How to clean install macOS Catalina 10.15 on your Mac


Apple has finally released macOS Catalina 10.15 for all users. The new major release is available with a number of new apps and feature improvements. The upgrade is available for all users over-the-air, however, for maximum performance, it is recommended that users do a clean install. This way, you can get rid of any unwanted apps and files, and also experience macOS anew. A clean install requires backing up your Mac, downloading the new OS update and restoring data. Read on to follow our handy guide on how to clean install macOS Catalina.

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Before you continue, make sure to check if your Mac is compatible with macOS Catalina.

Back up your Mac

The preferred way of backing up your data on a Mac is to use Time Machine. You would need an external drive to use Time Machine but this is an investment which is highly recommended. Alternatively, if most of your data is in the cloud and you have enough storage available, you can back up your data manually.

Download macOS Catalina

The next step is to download macOS Catalina. There are two ways to do so:

  • Download from Mac App Store.
  • Download the full installer directly from Apple’s servers.

Why would you want to download the full installer from Apple? Sometimes, depending on your Mac model, Mac App Store might not give you the full installer for download. In such cases, it is better to download the installer directly from Apple.

Bootable USB Drive Creation

Now we get to the part where we will create a macOS Catalina bootable USB drive. Once you have created the USB drive by following our guide, use it to boot up your Mac. This will allow you to launch macOS Recovery, which will be used to format your Mac and clean install macOS Catalina.

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To boot from your USB drive, plug it in, reboot your Mac and press and hold the Option key before the display turns on. At the Startup screen, select your USB drive and press return.

macOS Recovery

macOS Recovery is the environment that allows you to format your Mac, reinstall macOS, use Terminal and perform other diagnostics.

Inside macOS Recovery, there are a couple of things to be done for the purpose of this guide:

  • First step is to format your drive (use APFS for file format), which can be done by using Disk Utility. Be careful and only format the partition where you have to install Catalina.
  • The second step is to start the installation process for macOS Catalina.

Install macOS Catalina

The installation might take a long time since it’s a major update. Once the process completes and you are greeted with the macOS setup screen, remember to restore your back up data from Time Machine or from your cloud storage.

Make sure to check out the Mac App Store after upgrading to macOS Catalina to download the new apps that have been ported from iPad!