Old Mac mini - password lost, but reinstall OS?

I’m being offered a 2012 Mac Mini for free because the user’s password is unknown and was not written down for some reason. Is it possible to use the machine by simply reinstalling the OS (assuming install disks available)?

2012 is pretty old, so I’m not sure what’s possible, but can you start it in macOS Recovery, perhaps from the Internet? That would let you erase the internal drive and reinstall.

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If there’s a firmware password set, then you’re pretty much out of luck - the T2 chip will block everything.

But if that’s not the case (and it probably isn’t, unless it was used in a high security environment or if the previous owner was very paranoid), you should be able to boot into recovery mode.

If the recovery volume is missing, then you can use Internet Recovery, which will let you literally wipe everything and perform a clean reinstall.

The 2012 mini is well before T2. @ace’s advice holds.

Yes, but pre-T2 Macs also can support a firmware password, but it’s not secured by a T2, so it might be easier to hack your way around.

But after re-reading the article, it appears that there’s a way to recover from a lost firmware password (unless the owner deliberately disabled that ability as well). It requires AppleCare support, and they’ll probably want to talk to the original owner, but it is theoretically possible otherwise.

Yeah, that’s the point. Since this mini is pre T2 there is a way around even if a firmware password had been set. It involves Apple Care, but at least there is a path.

Thanks all, I figured this crowd would know the ins and outs. I sort of like the challenge and wonder if it can be done. Will see if I have time this weekend or next.

From Mr Macintosh site:

(2006-2010) – The firmware password could be removed by removing the battery, one stick of ram, and resetting the PRAM 3 times.

(2011-2017) Apple changed this when they soldered the memory to the logic board. The only way to remove the firmware password was to contact Apple.

(2018-2020) Apple added the T2 security chip. The chip runs an operating system called BridgeOS. This OS software can now be re-installed or updated using a 2nd Mac and Apple Configurator 2.
You now need to be an admin user that has a SecureToken to access the Startup Security Utility menu to set and remove the firmware password.


Not true for the 2012 Mac mini, which uses easily replaceable SO-DIMMS.

If the original poster has access to the previous owner, they also should check to see that the mini is not associated with the previous owner’s iCloud account and that “Find My” device is disabled.


About that 2012… I copypasted that info…and my bad…I HAVE a 2012 and I upgraded it (facepalm). Thanks for correction! :slight_smile:

T2 was introduced in 2017 or 18 - 5 years before this hackable Mac mini was made.

Most probably and usually there’s no Firmware Password on th mini. what you should consentrate on first is to change The User Password.

If the mini is ugraded: Hold down the alt-key while starting. Choose the Recovery volume, run Terminal and type resetpassword
(You loose the existing keychain but don’t need ti reinstall.)

If it is not upgraded: Boot from an old Mac OSX install DVD and change user password right from the menu. (I think the keychain is preserved)

The really easy fix is to get hold of the Mac minis boot DVD.

Other methods for old macs exist too, escp. on Youtube

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