Macs are incredibly reliable computers. But occasionally when using one, you’ll come across an issue. With so many variables, troubleshooting your Mac or macOS (or OS X) on the rare occasions that it does act strangely can be an intimidating.
Fortunately, MacSales.com and OWC have an expert Customer Support team in place to help 24/7. But sometimes, you’re not able to reach out for help, and a simple restart or even a reinstall won’t do the trick. Maybe your volume control is grayed out, your battery charge indicator isn’t accurate, you’re having Bluetooth problems or your computer won’t turn on at all…
What should you do in these cases when you can’t quite figure out the issue? A relatively quick fix for your problem might be to reset the NVRAM (or PRAM) on your Mac, or maybe a reset of the SMC is in order to get it running correctly. But before we show you how to take these steps, first let us explain exactly what exactly these acronyms mean.
What is PRAM, NVRAM?
PRAM stands for “parameter random-access memory” which is essentially a small amount of memory that stores certain settings in a location that OS X can access quickly – things such as mouse settings, speaker volume, virtual memory, screen resolution and other core data needed before OS X loads.
Newer Macs, however, no longer use PRAM and instead utilize NVRAM or “non-volatile random-access memory”. NVRAM serves essentially the same purpose as PRAM, storing information such as speaker volume, startup disk selection and recent kernel panic information among other things.
How to reset NVRAM (or PRAM)
If your Mac is not booting correctly or one of the functions listed in the previous section is acting strangely, you can perform a simple reset of your Mac’s NVRAM or PRAM. Resetting your Mac’s NVRAM or PRAM will reset the data stored to its default setting. (Note: As always, we strongly recommend having a complete backup of your important data before troubleshooting your Mac.)
The process for resetting PRAM and NVRAM is exactly the same. Simply follow these steps:
1) Turn your Mac off.
2) Turn on your Mac and when you hear the startup chime, immediately press and hold the Command-Option-P-R keys. (Note: You may need a wired keyboard for the reset).
3) Hold the keys until the Mac restarts and you hear the startup chime for a second time and then let go of the keys.
After resetting NVRAM or PRAM you may need to reconfigure some of your Mac’s settings. If you are still having issues with your Mac, you might want to consider resetting its SMC.
What is SMC?
On Intel-based Macs, SMC stands for System Management Controller. The SMC chip controls your Mac’s sleep function, power, various lights and indicators, fan speed, and keyboard backlights among other things. So if your Mac’s fan is out of whack, indicator lights are misbehaving, it won’t respond properly when closing the lid, or the Mac won’t turn on at all, you might want to reset the SMC. (Note: Again, be sure to have a complete backup of your important data before resetting the SMC)
How to reset SMC in a MacBook with a removable battery
1) Shut down the Mac and disconnect the power adapter.
2) Remove the battery.
3) Press and hold the power button for 5 seconds.
4) Reconnect the battery and power adapter and press the power button to turn on the Mac.
Note: The LED on your power adapters might change states or temporarily turn off when you reset the SMC.
How to reset SMC in a MacBook with a non-removable battery
1) Shut down the Mac.
2) Connect your power adapter to your Mac and to a power source.
3) With the Mac powered off, press Shift-Control-Option and press the power button at the same time.
4) Release all keys and turn on your Mac.
How to reset SMC in iMac, Mac Pro, Mac mini
1) Shut the Mac down and unplug the power cord.
2) Wait 15 seconds with the Mac unplugged.
3) Plug the power cord in and wait 5 seconds.
4) Turn on the Mac.
This Apple Support page has a list of steps you can take before resetting the SMC that may be useful as well as a longer list of issues that might be resolved by an SMC reset.
The recommendations in this article may or may not solve your Mac’s issues, but they are a valuable step when troubleshooting. If you have further issues, our Customer Support team is available to assist. Be sure to check out the Rocket Yard’s Tech Tips section for more great Mac tricks!