Welcome to your new M1/M1 Pro/M1 Max Mac

Your new Apple Silicon Mac has arrived, and you’ve relished unboxing it. Before you power it up for the first time, please read through the following, which should make the next days a lot smoother for both of you.

Update to 12.0.1 first

If you’re one of the lucky folk who have just got one of the brand new MacBook Pro M1 Pro or M1 Max models, it has almost certainly come with macOS 12.0 build 21A344 pre-installed, and the first thing you want to do is to update that to the release version of 12.0.1 (once it has been released). That includes some important fixes which will make life simpler, and is worth doing before you attempt any migration from another Mac or backup.

The sequence I recommend runs:

  1. Personalise and set up your primary admin user account with the same username and password as the older Mac you intend to migrate from.
  2. During personalisation, when you’re invited to migrate, don’t.
  3. On completion of personalisation and setup, install all macOS updates.
  4. When you’re then ready to migrate, connect old and new Macs using the fastest method available, such as Thunderbolt.
  5. Open Migration Assistant on each Mac.
  6. Set Migration Assistant on your new Mac to receive the migration, and that on the old Mac to be the source.
  7. When you’re asked whether to create a new user or replace the existing user, select to replace the primary admin user.
  8. On completion, make any adjustments to settings, etc., and ensure that it’s properly connected to iCloud.
  9. Make the first backup from your new Mac.

This was particularly important last year with the first M1 models. Hopefully the fixes in 12.0.1 won’t prove as crucial as those in 11.0.1 were.

Are you still enrolled in a beta programme?

When I set up my first M1 Mac, I hit problems because I migrated from another Apple Silicon Mac during initial installation. I had its Time Machine backup disk connected, and wanted to try migrating from that. Although that proved enormously successful and quick, it also restored enrolment of the Mac in Apple’s beta programme. When my M1 mini restarted, not only was it now enrolled in the programme, but it refused to offer me the 11.0.1 update, insisting that I wanted 11.1 beta instead, which I didn’t. I then unenrolled, but still couldn’t get any update apart from the beta.

How to unenroll thoroughly

The first step you should try is to open Software Update and click on the link at the lower left, below the text stating that Mac is enrolled. This takes you through a couple of dialogs in which you can unenroll it. A short while later, Software Update should have rechecked for updates, and offer only full releases again. If it doesn’t, close the pane and restart.

If restarting doesn’t help, you’ll need to open Terminal and unenroll there using the seedutil tool, which is buried deep in a Private Framework located in the path /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/Seeding.framework/Versions/A/Resources/seedutil. The easy way to do this is to open Terminal and type
sudo
followed by a single space, without pressing Return. Then drag the seedutil tool from the Finder into that line in Terminal, so that its full path is pasted there. For the first command, add a space and the text
enroll CustomerSeed
and press Return. You’ll be prompted to authenticate with your admin password. This should then show a few lines of text and no errors. Then press the Up Arrow key to bring back that same command line, and Delete back to remove the last two words. Replace them with
unenroll
and press Return again. Slightly different lines should appear in response to that, without any errors. A little while later the Software Update pane should restore the 12.0.1 update, and you’re finally out of the beta programme for the time being.

Recovery

If you’ve not used an Apple Silicon Mac before, you’re likely to be caught off guard should you want to start it up in Recovery Mode. These models don’t use the traditional startup keys, so restarting with Command-R held is going to do nothing. Instead, Recovery and other startup modes are initiated by starting up (not restarting) with the Power button pressed. Hold it until you’re informed that Options are loading. The full range of options covers almost all that you’re used to in an Intel Mac. These include:

  • Diagnostics – hold Command-D
  • Reinstall macOS, Disk Utility, Startup Security Utility, and other tools – select Options
  • Boot from another volume – select the disk’s icon and click Continue
  • Safe mode – select the disk’s icon and hold Shift, then select Continue in Safe Mode.

The Recovery system used depends on which version of macOS the M1 Mac is running. Big Sur’s Recovery is always run from a hidden container on the Mac’s internal SSD. This has changed in Monterey, though, which installs a Recovery volume alongside each bootable copy of Monterey, so would be on an external disk if you’ve just booted from that external disk.

In case of disaster

If all else fails, and you appear to have rendered your M1 Mac unbootable, there’s a way to revive it, so long as there has been no significant hardware failure. If you have a second Mac running a recent version of macOS such as Big Sur or Monterey, install Apple Configurator 2 (free) from the App Store. You’ll then need to put your sick M1 Mac into DFU mode and connect it via USB-C to the other Mac. You can then download an IPSW image, which contains the firmware, Recovery system, and macOS needed on its internal storage. Installing that in a Restore is fully explained in the Configurator Help book.

If you don’t have a second Mac, or can’t get that Restore process to work, Apple stores and approved service providers should be able to do that for you. It may seem daunting at first, but is actually both straightforward and fast.

Differences

If you’re coming from an Intel Mac, especially one with a T2 chip, you’ll discover some interesting differences in your new M1 Mac. Its Secure Boot process is quite different, and allows you to boot from an external disk without having to make any changes in Startup Security Utility. However, if you want to use any third-party kernel extensions, that does require a trip to Startup Security Utility to enable that. More recent System Extensions and their relatives don’t require that.

Rosetta 2, which lets your M1 Mac run Intel-only code, isn’t installed by default, and you should be offered it when you first run any Intel-only software. Sometimes users complain that this doesn’t work, particularly if the Intel code isn’t in a regular app. In that case, you should be able to force it to be installed and avoid its normal installation dialog using the Terminal command
sudo /usr/sbin/softwareupdate --install-rosetta --agree-to-license
as explained by Rich Trouton on his blog. You’ll then need to enter your admin user’s password, of course. Note that the hyphens prior to each of the command parameters are two single hyphens; when copied and pasted, they may become converted into a long dash instead.

Worth a visit

When your new M1 Mac is up and running, you won’t be short of things to explore. One which many miss, but which is well worth a look, is the CPU History in Activity Monitor, which shows the load on your Mac’s different cores. You’ll see that most background macOS tasks run on the Efficiency cores, while user tasks normally occupy the Performance cores. On some models, the GPU History should be worth a look too.

I have many articles looking at different aspects of M1 Macs, which you can find on this page.

Enjoy exploring!