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2012 MacBook Pro - 13 inch & 15 inch

How to Reset Mac NVRAM, SMC, or PRAM

One of the main reasons that people use Macs is that they are reliable. Even while your Mac is sleeping it is actually performing maintenance and keeping your machine in tip-top shape. But sometimes, even Apple’s best machines can run into trouble. Strange behaviors, sluggish performance, and stuck settings can become frustrating in no time flat. We’re going to dive into a few techniques that you can use to get your Mac back up to speed.

PRAM/NVRAM reset

PRAM stands for “parameter random-access memory.” This is the portion of the system memory that holds a small number of settings that the system can access quickly. Newer Intel Macs use NVRAM (non-volatile random–access memory) for the same purpose. Apple keeps things like the display resolution, volume, and startup disk location in this portion of your system memory. Resetting the PRAM or NVRAM can sometimes remedy strange bugs. Both PRAM and NVRAM are reset the same way.

How to reset PRAM/NVRAM

To reset PRAM/NVRAM, restart your Mac, and press and hold the following key combo: Option + Command + P + R.

You can check out the technique in this video. You’ll want to listen for the Apple “chime” twice. Then you are all set.

SMC reset

The SMC is the system management controller. Resetting the SMC is a similar operation to resetting the NVRAM.  Apple recommends resetting it to fix issues with power, battery, fans, and other features. The process is slightly different for different types of Mac.

How to reset SMC in a MacBook

  1. Shut down the Mac.
  2. Connect your power adapter to your Mac and to a power source.
  3. With the Mac still powered off, press Shift-Control-Option and press the power button at the same time.
  4. Release all keys and power up your Mac.

How to reset SMC in an iMac, Mac Pro, or Mac mini

  1. Shut down the Mac and unplug the power cord.
  2. Wait 15 seconds with the Mac unplugged.
  3. Plug in the power cord and wait 5 seconds.
  4. Turn on the Mac.

You can check out this technique in this video

M1 Macs

If you have an M1 Mac, you should know that they don’t need to have NVRAM cleared or the SMC rebooted. (SMC doesn’t exist on M1 Macs.) When an M1 Mac reboots, it runs a sequence to make sure the NVRAM is doing what it should do. This is the advantage of Apple making both the hardware and the software.

I hope these tips help you get your Mac up and running without the quirks that sometimes arise. They are great machines, but they are still subject to going haywire sometimes!

Reuben Evans
the authorReuben Evans
Reuben Evans is an award-winning screenwriter, Executive Producer at Faithlife Films/Faithlife TV, and a member of the Producers Guild of America. He has produced and directed numerous documentaries and commercials. RED Cameras, Final Cut Pro, and DaVinci Resolve are his tools of choice. Reuben has written for such sites as The Frame.io Insider and is part of the Blade Ronner Media writers network.
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4 Comments

  • Thanks, Reuben! Very good and handy information. I am an old Apple freak from way back. I gave my daughter our first computer, an Apple][ for her 12th birthday in 1980. (She is now 53.) First Mac was in ’84 and many, many since then. Thanks again! earle.jones@comcast.net

  • It would have been nice if the author explained that you can’t use the technique described for resetting the PRAM/NVRAM on an iMac using the supplied wireless keyboard. You have to plug in a wired keyboard for it to work as described.

    • Turn off Bluetooth, then plug in your lightning cable to your Mac and lightning keyboard, and you will find that you have a wired keyboard just like I’m doing right now. [2020 Intel Mac Mini]

      • Thank you for the workaround! I appreciate it. I previously spoke with Apple Customer Support and they told me it was necessary to find an actual wired keyboard to use. Fortunately, I had one but your solution is much more elegant. However, it does not negate the fact that the instructions given for resetting the PRAM/NVRAM in the article only seem to cover laptops.