Your Mac Has Secret Reset ‘Buttons’

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Photo: Kamil Zajaczkowski (Shutterstock)

All computers act up from time to time. When things go awry, my first recommendation is always to simply shut down and reboot: Often, this simple power cycle fixes the issue. However, you might run into the odd problem that doesn’t go away. Maybe your MacBook gets hot and stays hot, or the fans are spinning out of control, no matter how many apps you quit. In these cases, a restart won’t cut it. You’ll need to employ one of your Mac’s secret reset procedures.

You won’t find these reset options anywhere on your Mac. There are no hidden buttons on the underside of your machine, nor are there software triggers buried in settings (that would be too easy). Instead, in many cases, you’ll have to press the right keys at the right time to reset either the SMC or NVRAM.

The SMC (system management controller) is hardware built-into each Intel-based Mac that controls specific power features on your machine. If you have a Mac with a T1 or T2 security chip, that chip controls the SMC to protect security during startup and prevent unauthorized users from accessing the computer.

While there are many small hardware components on your Mac you never need to know about, the features SMC manages is important: If any of them fail, it’s quite obvious. You might need to reset the SMC if you encounter the following persistent issues:

  • Your battery won’t charge
  • Your MacBook is overheating
  • Your Mac’s fans are running too fast
  • Your webcam isn’t working

NVRAM (nonvolatile random-access memory), or PRAM (parameter random-access memory), is a special memory that stores important system resource settings to help keep your Mac running consistently between uses. These settings include sound volume, display resolution, startup-disk, and time zone. If any of these settings are out of whack and nothing else seems to fix it, resetting NVRAM might be the solution.

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How to reset the SMC on your Mac

If you have an Apple silicon machine, you don’t need to worry about resetting the SMC with any secret button combination. According to Apple, a traditional reboot is all you need to patch any of these SMC-related issues.

For all Intel-based desktop Macs, there’s no button combination to use either. Shut down your Mac, then unplug it from power. After 15 seconds, plug it back in. Then, after five seconds, press the power button.

However, for Intel-based Macs, the instructions differ depending on your device. If you have a MacBook with the T2 security chip, Apple recommends shutting down your computer first, then press and hold the power button for 10 seconds (if you have a Touch ID button as a power button). If that solves your problem, you’re all set!

If not, you’ll need to use the following SMC-reset button combination: First, shut down your computer, then press and hold Control + Option (left side) + Shift (right side) for seven seconds. Then, press and hold the power button as well. After another seven-second period, release all buttons at once; after three more seconds, press the power button to turn your Mac back on.

For all other Intel-based MacBooks, the instructions are similar but slightly different: Shut down your computer, then press and hold Control + Option (left side) + Shift (left side). Then, press and hold the power button, and keep all buttons held down for 10 seconds. Let go of all buttons at once, then press the power button to boot up your MacBook.

How to reset NVRAM on your Mac

Again, Apple silicon is a special case here. Not only is there no button combination, NVRAM isn’t even a thing with M1 and M2 chips. You can ignore this section entirely.

For the rest of us Intel-based Mac users, shut down your computer. Next, turn on your Mac, then press and hold Option + Command + P + R for roughly 20 seconds, ignoring any restart chimes or Apple logos. Once the time is up, let go, and your Mac should continue to start up.

Keep in mind, resetting NVRAM means your Mac loses all the data it had stored in this memory. You might need to go through System Preferences and restore certain settings the way you had them before.

   

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