Troubleshooting – Part 1

Troubleshooting – Part 1

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Basic troubleshooting has become a lost art it seems. What used to be the first things people tried when running into computer trouble is now an “oh, wait, I should try this!” step after all else has failed. Looking to get people back into the art of troubleshooting, I decided to start a series, aptly named: “Troubleshooting”. This is Part 1 of… unknown. I’ll keep adding parts until I run out of ideas. New parts may come out at any time so I am not committing to any kind of schedule. Let’s dive in!

PRAM/NVRAM and SMC resets

This should always be step one when troubleshooting any kind of hardware issue. Before we get into the how or why, let me explain what each of these is and what they do.
PRAM – Parameter RAM
The PRAM is where system settings are stored for quick access. Display resolution, date and time settings, startup disk selection, system volume and more. The exact settings stored in the PRAM vary slightly based on the hardware configuration.

NVRAM – Non-Volatile RAM
Exactly the same as PRAM but NVRAM applies to modern Macs (Intel and newer). PRAM is the term used for PowerPC Macs.

SMC – System Management Controller
This chip is in charge of sleep, wake, power, power button, power to USB ports, battery, charging, fan behavior and other thermal features, a host of sensors and keyboard backlight. I’m sure there’s more but you get the idea. Now obviously it’s functionality and features vary based on hardware but if power is involved, the SMC has something to do with it.

Both the PRAM/NVRAM and SMC can be reset. This is sometimes needed when settings get corrupted, a firmware update messes up some parameters or functionality of the SMC etc. There are quite a few reasons why such resets may be needed. So how does one reset these things?

How to reset them

Reset PRAM/NVRAM
Boot or restart your Mac and hold down the following keys simultaneously: Option+Command+P+R
Make sure you hold down those keys as soon as the Mac powers on or restarts.

On Macs that have a startup chime, keep holding those keys down until you’ve heard the chime two times. The first chime may have been muted if your system volume was off so you’ll end up actually doing two resets but this is no problem.

On Macs that do not have a startup chime and/or have the T2 chip, keep holding the keys down until the Apple logo appears on screen for the third time.

If you were having issues relating to settings stored in this memory, they should now be gone.

Reset the SMC
This varies depending on which Mac you have, so bear with me.
Your Mac does have to be completely shut down before the SMC reset procedure is done so shut the Mac down or hold down the power button for 10 seconds to force a shutdown (if the Mac is frozen or otherwise unresponsive).

On laptops with the T2 chip

  • On your built-in keyboard, press and hold all of the following keys. Your Mac might turn on.
    • Control on the left side of your keyboard
    • Option (Alt) on the left side of your keyboard
    • Shift on the right side of your keyboard
  • Keep holding all three keys for 7 seconds, then press and hold the power button as well.
  • Keep holding all four keys for another 7 seconds, then release them.
  • Wait a few seconds, then press the power button to turn on your Mac.

On laptops without T2 chip and with a nonremovable battery

  • On your built-in keyboard, press and hold all of the following keys. Your Mac might turn on.
    • Control on the left side of your keyboard
    • Option (Alt) on the left side of your keyboard
    • Shift on the left side of your keyboard
  • While holding all three keys, press and hold the power button as well.
  • Keep holding all four keys for 10 seconds.
  • Release all keys, then press the power button to turn on your Mac.

On laptops without T2 chip and with a user removable battery

  • Remove the battery.
  • Press and hold the power button for 5 seconds.
  • Reinstall the battery.
  • Press the power button to turn on your Mac.

It is important to note that laptops need to have the charge cable connected to them. On MagSafe connectors, a successful SMC reset will have the LED change color briefly. Also make sure you read carefully and pick the right procedure for your Mac. You may notice the procedure varies slightly between the laptops with and without a T2 chip.

On a desktop Mac (with or without T2 chip)

  • Shut down your Mac, then unplug the power cord.
  • Wait 15 seconds, then plug the power cord back in.
  • Wait 5 seconds, then press the power button to turn on your Mac.

For desktop Macs I strongly recommend disconnecting the power at the wall socket, rather than the back of your Mac.

If you were having issues relating to the SMC, they should now be gone.

The PRAM/NVRAM and SMC reset should be remembered by every Mac owner. It’s easy, quick, doesn’t require tools and can resolve so many problems.
Until next time!

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