troubleshooting your mac

Addressing Battery Problems

Dan Knight - March 1998, updated Dec. 2001

My Mac forgets it's on a network.
My Mac and mouse are very sluggish.
My Mac comes up in black & white.
My Mac thinks its 1956 (or 1904).

Unless you just zapped the PRAM (parameter RAM), your Mac probably has a dead battery. The Mac stores some important information in PRAM. These settings tell the computer which drive to boot from, what time zone you're in, if you're connected to a network, if AppleTalk is active, mouse speed, memory settings, etc. The battery also keeps the clock running when the computer is turned off.

Most older desktop Macs use a small battery about 1/3 the length of a AA. The one I have in front of me is marked LS 14250 and made by SAFT. Other brands are Maxell Super ER3S, Tadiran TL 5101, and Radio Shack 23-026 My computer store stocks these for $15, though I've heard Radio Shack sells them for about $10. (The Mac 128k-Plus use a 4.5V alkaline battery, PowerBooks a lithium battery, and some newer Macs use the Rayovac 840 4.5V alkaline battery, which is square.)

For more information on batteries, visit <http://www.academ.com/info/macintosh/>.

Once you've replaced the battery, you will need to reset several parameters. If you're on a network, you'll want to open the Chooser and enable AppleTalk. Note that not all Macs support all these control panels. These are the control panels you'll need to use:

  1. Startup Disk. Unless you always boot from the internal hard drive (SCSI ID 0), you want to change this. Unless you boot from a second hard drive, I suggest you deselect the main hard drive by clicking in the space around the drive icon. This tells your Mac to check the SCSI chain from the highest ID to the lowest in search of a boot drive. This makes it easier to boot from a CD or removable media drive. (Note: some Macs have two separate SCSI busses. This trick only works for the internal SCSI bus.)
  2. Date & Time. First, choose your time zone, then set the date and time.
  3. Memory
    1. Cache will be at minimum setting; unless you have minimal RAM, it should be 32 KB per 1 MB of RAM. If you use Speed Doubler, it should be 64 KB per 1 MB of RAM. Mac OS 8.5 and later will usually set this automatically.
    2. Virtual memory may be toggled on or off, depending on your computer. Remember, virtual memory (VM) set to 1 MB above physical memory may speed up a Power Mac. Virtual memory on other Macs will slow them down. If you use RAM Doubler, you should make sure VM is off.
    3. 32-bit addressing may be switched off on older Macs. If you have more than 8 MB of physical RAM, you must enable 32-bit addressing or you will be unable to use all your RAM.
    4. RAM Disk. I haven't used this enough to know if the RAM Disk setting gets wiped, but I presume it does.
  4. Network or AppleTalk. If you're on a network that isn't LocalTalk, you will need to reset your network connection on any Mac with a LocalTalk port.
  5. Mouse and Keyboard. You'll need to reset the mouse tracking and double-click speeds, as well as setting the keyboard delay and repeat.
  6. Energy Saver or Auto On/Off. Energy saving settings, power-up time, etc. are stored in PRAM and need to be reset.
  7. Monitors and Sound or Monitors & Sound. You need to reset speaker volume and monitor bit-depth - and possibly resolution.

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