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Computers help us with much of our daily lives in this modern age, and there are hardly any systems we run today that don’t interface with some type of computing device. In order to give us this assistance, these machines need a few components.
One such piece of hardware that computers use is their memory. Just like in the human brain, the memory inside a computer stores data. It can also store instructions for how to run processes and tell the rest of the parts of the computer how to function. There are different types of memory available, and one of them is non-volatile random-access memory, something most people in the tech industry abbreviate as simply NVRAM.
Although NVRAM is useful, some computer owners find that they need to reset it from time to time. This sort of thing can occur too frequently, and we will dive into just why that might be the case.
Additionally, we’ll go over some of the specifics as to just what happens when you reset the NVRAM, whether it might speed up the processes in a Mac computer, and how you might be able to do it. Before we wrap things up, we’ll also see if there are any ways to troubleshoot this issue.
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We mentioned that NVRAM is a specific type of memory that should be non-volatile. While something that fits this definition should be more stable than some of its counterparts, that isn’t quite what we mean when we talk about the memory chips inside a computer. Some of the random-access memory that your rig uses is temporary.
You can think of it as data that the computer stores in its own short-term memory banks, just like a human might keep some thoughts about what they are doing in theirs. Once you end the session that you’re in on your computer, that data removes itself from the memory banks. It is still accessible, but the machine will need to call it up and process it again before you can view it or use it.
All of this is particularly true if the computer loses power, too. The data stored in the memory relies on a constant power supply to maintain its place, and the rig “forgets” this information if there is any loss of power.
However, NVRAM is something that tech people developed to combat this problem. Because of its non-volatile nature, data or instructions stored in the NVRAM stay where they are. This is true even if there is no power to the device.
Furthermore, NVRAM isn’t just for traditional computers. Any modern device that needs to use settings that it has to remember will probably have some type of NVRAM to assist in storing this information. While you probably don’t think of it as NVRAM, a flash memory drive is a common device that uses memory storage of this type.
However, that might work differently from some of the NVRAM you have in your computer itself, and we will cover that in a later section.
You may have heard on forums related to tech things that resetting the NVRAM can cure lots of problems your computer might have. This is particularly true of Mac computers.
While it is true that doing this kind of reset can fix a variety of things, we should mention that it isn’t necessarily the only solution to fixing every minor glitch you might encounter. There may be other steps you need to take, but we will focus on some of the things that an NVRAM reset should be able to solve for you.
Before we get into what happens when you reset the NVRAM, it is important to figure out what it controls. If you have a Mac computer that is newer, it probably uses NVRAM, which is a variation of the former parameter random-access memory that older models used.
NVRAM keeps things like volume control, screen resolution, Bluetooth information, data about which drive the computer should choose when booting the operating system, and more.
The precise things that your NVRAM will contain can vary a bit from one computer model to the next. However, you can think of this kind of memory as a collective storage space for necessary settings that your Mac needs in order to run.
Furthermore, these are settings that the computer cannot get from the boot disk during its startup process. In short, we’re dealing with all of the information the computer needs to have ready before you even turn it on.
As you might expect, some settings your computer has ready for you are things that you’ve customized yourself. These could be settings related to volume levels that your computer has when you get to the desktop, what screen resolution to display, or a host of other options that work in concert to make sure that your computer looks and acts how you want it to every time you start it.
Therefore, when you need to do a reset of the NVRAM, the settings related to these things go back to their default values. If you changed the original boot disk location or drive, this will also revert to its original value.
Resetting the NVRAM on your Mac might speed it up a bit, but this is not an outcome that you can guarantee. When most average users talk about a reset, they are indicating a complete factory reset of their whole computer systems. This wipes the whole drive of all its information, including many settings.
In theory, doing this should help some users see a noticeable uptick in how well the Mac runs. However, this is because the computer is also getting rid of many programs and settings that could have bogged it down. It is much closer to getting a fresh, new Mac right from the store.
When we talk about only resetting the NVRAM, we are just reverting some custom settings that the computer uses back to their original states. This type of reset has no effect on your files, programs, and other things on your computer. Even so, you could see some kind of increase in speed when performing some operations on your computer.
The Mac’s default values for some of these settings might help it to run processes in the most efficient way possible. You may see more significant increases in speed by cleaning up the disk, defragmenting it, deleting unnecessary files, and doing other, more in-depth cleaning operations, though.
On both classic and newer Mac models, you should be able to use the same shortcuts in order to perform the NVRAM reset. However, you may need to press some keys to hold some actions longer than others, but this can vary from one model to another. Here are the basic guidelines to performing the NVRAM reset on your Mac:
- First, you should shut down the computer entirely as you normally would.
- You need to turn it back on immediately after a full shutdown.
- However, you must press a series of keys immediately after you power up the device.
- The four keys you need to be aware of are Option, Command, P, and R.
- Press these four keys together at the same time.
- Hold the keys in this position for at least 20 seconds.
- During this time, it may look like your Mac is restarting.
- If your Mac plays a startup noise, you can release the keys once it does this twice.
- Similarly, if your Mac uses the T2 chip, you can wait for the Mac logo to appear and disappear twice, then release the keys.
Some users may have trouble with issues such as sound cutting out randomly, menus disappearing before they can select options from them, or keys repeating letters. These are just a few possibilities you may deal with, and resetting the NVRAM may fix these things temporarily.
However, in some cases, they can return, forcing users to perform the reset once again. The problems should disappear once more for a few days, but they may return later. The reason that you might have to keep resetting this memory appears to relate to how some of these settings are interacting with the system.
You may need to try a few things in order to get to the bottom of your issue. Here are a few of the tests that you can run:
- Boot in Safe Mode to see if you can identify what is causing the issue when the system is running in its normal mode.
- Run an Apple Health Check to see what errors might pop up.
- Get an EtreCheck report that includes data you can post to various Apple forums for assistance from experts. You can also take it to a repair shop or to Apple for further help.
NVRAM keeps many of the settings you want to use intact, and it does so to make sure that your computer runs in a custom state that you prefer. It should be able to do this every time you boot the system, but you may encounter some problems from time to time.
If you need to do a reset, see if that fixes the issues or helps your Mac run faster. Should you find that this is a constant hassle, try some of our troubleshooting tips above, too.