SMC Reset – Why, When and How

Performing an SMC reset on a Mac is not something that should be done lightly and, in this post, we’ll cover the why’s, the when’s and the how’s of resetting the System Management Controller on a Mac computer that is Intel-powered.

SMC reset

SMC Reset – Why?

The System Management Controller is a sort of overlord on any Intel-powered unit that oversees several important processes in your machine. From power options to the ventilation system to illumination of the different components, SMC malfunction can spell trouble to any user.

There are particularities of course to the different types of Mac computers. To illustrate, an iMac or a Xserve has an SMC that works slightly differently than a notebook. But, do not worry as we will cover every case of SMC reset.

What the Mac user has to keep in mind is that an SMC reset is not an operation that should be performed in every case of hardware deficiency, and the number of problems it can solve is not unlimited. Machines are not perfect after all!

Photo of a SMC

SMC Reset – When?

Obviously, when it is malfunctioning, but do not rush to conclusions and do not underestimate the efficiency of an old-fashioned restart. The SMC is definitely malfunctioning in one of the following situations (though it may be performing inadequately in others as well):

  • when you have problems with turning your computer on or off;
  • when the backlights of your display or keyboard are malfunctioning;
  • when you experience sudden variations in brightness;
  • when the lights of the battery indicator are deficient;
  • when the computer goes to sleep or shuts down unexpectedly;
  • when the computer develops a will of its own in target display mode;
  • when you move to your computer and the backlights of the various ports fail to make their presence known (only applies to the 2013 Mac Pro);
  • when the fans are much too loud for no obvious reasons (such as the inadequate material from which the surface that you place your computer, or high temperature and humidity), or are way too discrete from what you are accustomed to for long periods of time and there is the danger of overheating, then a SMC reset could be a means of avoiding danger.

These are the most frequent problems that could be (but definitely not for sure) solved by performing an SMC reset.

SMC Reset – How?

First of all, it should be mentioned that not every type of Mac has the same technique of resetting the System Management Controller. We will cover the steps of doing it regarding every sort of computer, and they are quite simple operations. After all, it’s not rocket science!

macbook keyboard

When talking about devices that don’t have a removable battery – and these types of computers are either the MacBook (2009-2011), the MacBook Air or the MacBook Pro (2009 and onwards) – what you need to do is:

  • perform a shut down;
  • have a power source plugged in;
  • simultaneously press the power button, control key, left shift and option key;
  • simultaneously release all of them;
  • turn on the computer.

If you didn’t study properly in your history classes, then you don’t know that there have been Macs fitted with a battery that you could remove. It is not ancient history, however, as the current trend of Apple producing only with non-removable batteries has started in 2009. MacBooks and MacBook Pro computers manufactured before the aforementioned date also had SMC’s and their own way of resetting the System Management Controller. If you are the owner of such a device, then this is what you need to do:

  • turn it off;
  • disconnect any power source;
  • remove your battery;
  • keep the power button pressed for 5 seconds;
  • plug in a power source and start the computer;

If you didn’t find your Apple device in any of the previous sections, do not despair as there is a way of resetting the SMC for desktops that are Intel-powered – Mac Pro, X-Serve or iMac:

  • perform a shut down;
  • unplug the computer;
  • wait about 15 seconds before plugging it back in;
  • wait for five seconds and then start your computer.

Nobody has managed to come up with a definitive solution to never again manufacturing a computer that malfunctions. After all, even live tissues and organs malfunction. The most worrisome aspect of that happening is that you cannot perform an SMC reset to a liver or a kidney.

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3