The Parameter RAM, or PRAM, on your Mac is a small amount of non-volatile memory (ie, persistent memory that is not cleared when the power is off) that is used by the system to hold hardware configuration settings, such as the audio volume at startup, the default boot disk, and various boot arguments to pass to the default operating system.
Nowadays, on modern Macbooks we call this NVRAM, but some people still use the older term PRAM. Either way, resetting it on your Macbook is known to fix a multitude of issues, from sound volume problems through to the battery not charging properly.
Reset PRAM/NVRAM on Mac – For M1, M2, and M3 Macbooks
The good news is that with newer models of Macbook that have Apple’s own M processor, you don’t need to worry about doing anything specific.
All you need to do is restart your device, which will automatically reset PRAM/NVRAM when done. The M1, M2 or M3 processor works by testing the NVRAM any time that you start your Macbook.
Once done, you should find that the issue that you’ve been dealing with has been resolved. Older versions of Macbook will not reset PRAM automatically on restart, so you need to keep reading if you don’t have an M processor in your Mac.
How to Reset PRAM on Older Macbooks (Intel processor)
If you haven’t upgraded to an M1, M2 or M3 processor as of yet, you’ll have to manually reset the PRAM on your Macbook. Fortunately, this is pretty easy to do.
To reset the PRAM on your system, just follow these steps:
- Restart the computer
- Immediately hold down the Option-Command-P-R keys after hearing the boot chimes
- Hold the keys until the system resets and sounds the boot chimes again
- Release the keys when you hear the boot chimes sound, and allow the system to boot normally
If you continue to hold the keys down in step 3, then if you have a wired keyboard (such as a USB one, or that in a laptop), then the system will continue to receive the instruction to reset the PRAM, and will cycle through resets and restarts until you release the keys.
With the PRAM reset, your system will now populate it with default settings, but sometimes these may not be desired ones.
When the OS loads, many such as system audio volume will be reset to stored values in the system preferences; however, to be sure, go to the system preferences and toggle the relevant settings.
These include the following:
- The appropriate boot drive in the Startup Disk system preferences
- The volume of the system
- Location services being enabled or disabled (in the Security & Privacy system preferences)
- Display resolution and brightness
- iCloud settings
- Mouse cursor speeds
PRAM vs NVRAM – What’s the difference?
Older models of Macbook will have used PRAM, but more recently released Mac will instead be using NVRAM – these are often used interchangeably, when essentially they are almost the same thing (NVRAM being a broader term).
When you add RAM into the mix, people often get confused. Let’s look at the differences between PRAM (Parameter RAM), RAM (Random Access Memory), and NVRAM (Non-Volatile Random Access Memory).
- RAM is your computer’s main memory, used for storing data that needs to be accessed quickly and frequently.
- PRAM is a small, special type of NVRAM used mainly in Macintosh computers for storing system settings.
- NVRAM is a general term for memory that retains data without power, used for storing essential configuration and state information across different devices.
All in all though, it’s actually not that difficult to come to terms with. And with modern day Macbooks, all you really need to do is restart your device.
Sometimes specific problems your Mac may encounter are a result of corruption in the PRAM, where variables are not stored properly.
In these cases, the system may take a long time to boot as it searches for an appropriate boot volume instead of having a default one to use, or may always boot to Safe Mode or similar mode.