Apple provides instructions to erase and restore unresponsive M1 Macs

Posted:
in macOS edited November 2020
Apple has released two sets of instructions to perform an erase and restore on an Apple Silicon Mac or MacBook, roughly a week after users encountered issues performing a similar procedure intended for Intel-based Macs.

The M1-equipped MacBook Air
The M1-equipped MacBook Air


There are occasions where a Mac may not work properly, to the level that the Mac or MacBook won't boot up at all, such as if a power cut is performed during an upgrade of macOS. Apple has procedures in place that can enable users to revive the firmware of the Mac, to allow it to boot and function normally.

However, over the last week, users who have needed to revive the new M1-equipped Mac mini, MacBook Air, and 13-inch MacBook Pro were encountering problems going through the same process, with Apple Configurator 2 throwing up errors in some situations.

Apple has now updated its instructions for dealing with a restoration of a Mac with separate details specifically for the M1 Macs. Like the Intel version, the Apple Silicon variant still requires Apple Configurator 2 installed on a secondary Mac, as well as supported USB-C and USB-A cables for charging and data transfer, and for users to configure their web proxy and firewall ports to allow all network traffic to work with Apple's network.

The instructions largely break down to launching Apple Configurator 2 on the secondary Mac, connecting the two Macs together, restarting the non-functional Mac using a special key sequence, then using Configurator 2 to revive or restore the firmware and recoveryOS. Options are also available to erase the Mac completely and reinstall macOS from scratch.

While the main instructions will be usable by the majority of M1 Mac users, a second set deals with a specific "personalization error" that may appear. According to Apple, the error appears if you erased the M1 Mac before updating to macOS Big Sur 11.0.1, which may prompt the message "An error occurred while preparing the update. Failed to personalize the software update. Please try again."

In this particular situation, Apple primarily suggests using a secondary Mac and an external storage device to create a bootable installer. There is a secondary set of instructions for users who do not have the first option available to them.

The second version involves going through the startup options and accessing the Terminal, before undertaking a series of steps involving copying commands from a support page and pasting them into Terminal before running them. If the more involved instructions do not work, the page advises customers to contact Apple Support directly.

At present, it isn't clear how many customers are having the problem. Service departments contacted by AppleInsider over the weekend and on November 23 have only seen a very small handful of cases.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    This is serious. An OS installation is killing the system down to the firmware!? Why wasn’t this accounted for?
    ronnMisterKit
  • Reply 2 of 19
    Which is why I like using my iPad as my computer, do not have these issues.
  • Reply 3 of 19
    This is serious. An OS installation is killing the system down to the firmware!? Why wasn’t this accounted for?
    It was accounted for.  See Configurator 2.

    This possibility has existed for every Mac (at least since Mac OS X?) and it's incredibly rare.  I expect it's incredibly rare with these new Macs.  But if you're the one in 10,000 who bought a new Mac and then f'ed it up, you want a knowledge article about how to get it restored.  Now that article is available.
    shaminoSamsonikkviclauyycFidonet127spock1234
  • Reply 4 of 19
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    This is serious. An OS installation is killing the system down to the firmware!? Why wasn’t this accounted for?
    Well, firmware is a bit squishy, that's how it can be updated.

    A power cut during an upgrade doesn't occur that often, and in a home setup would be pretty difficult to guard against. I had something similar years ago while we were upgrading a Windows server. One of the developers managed to pull the power lead (several actually, since he tripped and managed to break a finger) during the upgrade and the system was completely shafted. I think it took us most of the day and all night to get thing up and running again.

    After that we stopped hosting the service ourselves. 
    cat52viclauyycspock1234
  • Reply 5 of 19
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,828member
    Another good reason to invest in a decent UPS for all of your plug-in only computers and to make sure that your battery equipped computer is fully charged before performing an upgrade.
    shaminoviclauyycMisterKitbeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 6 of 19
    XedXed Posts: 1,030member
    This is serious. An OS installation is killing the system down to the firmware!? Why wasn’t this accounted for?
    The article literally lists two solutions from a Apple to account for this rare circumstance.
    edited November 2020 randominternetpersonviclauyycspock1234
  • Reply 7 of 19
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,828member
    This is serious. An OS installation is killing the system down to the firmware!? Why wasn’t this accounted for?
    It is accounted for when they do a cost-vs-benefit analysis for what preventive or restorative measures to take to guard against this type of "rare" failure. Apple must have determined that the cost to build-in a firmware rollback mechanism into every shipping device was cost prohibitive and was adequately addressed by the restoration tools they make available, i.e., Apple Configurator 2, based on the low probability of the failure occurring.

    Like any probabilistic assessment, there is always a possibility that the probability of failure occurrence in the field exceeds the estimates factored into their cost-benefit analysis. We will see, but don't assume that Apple is flying by the seat of their pants and just hoping to get lucky. They've engineered this product, assessed the reliability, and made data driven choices based on what they knew at the time. If they find a gap or failed assumption, I'm sure they will take corrective action. 

    As a user I'm a big fan of "rollback to last known good state" recovery mechanisms at various levels, including firmware. I've worked with products that do this and as a developer I can tell you that it is not a trivial exercise because it invariably introduces another vector for security exploitation, just like exception handlers in software systems open up opportunities for exploitation. All those divide-by-zero and buffer over/under -flows that programmers are taught to avoid aren't inherently security issues by themselves if the simply produce bad results, but the exception/crash processing that results from them provides a known way for the bad guys to hook in their code. 

    Rolling back to factory defaults is less concerning, but every control single path needs to be heavily scrutinized, especially all of the unhappy paths.

     
    edited November 2020 randominternetpersonspock1234
  • Reply 8 of 19
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,383member
    Couldn't this be done using s new M1 specific Internet Recovery option?
  • Reply 9 of 19
    MacPro said:
    Couldn't this be done using s new M1 specific Internet Recovery option?
    I think this is for the case when even the recovery partition is hosed. It is probably very uncommon. 
  • Reply 10 of 19
    Basically, I've heard it involves wiping your Mac without putting on the first update.
    viclauyycronn
  • Reply 11 of 19
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,383member
    jdb8167 said:
    MacPro said:
    Couldn't this be done using s new M1 specific Internet Recovery option?
    I think this is for the case when even the recovery partition is hosed. It is probably very uncommon. 
    OK, I get it. 
  • Reply 12 of 19
    flydogflydog Posts: 1,005member
    This is serious. An OS installation is killing the system down to the firmware!? Why wasn’t this accounted for?
    It was accounted for. This is a bug. Read the article. 
  • Reply 13 of 19
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,475member
    flydog said:
    This is serious. An OS installation is killing the system down to the firmware!? Why wasn’t this accounted for?
    It was accounted for. This is a bug. Read the article. 
    Why read the article when you can get everybody riled up by making a stupid claim?
    viclauyyc
  • Reply 14 of 19
    This possibility has existed for every Mac (at least since Mac OS X?) and it's incredibly rare.  I expect it's incredibly rare with these new Macs.  But if you're the one in 10,000 who bought a new Mac and then f'ed it up, you want a knowledge article about how to get it restored.  Now that article is available.
    This isn't a case of a rare bug triggering.  This is one very specific case - where the new owner immediately tried to perform a system restore on the new computer, possibly even before booting it even once.  From what I've read, some owners do this in order to manually de-select optional installations (e.g. iLife applications) and minimize the footprint of the system software.

    There was a bug in macOS 11.0 where this procedure bricked the computer, requiring Configurator 2 (or other procedures mentioned in the article) to recover from.  Apple fixed the bug in 11.0.1, so anyone who upgrades to 11.0.1 before doing this system restore should be safe as well.

    This bug is an embarrassment for Apple, but ultimately no more than that, since they have patched the software and published recovery procedures.  I suspect that nobody on their internal testing team considered the idea of performing a system restore on a new computer that still has its factory image installed.  I'm sure they will be adding this to their test suite in the future.
    cat52Fidonet127ronn
  • Reply 15 of 19
    Bad things can still happen with 11.0.1. After doing an initial setup and installing a few apps, I found out that some software I use works if you do a migration from an Intel machine, but not if you install it fresh on the M1 - the software to download and activate the actual applications is (possibly) an Electron app, and that only made the move to Apple Silicon late last week. So, I figured I'd boot into Recovery Mode, wipe and reformat the internal drive, and start from scratch. Unfortunately, that leaves the internal drive without an "owner" - an account with the rights necessary to install the OS - and nothing I tried directly on the Mac mini got around that (kinda feels like there should be a warning of some sort for this scenario). Fortunately, I found a Reddit thread that pointed me at DFU mode and Configurator 2, which got me back in business.

    Also, there is no Internet Recovery on the M1 Macs - I hope this comes back in the future, as it's handy when all else fails. At some point, there has to be a way to bring a machine back from such a situation that doesn't rely on having another recent Mac around to run Configurator 2 on.
  • Reply 16 of 19
    macguimacgui Posts: 2,047member
    shamino said:
    This is one very specific case - where the new owner immediately tried to perform a system restore on the new computer, possibly even before booting it even once.  From what I've read, some owners do this in order to manually de-select optional installations (e.g. iLife applications) and minimize the footprint of the system software.
    I had no idea that was still possible. I remember having the ability long ago to uncheck boxes to avoid software being installed. Is this some something that I've been overlooking, o4 what.

    rnb2 said:
    Also, there is no Internet Recovery on the M1 Macs - I hope this comes back in the future, as it's handy when all else fails. At some point, there has to be a way to bring a machine back from such a situation that doesn't rely on having another recent Mac around to run Configurator 2 on.
    I did not know that. Can a USB installer be created on a thumb or other external drive as with prior OSs?
  • Reply 17 of 19
    rnb2rnb2 Posts: 50member
    macgui said:
    rnb2 said:
    Also, there is no Internet Recovery on the M1 Macs - I hope this comes back in the future, as it's handy when all else fails. At some point, there has to be a way to bring a machine back from such a situation that doesn't rely on having another recent Mac around to run Configurator 2 on.
    I did not know that. Can a USB installer be created on a thumb or other external drive as with prior OSs?
    Based on some answers above, I think so. I had created a full backup on a USB SSD, and was able to boot off of it, but never found a way to restore from it to the internal drive in the state it was in.
  • Reply 18 of 19
    Many Mac users don’t go any further than turning on the Mac and using software for a purpose. A problem like this could mean paying someone to restore the system. So it is a big deal.
  • Reply 19 of 19
    macgui said:
    shamino said:
    This is one very specific case - where the new owner immediately tried to perform a system restore on the new computer, possibly even before booting it even once.  From what I've read, some owners do this in order to manually de-select optional installations (e.g. iLife applications) and minimize the footprint of the system software.
    I had no idea that was still possible. I remember having the ability long ago to uncheck boxes to avoid software being installed. Is this some something that I've been overlooking, o4 what.
    As I understand it, reinstalling macOS (whether from a system restore or other mechanism) only installs macOS and its components.  It doesn't install the other bundled software (like iMovie, Pages, Numbers and Keynote).  You need to reinstall those from the App Store if you want them back.

    Uninstalling these apps can be done from the Launchpad using the iOS-style mechanism (long-click until the icons jiggle, then click the "x" icon to uninstall), but that may leave behind some stuff (e.g. preferences).  Wiping and reinstalling the system may be faster, especially if the computer is brand new and doesn't yet have any user-installed content.
Sign In or Register to comment.