How to reset the PRAM/NVRAM and SMC on your Mac

Is your Mac computer behaving strangely and you’ve already tried all the usual troubleshooting techniques? If so, resetting the PRAM/NVRAM or SMC on your macOS device might help. Read on to learn about what these components are and how to reset them. You’ll also learn how Avira Free Security’s built-in junk cleaner can help you optimize your Mac’s performance and avoid related issues. 


Although PRAM/NVRAM and SMC are two different things, resetting these hardware components can fix some Mac issues.  

To discover if you should reset the PRAM/NVRAM or SMC on your Mac, we’ll take an initial look at what they are and which issues the two components might cause. You’ll also learn all you need to know about how to reset the PRAM/NVRAM and SMC. 

What is PRAM or NVRAM? 

PRAM stands for parameter random access memory. On Mac computers, this is a small area of memory in the RAM that stores a number of settings and parameters for the macOS operating system. These system settings differ depending on the Mac model. Among other things, they may store information about the screen resolution, color depth, time zone, speaker volume, mouse speed, and startup volume selection. They are required for system configuration and are read when the device starts. 

In contrast to RAM, PRAM is a non-volatile memory. This means that the information is not stored temporarily but permanently and is therefore retained even after you shut down the operating system. This is because while RAM requires an external power supply, PRAM uses a small battery. 

Newer Intel-based Mac computers use the successor technology NVRAM instead of PRAM. NVRAM stands for non-volatile random access memory. It performs the same tasks and has the same properties as PRAM but stores less information.  

M1 and M2 Macs don’t have PRAM or NVRAM (and SMC) 

You can’t perform a PRAM or NVRAM RAM reset with the latest-gen devices with an Apple silicon chip (M1 or M2 chip) as they don’t have that hardware. They don’t contain an SMC chip either — but more on that later. 

Apple lists the following Mac computers with an M1 or M2 chip: 

When should you reset the PRAM or NVRAM? 

You should reset the PRAM or NVRAM if your Mac shows the symptoms listed below. Before you do, though, make sure you’ve exhausted all the other options to resolve the issue, such as restarting your device or clearing the cache 

Avira Free Security’s built-in junk cleaner helps you clean all cache areas of your Mac in just a few clicks. You can also use it to rid your device of other junk such as temporary files, reports, and logs. In doing so, you can generally optimize your Mac’s performance.  

It’s also worth resetting the PRAM or NVRAM before selling or giving away your Mac. 

The following symptoms are a telltale sign that it’s worth resetting the PRAM or NVRAM: 

How to reset the PRAM or NVRAM on a Mac 

Since resetting the PRAM and NVRAM follows the same process, it doesn’t matter which random access memory your Mac has. Before performing the reset, however, make sure that you do not have a Mac with an Apple silicon chip, i.e. with an M1 or M2 chip. To check, click the Apple icon in the menu bar and then click About This Mac. If yours is a Mac with an Intel processor, proceed as follows: 

  1. Turn the Mac off. 
  2. Turn it back on and then immediately press and hold these four keys at the same time before the gray screen appears: The Option key (option/alt), the Command key (cmd), P, and R. 
  3. After around 20 seconds, release the keys. Your Mac will then appear to restart. You may hear the start-up chime several times or see the Apple logo.  
  4. When the Mac has fully started up again, check your system settings and reconfigure them if necessary. 

What is an SMC and when should you reset it? 

An SMC (system management controller) is a chip on the motherboard of an Intel-based Mac computer. While macOS status information is stored in the PRAM or NVRAM, the SMC stores information for controlling hardware components. Among other things, this information regulates the fan, power consumption, and LED lighting. If you experience problems in these areas, you should reset your Mac’s SMC. 

The following symptoms are a good sign that it’s worth resetting the SMC: 

How to reset the SMC on a Mac  

The process of resetting your Mac’s SMC varies depending on your Mac model and whether you have a desktop Mac or MacBook as well as what type of processor your device has.  

With the latest-gen Apple computers, i.e. M1 and M2 Macs, all the functions of the SMC are integrated into the ARM chip, i.e. the M1 or M2 processor. For Mac computers with such an Apple chip, Apple recommends restarting the device or turning it off and on again to resolve the issues described above.  

Below is the reset process for all Mac computers with an Intel processor. 

How to reset the SMC on desktop Macs (iMac, Mac mini, Mac Pro) 

  1. Shut down your Mac and unplug the power cord.  
  2. Wait 15 seconds and plug the power cord back in. 
  3. Wait 5 seconds and turn the Mac back on.   

How to reset the SMC on a MacBook   

For MacBook users, the SMC reset method differs depending on whether the MacBook has an Apple T2 Security Chip. You can check this in the system information. To do this, click the Apple icon in the menu bar and then hold down the Option (option/alt) key. Now, System Information will appear at the top instead of About This Mac. In the list of the newly opened window, click Controller under Hardware and you’ll see whether a T2 chip is listed on the right. 

If your device doesn’t have a T2 chip, the reset method depends on whether your MacBook has a non-removable or removable battery. MacBooks with removable batteries have not been made since 2009.  

MacBook with an Apple T2 Security Chip  

In this case, Apple recommends that you first turn off your MacBook, press and hold the power button for 10 seconds, wait a few seconds, and then turn your Mac back on. If that doesn’t help, you should reset the SMC. Here’s how: 

  1. Shut down your Mac and then press and hold these three keys at the same time: On the left side of the keyboard, press and hold the Control key (ctrl) and the Option key (option/alt). On the right side, press and hold the Shift key (shift/up arrow). You may find that your Mac will turn on again. 
  2. Wait 7 seconds and then also press and hold the on/off button on the top right of the keyboard. A Mac that may have switched on will now switch itself off again. 
  3. Wait another 7 seconds and release all three keys (and the on/off button, if applicable). 
  4. Wait a few more seconds before turning your Mac back on. 

MacBook without a T2 chip with a non-removable battery 

  1. Shut down your Mac, then hold down these three keys on the left side of the keyboard at the same time: The Shift key (up arrow), the Control key (ctrl), and the Option key (option/alt).   
  2. Additionally, press and hold the on/off button on the top right.  
  3. Wait 10 seconds and release all three keys (and the on/off button, if applicable). 
  4. Now power on your Mac again. 

MacBook without a T2 chip with a removable battery 

  1. Shut down your Mac and remove the battery. 
  2. Press and hold the on/off button on the top right for 5 seconds.  
  3. Reinsert the battery and turn on your Mac. 

Summary: Different approaches achieve the same goal 

Although the approaches differ depending on your Mac model, they all result in a smooth-running computer. Sometimes, though, you don’t even need to reset the PRAM/NVRAM or SMC. All you need to do is thoroughly clean up your computer — which thanks to our little helper, the junk cleaner, is a much faster process. 


Of course, we also offer a corresponding solution for Windows devices in the form of Avira Free Security. Avira System Speedup’s tune-up utilities clean and put the zip back into Windows computers in just a few clicks. 

And with Avira Antivirus Security for Android and Avira Mobile Security for iOS, we also offer all-in-one mobile device solutions to further optimize your digital life.   

Apple, Mac, and MacBook are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the US and other countries and regions. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. 

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