it for editing and a huge improvement, especially Premiere Pro Beta), but yep - I'd caution new users to be careful about wiping and restarting. Otherwise it's a wonderful machine!

  13. Avatar

    unit682

    I bought a Mac Mini a few years ago. I used it for a few months and now I rarely touch it. It still works very well, but I prefer Windows. I own 3 Windows PC and I use all three of them regularly. When a friend or an aunt asks me to fix his or her W 10 PC , I know exactly what to do. Windows is more complex and interesting. I see a lot of Mac Airs or Pros on tv, films etc. I sometimes think it is because Apple gives them for free or for publicity. I don’t know if I am telling a joke or not. Nevertheless many professionals seem to have Macs. A good Windows 10 Laptop is as good as a Mac Air. And I love touchscreens.

  14. Avatar

    ll2019

    Thank you Paul for the insight, this helps give an insight on the recovery process of the Mac. I have reinstalled Mac OS High Sierra on my MBP 2015 because i didn't like Big Sir (i keep calling it big blur), however i put the installer on the USB key (via some tricks found when googling around) and i wiped the drive. I never tried the online recovery stuff, but appreciate you detailing your pain points. It gives me a good perspective that the usb key installer method was the right choice for me.

    • Avatar

      ivarh

      In reply to ll2019:

      The hardest part of the online installer is having to google the key sequence on the few occasions I have have had to use it :). However it takes ages to install. This is on a 1Gbit fibre connection. The download seems to be quick but the extraction time is slow.


      Cleaning out data on the other side is very quick. Since all macs since the T1 chip has FileVault enabled by default all you have to do is to log into icloud.com and do a remote wipe of your mac while it’s turned on. Just be sure you have backed up any data you want to keep as the wiping is instantaneous as all it has to do is to wipe out the encryption key from the secure enclave in the T1/2/M1 chip.

  15. Avatar

    jwpear

    I stumbled over Apple's article for erasing data and clean installing last summer as I was preparing to sell my 2012 MBP. Definitely not an easy process. This is so easy in iOS. Seems like Apple could put a bit more effort into making this easier in macOS. Being able to sell a used device and have the confidence that it has been cleanly wiped should fit in their "green" messaging.

  16. Avatar

    Greg Green

    richardbottiglieri’s comment of volumes and containers reminds me of when I broke my iMac by deleting the wrong one of those. iMac rebooted, couldn’t find the os, asked me if I wanted to reinstall from the internet connection, and I said yes. It was a miraculous feature and only took about 45 minutes to get me running again, but I wouldn’t have found it on my own. And probably couldn’t again without looking it up.

  17. Avatar

    longhorn

    In reply to SvenJ:

    I didn't write that Windows is any better than macOS in this regard (although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence pointing in that direction). It's just that this article dealt with macOS, not Windows.


    When people get Windows 10 they have lower expectations than macOS so it's harder to make fun of Windows. The way Apple markets its products it's almost like Apple wants people to find flaws and make fun of them.


  18. Avatar

    will

    I do not think you bricked your Mac mini.


    I have wiped and reset many macs over the years and starting a version ago Apple did a secure boot recovery process so someone could not steal and wipe the Mac very easy. So if you login first and then use disk utility to completely delete BOTH partitions you can just create a new disk/partition then do a cloud restore to download the OS.


    This is a different command key to hold down...shift-command-option-R I think?? Then it will download the OS and start new.

  19. Avatar

    pachi

    When they work they work okay. But when there's issues or you have to do something like you did. Good Luck!!


    I got a Mac mini a year or so ago, and it was a barrage of issues with no fixes. yes Apple support was super nice, but ultimately weren't able to fix any of the issues - if I recall I couldn't download in-box apps or something. Since then I returned that, got an Air, and it's okay, it's also had its share of issues, that only resolved themselves with major (and slow updating!) OS updates. for months why did I have to rejoin and type my wifi password in every time my computer woke up from sleep? etc... there was so fixes or issues I could ever resolve from searching. It's just totally the opposite of my windows experience, whereas there's issues but I can fix them.

  20. Avatar

    angusmatheson

    I just had to do a full restore of a surface laptop go. I get to the recovery from going to restart and holding down shift. Discoverable? That at least is how I have always done it in Windows 10. When I get to the reset and erase all contents there is a screen that I have to go to the Windows live website, find this computer, and then type in a twenty character code. I think it is something about how surface encrypts the drive. Maybe now that surface and apple encrypt the drives drive it doesn’t matter that it is now harder to completely erase the drive. But sometimes you still need to do it, and for security it should be.as easy as possible.

  21. Avatar

    jt5

    I agree Paul- good article. Here is a link on how to redo Big Sur on an M1 mac: reset MacBook air M1 to factory settings - Apple Community. The article mentions using a second Mac to reset the M1 Mac- wow.

  22. Avatar

    nbplopes

    Ok. The process of factory resetting the an Windows PC is more user friendly. How many times does a user do that in its lifetime with their Mac, once or twice! How is this for a perspective?


    Anyway, congrats to Windows for making this mostly unused feature easier. No, it isn’t always greener, it just greener in what actually matters for some. This is precisely one of those matter, being greener does not really matter much. People mileage vary.


    PS: I agree there should be there another option in the Menu. Factory Reset ... and do the all thing automatically. But it’s not really such a huge deal as the article seam to suggest.

    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to nbplopes:
      Ok. The process of factory resetting the an Windows PC is more user friendly. How many times does a user do that in its lifetime with their Mac, once or twice! How is this for a perspective?

      Most users will do it once or twice during the lifetime of their device - usually when they sell it or pass it on.

      That means that the process is rarely used, so it needs to be extra friendly and idiot proof, because it isn't something the user will be doing every day. It should hold their hand and not let them screw it up.

      Microsoft and Google both manage to do it fairly well. Apple is lousy at it.

      Paul often gives Apple praise when they get things right, complaining how Microsoft misses the mark in Windows by comparison. It is interesting that people jump all over Paul, when he points out a chink in Apple's otherwise good armour. Such a report should be something that Apple takes as a challenge to actually improve the user experience.

      • Avatar

        Paul Thurrott

        It should never have been this bad for so long.
        • Avatar

          nbplopes

          In reply to paul-thurrott:


          Agreed that for today’s standards is not good enough.


          But a couple of notes that did not seam correct to me:


          1) Erasing the Mac disk is not supposed to block reinstalls from happening. You can indeed erase all partitions on the Mac and still reinstall with no extra devices just following the menu and no extra devices needed. There was a bug in macOS 11that is fixed in 11.0.1 released in December 14.


          2) If eventually a user fell into this bug, his device is not bricked. There are a couple f things that he or she can do to get out of it. It’s documented.


          And yes, bugs suck. Bugs aren’t a feature.


          As the article, probably by mistake, seam to not recognize what is a bug in the process from the process it self, paired with MacOS suck, it bugged me for one reason only: I appreciate your work in general. I think you try as much as possible to stay away from Big Tech politics while keeping truthful to your preferences/bias.


          Within this, regarding your reviews over this subject, I must say it disappointed me a bit. But to be honest it might not be really entirely your responsibility. Honestly I’m not nagging or throlling. Let me explain for minute.


          What is the point using ARM for the engine of a Computer? Case in case, the M1. The point is, “Does it make a better laptop or desktop PC?”.


          You see, t’s not really about the Transition! Can Windows or macOS run on ARM? How well does it run? Nothing like that ... to me.


          If it became about these things than whoever is attempting to use it ARM to make a better PC , just blew it. I say that this mindset is not entirely your fault, because indeed the Windows ecossystem, set this tone. The all thing became about the Transition. I bet the main reason you bought this Mac Mini was because you wanted to check how week did Apple done it, or is doing it. It’s the wrong tone in my view. Why?


          After the review these questions are still unanswered:


          Did it became a better desktop PC?

          Did it became a better laptop/notebook PC?


          This is what I’m particularly interested In. Outstanding transition, or super speed, or oh I found a bug in a first gen product, be damned :) These are technicalities that will mean nothing months from now. If not, someone blew it once again.


          I personally believe the answer for the first question is no. For me its fundamentally still an option for developers as the benefits for this form factor as still not there and you also get some first gen caveats. Those benefits will come later, I expect.


          For the second, my answer is yes inspite of the first gen caveats. They are simply outstanding in their categories for most people. I say most, because I still think that for hard core technical work the remaining caveats need to be ironed out.


          A review with this questions in mind is what I was expecting. But these questions take time to answer, it might even take months. Given your experience it seams that the answer to both questions is no, one way or another. To me, it does not compute :)


          EDIT: In instances the Surface Pro X its a better laptop than the Surface Pro. The problem is are the instances that its not, are far more in quantity and importance. Fundamentally makes most Windows apps run worst and one don’t even run ... and for the it one pays 1k to 1.6K. You see, this conclusion completely jumps over the so called Transition.


      • Avatar

        Greg Green

        In reply to wright_is:

        Yes, I agree, once or twice per device, so for those that keep a product 2 to 3 years and have several devices, this is something that could occur annually or more. It should be easier to find.

      • Avatar

        dell5050

        In reply to wright_is:

        Don't waste your time with nbplopes, he's a dope with his never ending nagging comments

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to nbplopes:

      It's almost like you didn't read what I wrote. I noted that it wasn't common. And I didn't suggest it was a big deal, per se, though the user who bricks their own Mac will disagree. Actually. It is a big deal. Right?


      The point here is that I credit Apple when they do things well, and for the general consistency in macOS, which is missing in Windows. But this is one area where they screw it up, and badly, and now it's even worse.


      But then I already wrote all that.

  23. Avatar

    djross95

    Agree 1000%, Paul! Ever since Mac OS Catalina, where they split the drive into two partitions, wiping a Mac is NOT easy at all (or intuitive). I bricked a 2015 Mac laptop with Catalina, and I worked for Apple for 2 years! Now, apparently, M1 Macs are even harder & less obvious. That's a deal breaker for me, life is too short for that kind of bullshit. The MS solution is far better, though I wish they would synchronize more data (downloaded apps, start menu layout, etc.).


    Now if MS can just standardize the interface (Sun Valley?), I'll be a happy camper! :-)

  24. Avatar

    prebengh

    I agree with the difficulty of factory resetting a Mac (but not with all of your other comments).

    I bought a Macbook Air M1, but a few days later the Macbook Pro M1 was on sale (20% off!), so I decided to sell the Macbook Air. By the way both the Air M1 and Pro M1 base models have been discounted in Denmark recently, the Air by 24% and Pro by 20%. They were quickly sold out.

    I had to find the method on the internet, but apparently I did it wrong, because I was really stuck, also believing it was bricked (just a couple of hours before the guy who bought it would arrive).

    However I tried following part of the original instructions once again, and it worked, fortunately. The operating system was downloaded and installed itself.

    But I agree, it should be an option to do a factory reset from inside the operating system like in Windows.

  25. Avatar

    bkkcanuck

    Command + R is meant as a 'recovery' not 're-sale' or 'reset'. It is effectively a last ditch process when all else fails... it is also not meant for every tom, dick or harry to botch up their computers... but in concert with the Apple help desk (or genius bar).

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      Not true. Apple has a support page that describes using this environment when you're selling your Mac: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201065 The final step, "erase your hard drive and reinstall macOS," directs you to "start up from macOS Recovery" and then "use Disk Utility to erase your disk" and reinstall macOS as I describe here. That was sort of my point. I was using Apple's instructions.
    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to bkkcanuck:

      So, what is the correct process for the average user to reset their PC to factory settings and erase their data, when they resell it?

  26. Avatar

    phil_adcock

    I prefer Mac Os. But as someone who upgraded from a Mid-2009 Model to a 2019 Model Macbook Pro. I ended up bricking it trying to clear my information off so that I could give the computer to my mom to use. As it functions perfectly fine. I just wanted a computer a little faster and that supported Big Sur. Natively my Mac didn't even support running O365. I jailbroke it to get it to run Catalina. It's currently in the shop so that a 3rd party, authorized Apple Repair facility could do service on an out of warranty mac to get it "Road Ready" again.

  27. Avatar

    matsan

    Good read. Personally I hate Mac hardware and macOS UX but love the stability and how I can work for weeks without reboots in Docker, compilers, IDEs and Parallels - all with just 16GB of RAM. Four desktop on two 4K screens and everything .... just works. Oh, did I mention a computer that actually wakes from sleep without a blue screen?

    • Avatar

      jdawgnoonan

      In reply to matsan:

      I think the hardware and general UI is really good, but I get tripped up by the "Document Based" methodology used in the system. For instance, when all Finder windows are closed but clicking the Finder button does nothing....I find that goofy.

  28. Avatar

    MikeCerm

    In reply to Andrusoid:

    If you open the start menu or hit the search button and type "reset", it will find the "Reset this PC" feature before you've gotten to the 't'. If you type "factory reset", it will have found it before you've gotten to the 'o'. I'm not sure how Microsoft could possible make this easier. I'm not suggesting that the average person would know to do this, but it is certainly much simpler in Windows than doing it the Apple way.

  29. Avatar

    MikeCerm

    One thing to note about the powerwash feature of Chrome OS: it's almost certainly not actually powerwashing anything. Chrome OS drives are encrypted, so they don't need to be completely overwritten with random data in order to prevent data recovery. The powerwash just deletes the encryption key for the data partition, and the drive is ready to go. This is how Mac OS should do it. Catalina (I believe) introduced a non-user-accessible encrypted system partition, so all the stuff needed to reinstall the OS should be there. A clean Windows installation on a modern system takes no more than 10 minutes. As fast as the new M1 Macs are, there's no reason a complete reinstall should take more than 10 minutes.


    Much about the Mac installation and updating process makes no sense. I bought a M1 MacBook Air and the GPU died in about a week, which is a whole other problem... But before it died, I was shocked at how long installing small system updates could take. Even just restarting the computer, watching that little white bar crawl across the screen takes a shockingly long time. Sure, it's instant on if you never shut it down, but if you even have to restart to do updates, it seems to take forever compared to a reasonably decent Windows laptop.

  30. Avatar

    winner

    To be fair, Microsoft makes washing Windows easy, but WOA just doesn't run well at all. So it's mostly unusable.

    Apple makes washing MacOS difficult, but makes running x64 apps on M1 Macs easy, performant, and mostly seamless.

    You could make the argument that while Apple has screwed up here on a feature that admittedly few need to use, on what matters, they didn't screw up like Microsoft has, for years.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      Guys. I wrote about the important stuff first. This is just tacked on because it was my final experience using the Mac Mini. It's not "Paul hates Apple." It would be irresponsible for me not to mention this.
    • Avatar

      longhorn

      In reply to Winner:

      I think it has to do with sEqUriTy.


      Apple is confident that their x64 applications won't infect macOS, but Microsoft is afraid that their x64 applications will infect Windows.


      So Apple lets x64 applications run unmodified (only translated) on M1. Microsoft doesn't want to do that, but insist that virtualization (they call it containerization for some reason) is necessary.


      Needless to say you won't get stellar performance from applications running in a virtualized environment.


      I think Apple did the right thing and Microsoft did the wrong thing in this case.


      If Microsoft can let go of the sEqUriTy mindset I think they can achieve the same x64 performance as Apple did.


      • Avatar

        longhorn

        In reply to longhorn:

        I realized I described Windows 10X instead of WoA above. WoA uses emulation instead of virtualization.


        So the order of performance would be:

        Native application

        Binary translation - Rosetta 2 and Xbox backward compatibility?

        Emulation - WoA

        Virtualization - Windows 10X


        Sadly Microsoft has been pretty lost when it comes to Windows development since 2010 while Apple has followed a more straight path. It's easier to do when you only develop for consumers, but I think Microsoft should be able to modernize existing Windows if they followed a similar path that Apple took. Microsoft can always branch off LTSC for better legacy support.


        It's like the efforts behind Metro/Modern/UWP blocked all efforts to modernize Win32 and the underlying Windows system.


        It's easy to point a finger at Apple and macOS because of the UI and window management and the whole notion that you should adapt to the computer and not the other way around. But Apple knows what it is doing in terms of system engineering. It has a plan that is anchored in reality.


        Windows 10 x64 is just lost, a security nightmare if you believe the guys behind Windows 10X (you shouldn't). However, WoA or Windows 10X won't replace classic Windows x64 so might as well modernize the real thing and maybe leave LTSC behind for business users.


        • Avatar

          wright_is

          In reply to longhorn:

          Actually, virtualization should be right behind native application performance these days. The processors support it natively and the hypervisor takes care of the virtualized environment with very little performance loss. Containers would probably come in just ahead of virtualization.

          Whether binary translation comes in ahead of virtualization or behind depends on how well optimized it is. At a guess, I would think it would come in slightly behind virtualisation and containerisation, as the code doesn't get properly optimized, just translated and stored on the fly.

  31. Avatar

    longhorn

    Planned obsolescence?


    If it really is possible to bring the computer to a non-bootable or defunct state by doing a reset it would be a serious enough bug to not consider a Mac until this bug/process is fixed IMHO.


    Thanks for testing this Paul. You are doing the Lord's work here. :)


    It's always funny when Apple screws up, because they are so confident in their marketing.


  32. Avatar

    wright_is

    In reply to JeffKirvin:

    That is the point. If Apple did it right, the process would be obvious and would walk the user through it point for point.

    Clear, concise instructions that leave you with no doubt what you are doing and no way to bork it.

    If you need to Google how to do it, it isn't obvious and that is just wrong. I'm not talking about Apple specifically here, for general tasks that all users should be able to do, it should be that simple, that they don't need additional instructions and they can't screw it up; for advanced administration tasks and complex command line configuration or editing configuration files, yes, additional information is required. But for something as simple as reseting the device? That should be idiot proof, if it isn't, an idiot wrote it.


  33. Avatar

    jdawgnoonan

    I agree about this completely. I ran into an interesting issue over the Holidays when I was setting up my mother in law's new M1 Air we got her and clearing off the old 2011 MBA that we had given her before. I wanted to do a secure wipe and then reinstall the OS. The secure wipe went okay, although as you pointed out it is very non-discoverable. However, when I went to reinstall Mac OS it turned out that I could no longer install the OS because Apple's Internet Restore garbage no longer supports the Lion edition of OS X and they will only let you restore to what your machine originally shipped with (even though all of the updates to that version are free). Fortunately, her plan was to just have the machine recycled, but even if she wanted to give it away she would have to go buy a copy of Lion or one of the versions that also supported her Mac for it to be installed! What a clusterf*#k.

  34. Avatar

    matrix80

    I am both a Win10 & Mac lover. Windows has been rock solid, so has Mac. I use my 16" MBP for most online purposes, writing, banking, while my PC is delegated for games/media. No Mac can compete with my i9/3090 4K gaming PC. Windows 10 is not the systems of days past, I haven't had to download drivers nor got a BSOD since its arrival. For me, Mac will always be a premium luxury product, much like a Mercedes Benz. Anything within their line is perfectly luxurious, whereas PC can vary from an entry sedan to a luxurious Denali. As someone that works on PC's (an IBM), perhaps Mac to me signifies off-work, pleasure. It's colorful icons call for them to be pressed. I know, buying a Macbook Pro, I'm going to have a premium product. Premium sound, graphics, color, screen, track-pad, etc. As for the erasing process, literally create another account- 2 minutes, and delete the other administrator. Done. 99% do nothing so important as to require a full wipe going back to the factory.

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