MacBook M1 fail and fix

We recently acquired a new MacBook Pro with the new M1 processor. This was based on the great reviews about the new processor in Apple’s laptops, particularly the huge performance gains, while maintaining backwards compatibility.

We had an old MacBook Pro with an Intel chip. The first thing we did was use included Migration Assistant to transfer everything from the old Intel machine to the new M1 machine. The new M1 machines are supposed to support existing Intel software, even if they haven’t been rebuilt and optimized for the M1 chip. Newer apps come in a “universal” format, with code for either chip. Older apps run in emulation. Most reviews noted how the M1 was noticeably faster than the Intel, even when running Intel code on the M1. That’s a remarkable achievement, as emulation is usually of different processors tends to be super slow.

After the transfer was done, I went in to ensure software was up-to-date. That caused a crash in system preferences. Numerous features and apps crashed. It was difficult to start anything. When I could get into Finder, I found most apps had two versions, apparently the old Intel version and the new M1 version. The computer was often unresponsive and unusable. After I while, I realized I needed a factory reset.

Simply re-installing the operating system did not solve the problem. What I had to do was:

  • I had to fully shut down computer by pushing and holding the power button (upper right button, not labelled).
  • To restart, pressed and held down the power button. After a while there’s a message saying to continue holding the power button to get startup options.
  • I come to a screen which suggests logging in with your account on the computer. This can be ignored.
  • I select Recovery and “Erase Mac”. and followed instructions.
  • After that, I am the position of how the computer was when I first opened it up. After doing a regular setup, things worked fine.

I think it’s understandable that I can’t transfer apps from the Intel to the M1, but Apple shouldn’t give an option that guarantees failure. Fortunately, all the apps we need have M1 versions. I think you should only get computer with the M1 chip, if you are certain all of your needed apps are designed for M1.