When your Mac starts acting up – and they actually do, don’t believe the fanbois bullshit about perfect computing forever, there aint no such thing – you’ll probably run through some basic troubleshooting procedures, such as restarting, verifying permissions in Disk Utility, and using Safe Boot. I recommend that a well-rounded repair skillset should also include what’s known as zapping the NVRAM (formerly PRAM) and resetting the SMC. Personally, I use this procedure before Safe Boot & verifying permissions – it’s a general cure all for random Mac maladies.
Back in the day, the standard list of quick fixes for random Mac ailments (see, they’ve always existed!) included “zap the PRAM.” The P in PRAM stood for parameter (the RAM was just RAM—random access memory), and it referred to a small amount of special, battery-backed memory in every Mac that stored information the computer needed before it loaded the operating system. If the values in this memory got messed up somehow, you’d have start up issues, or maybe a number of strange behaviors when booted. So you could press a key sequence at startup to reset (or “zap” – which is far more emotive than “reset”, you reset a PC while you zap a Mac.) the PRAM, returning it to fresh factory values.
Back To The Future
Intel-powered Macs no longer use PRAM; they instead use something called NVRAM (NV for non-volatile). NVRAM, for all intents and purposes, serves the same role as PRAM (only fewer chunks of information are held). NVRAM is more reliable than PRAM so corruption is fairly uncommon, but if your Mac isn’t doing things as smartly as it once did or has an odd problem with video or sound particularly, then give it a zap. You won’t lose anything and it’s quick & easy to do. (Apart from the requirement for 6 fingers on each hand.) Continue reading cure-all for OSX & iOS