Several owners of new M1 Macs report an issue with restoring the machine, which renders the computer unusable and stuck on an error screen that says “An error occurred preparing the update. Failed to personalize the software update.”
MacRumors reports at least three threads on their forums involving the issue and warning against attempting to restore one of the new machines.
One post describes the issue as follows:
I just received my M1 MacBook Pro and Macbook Air. Because I don’t need any of the included software, it is always my procedure to restore the operating system without things like garage band and iMovie.
during the install process, an error occurs relating to “customizing the system update”
after a couple hours on the phone with Apple care, they told me that 75 other people have called in with this issue, and They have no work around. I was instructed to return my systems, or wait for a fix. Without having an operating system running, there is no way for me to install any future updates, so these computers are effectively bricked.
There is some good news in all of this, as MacRumors reports some of its readers have discovered a solution that appears to work.
Apple has instructions on using Configurator 2 and a secondary Mac to revive or restore an Apple Silicon Mac that has become unresponsive. This method requires the newest version of Apple Configurator 2, a functional Mac, and an appropriate cable to connect the two Macs.
Restoring in this way restores the firmware, updates recoveryOS to the latest version, and erases and installs the latest version of macOS on internal storage, thereby erasing all data. This method was successful for two MacRumors readers who had the recovery problem.
While Apple will surely fix the issue in an upcoming update, for now, it’s a good idea to avoid restoring an Apple Silicon-based Mac.