GUIDE: How to Reset the System Management Controller

Is your Mac slow or acting up? Or are there any hardware issues that you think should be addressed? Well, don’t fret: the issues can potentially be fixed by resetting the system management controller, or SMC.

Basically, the SMC is a piece of hardware on the Mac which handles and manages system hardware for the following functions:

  • Power consumption.
  • Battery charging.
  • Temperature control and fan activity.
  • Video changes and output.
  • LED lighting on the keyboard.

Before you perform an SMC reset, the issues might be resolved by performing a simple fix. Check if your computer will respond or if the issue has been resolved after trying each step.

  • Close all applications and programs. Force quit those that are not responding by pressing Command-Option-Escape.
  • Try putting your Mac to Sleep mode. After which, wake it up after doing so. See if the issue has been resolved.
  • If your Mac is not responding, shut it down by holding the Power button for 10 seconds. Unfortunately, you will be losing any unsaved work by doing so.

When to perform an SMC reset

By performing an SMC reset, certain issues might be fixed. It’s essential to do this before you decide to head off to the service center or purchase new hardware. That being said, here are hardware problems which indicate that resetting your SMC is an urgent matter:

  • Your Mac does not respond to the power button when pressed.
  • It shuts down or sleeps without warning.
  • The battery does not charge correctly.
  • The keyboard backlight does not behave correctly – only applicable to Macs that are equipped with this.

keyboard - system management controller

  • The MagSafe power adapter LED does not show the correct activity.
  • The Mac’s fans run at a high speed than usual. This is despite the computer not experiencing any heavy usage and is properly ventilated.
  • A device that supports into display mode does not switch into or out of it as expected.
  • Battery indicator lights behave incorrectly on MacBooks which have non-removable batteries.
  • The Mac is performing at unusually low speeds despite the lack of apps open in the background and low CPU utilization.
  • Application icons may bounce on the Dock longer and take more time than usual to start.

Experiencing any of these problems is pretty annoying and will negatively affect your productivity.

Fortunately, these issues can be fixed by an SMC reset which in turn can take no less than 10 minutes.

Resetting the SMC on Mac notebook and desktop computers

system management controller - mac notebook

The way you perform the SMC is dependent on your device having a removable or nonremovable battery.

Macs with removable batteries

  • Shut down your Mac.
  • Disconnect the power adapter from your device.
  • Remove the battery. Use a small coin (a penny would do) to turn the knob which locks it in place.
  • Press and hold the power button for five seconds.
  • Connect the battery and power adapter again.
  • Press the power button to turn on the Mac.

Macs with nonremovable batteries

  • Shut down your Mac.
  • Plugin the MagSafe or USB-C power adapter to your Mac and connect it to a power source.
  • Press the Shift-Control-Option combination keys and the power button in unison.
  • Release all the keys and turn on your Mac as usual.

NOTE: The LED on MagSafe Power Adapters will likely change states as an indicator that you restarted the SMC.

iMac/Apple desktop computers

  • Shut down the device.
  • Unplug your power cord.
  • Wait for at least 15 seconds.
  • Plug the power cord back in.
  • Wait for five seconds, then press the power button to turn on the Mac.

If your problems have not been fixed by resetting the SMC, a visit to an Apple Service Center might be a necessity to discover what the underlying problem is.

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