MacMost Now 616: Resetting PRAM

A common troubleshooting technique is to reset your PRAM. This will occasionally clear up problems with your Mac. Learn about PRAM, what it is and how to reset it. Also learn about SMC.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let's talk about the troubleshooting technique of resetting your PRAM. So PRAM stands for parameter random access memory, and it's this little bit of memory inside of every Mac that keeps bits of data like your volume setting or the current date and time. And it's kept intact by a little battery, so even if you unplug your Mac it will still remember the data stored in PRAM.
So, because a lot of different programs access PRAM every once in a while a piece of data gets corrupted and it can cause problems – some sluggishness, applications not working correctly. It's rare and problems like this are usually caused by something else but sometimes it is PRAM. So it's important to know how to reset PRAM.
So resetting PRAM is pretty easy. All you need to do is shut down your Mac completely. Then restart your Mac by pressing the button and at the same time, right away, hold down the command, the option, the P, and the R keys. All four of those keys held together at once before the first gray screen appears on your Mac. And then what will happen is you keep holding them, and you'll hear the startup sound, and then it'll be like your Mac restarts again. You'll hear the startup sound again. This means that PRAM has been reset. You can release those keys and let your Mac finish starting up.
One technicality is what if you have a wireless keyboard. Now if you have a MacBook or MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air it's not a problem. And if you have a wired keyboard it's not a problem. But there's mixed reports of people that have wireless keyboards. Some people say it works fine using a wireless keyboard because it connects to keyboard via Bluetooth before it looks for the PRAM reset commands. But other people say it just doesn't work. If it doesn't work for you then your only alternative is to find a USB keyboard or borrow one from somebody. Any USB keyboard will work, even a Windows one. You just have to figure out what the command key maps to on that Windows keyboard and use it for just that one specific task.
Now as far as a troubleshooting technique this falls in between some of the basic stuff, like just doing a simple restart, or making sure your software is up to date, making sure that you have the most recent version of your extensions in Safari, including Flash, or maybe disabling some of the extensions in Safari. A lot of those have been causing trouble recently. So after you've done all that basic stuff and you still can't figure out what's wrong, resetting PRAM is a good step between all that stuff and doing something like a complete reinstall of Lion or Snow Leopard.
Now newer Macs, all the Intel based Macs, have another set of parameters called SMC, or system management controller. Now it's even rarer that resetting your SMC will help, but sometimes it does. I'll include a link at this post at MacMost.com where you can find information from Apple, how to reset your SMC. It varies depending upon specifically which Mac you have. So I can't give the instructions here.
And I'll also include links to the official Apple pages about PRAM, and resetting it, and what PRAM does, and what's stored there at this post at MacMost.com. So check that out. Hope you found this useful. Till next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Here’s the link to the Apple page explaining how to reset the SMC: Resetting the System Management Controller (SMC)

Comments: 18 Responses to “MacMost Now 616: Resetting PRAM”

    Cyrus Dubash
    10/11/11 @ 7:12 am

    I have a Wireless Keyboard and after some trial and error, this pretty much works, if you get the timing right !

    After a Full Shut Down…Power on the iMac… then wait for the Chime but Press the 4 Keys that Gary stated before the chime goes off.

    So hear chime, then after a second press keys (before chime goes off)

    If you do this correctly, it works fine. So do try it.

    Cyrus !

    Marc Davidson
    10/13/11 @ 1:54 pm

    Apple tech rep told me to let it cycle through 7 times before releasing 4 keys.

    Phil
    10/13/11 @ 8:39 pm

    OK, where is the link you said you’re posting on resetting the PRAM and SMC? Unless I’m missing the obvious, it’s not on this page. Please let me know. Thanks.

      10/13/11 @ 8:42 pm

      I just added it, under the video. Thanks.

    mike sanders
    10/13/11 @ 9:48 pm

    Have never had a problem with a wireless key board make sure the keys are held down before the restart and continue until second chime. Apparently it makes no difference how many times you do this as it only resets once.
    Useful way to remember keys is CROP, I am getting older and it helps.

    Sharon
    10/13/11 @ 10:45 pm

    You mention Snow Leopard and Lion, but is this a good thing to do with Safari?

      10/14/11 @ 7:53 am

      Resetting PRAM is something that affects your whole Mac. It is not specific to a single application.

    Flo
    10/16/11 @ 4:22 am

    I’ve reseted both of them a while ago due to Apple Tech Support advisory because I had a problem with waking up my Mac but now I’ve got my Mac encrypted with FileVault2. Do I press the keys when it asks me to enter my admin password or afterwards? It’s doesn’t seem to work… (MBP mid 2010)

      10/16/11 @ 9:47 am

      You do it way before that. You do it right at the moment of restart, before the screen lights up. And keep holding it until it chimes again.

    Flo
    10/17/11 @ 3:14 pm

    Worked perfectly, thank you Gary, really appreciate it!

    David
    10/21/11 @ 1:18 pm

    Hey Gary,

    I was wondering if you could do a video expanding on this concept of “cleaning” up your computer. Like I know PC’s have defrag and disk cleanups and I was wondering if there was stuff like that to help not only free up space but just make the computer run better and be happier!

    Thanks!

    ~David

      10/21/11 @ 1:27 pm

      For the most part, you don’t have to do anything. Mac OS X takes care of itself. You can always go through your files and data and see if there is stuff there that you aren’t using. Maybe some old iMovie or iDVD projects, things like that. No program can do that for you as it is all based on what you want.

    Marshal
    5/21/12 @ 6:51 pm

    How are you Gary? I’m noticing that I cannot come here and not talk to you. lol
    About the SMC, is there any signal that I did it right? In my case I didn’t observe the “Note: The LED on the MagSafe power adapter may change states or temporarily turn off when you reset the SMC.”
    Thank you one more time Gary.

    Michael forrester
    8/4/12 @ 2:54 pm

    I’ve just reset my pram on my iMac now it just stays on grey apple screen and shuts down after a few seconds , why is this ?

      8/4/12 @ 3:01 pm

      Something is wrong. I’d take it to an expert (shop, Apple Store, etc) to have it looked at.

    Jess
    1/31/13 @ 10:10 am

    Hello Gary, I have a macbook pro, i’ve been trying to reset the pram. The mac enter in a continous loop of restarting. How many times i must listen the sound until release the keys? how i know if i made it right? Thanx

      1/31/13 @ 10:24 am

      You just need to hear it once. Then release the keys.

Comments Closed.