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FYI, in addition to publishing Low End Mac and doing some Mac consulting, I'm working a third shift job 2 to 4 nights a week, so replying to emails and phone calls may take some time.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

PRAM Batteries

I've been running my G4 Power Macs with dead PRAM batteries (they keep track of the time, boot drive, etc. when the computer is powered down) for quite some time now. It's really nice how Mac OS X can automatically log into Apple's time server to set the system time at startup.

Not that there hasn't been a downside. For instance, the Mirror Drive Door Power Mac will shut down just fine with a dead PRAM battery, but it will only start up again if you unplug the power cord. Now that I've installed new batteries, I can shut down the MDD and then start it up with the power button again. A small thing, but a lot easier than unplugging the AC cord.

There are quite a few older Macs that won't even boot with a dead PRAM battery - I discovered a few weeks ago that every Mac II, IIx, IIcx, and IIfx that I own would not boot. Now that I have a bunch of fresh PRAM batteries, I can try put in new batteries and determine whether it's a hardware problem or just dead PRAM batteries.

I've been working on a client's Quadra 605, and like most older Macs it will complain at startup that the system time is wrong when there's a dead PRAM battery or no battery. One plus for OS X is that it can synch to a time server without popping up a dialogue box.

In one of the most unusual PRAM incidents in Mac history, the beloved Pismo PowerBook will not boot with a dead PRAM battery. A replacement is about $28 (Other World Computing), but it will also run just fine with the PRAM battery removed. Of course it will lose track of the time, boot drive info, etc., but it will work.


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