There's been more discussion of zapping pRAM (parameter RAM) since the introduction of System 7.5 than I can ever remember since introduction of the Mac in 1984. The problem appears, in part, to relate to conflicts between various control panels, extensions, and applications, so comments about these will be included in the discussion of pRAM.

pRAM, the high area of RAM reserved for storage of miscellaneous manufacturing information by Apple, time and date, etc. is not *supposed* to be used for any other purpose. But many are beginning to suspect that not only has Apple violated its own rule in this regard, but that Microsoft and other vendors, also are guilty of putting "hooks" in pRAM for one reason or another, either to install their software or make it run the way *they* want it to run. By doing so they disregard the possibility that it may bang into something else or create trash in pRAM during a crash. Such problems may create serious problems that may damage the system file.

Installers in my opinion appear to be especially suspect. I've used Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, other third party, and shareware installers, restarted, and sometimes immediately had problems. If a control panel or extension was installed my initial inclination is usually to try to isolate the problem with the excellent ConflictCatcher(tm) 3 from Casady & Greene. But I'm finding that half the time there's no conflict that can be pinned down this way so the next step is always zapping pRAM. I've had a very high degree of success with Quadras and Power Macs running 7.5 or 7.51 by doing this. Failing that, if your favorite disk utility and antivirus program finds no problems, it's time to consider the onerous task of a clean system install.

Zapping pRAM on my own Macs, sons', and those of clients has become almost a ritual. I especially recommend doing it after a clean install of 7.5, then doing it again if 7.5 is updated to 7.51. I've called 800-SOS-APPL many times with my own questions and those of clients, as have my Mac-knowledgeable college student sons. I'd guess that half the time the response has been to zap pRAM, which Apple of course suggests doing by using the keyboard method built into the Mac OS.

I prefer to use Tech Tool 1.09 which is a fat application, freeware, and the nice folks at MicroMat Computer Systems just keep adding functions and making it better. See Todd's Utilityware section to download this very useful utility, and don't overlook its other uses. I think you'll find this one of the basic necessities for your utilities folder.

After zapping pRAM remember to check your settings in various control panels that store information in pRAM. The two most common are Apple's Memory and Mouse control panels.

Along with the commercial vendors named above, including Apple, I've noticed some shareware installers and updaters seem to cause similar problems. There's also been considerable discussion on various 'net usegroups, as well as by the very knowledgeable folks who hang out on Ric Ford's MacWeek Forum, Ziffnet, CompuServe, that many believe that some shareware control panels and extensions use "hooks" in pRAM and are further contributing to the problem. I've also read some good threads from knowledgeable Mac gurus in the Mac/OS Forum on CompuServe. I try to be discriminating in what I read anywhere, and find more garbage than anything else in most Mac usegroups, America Online, and eWorld. The problem is a simple one. There are a lot of "experts" out there, but most shouldn't be allowed near a keyboard.

There is one tool available for looking at pRAM, TattleTech, from Decision Maker's Software, which you can download by clicking here. It's primarily a programmer's tool and not for the faint at heart. It will, however, show the knowledgeable user just exactly what is sitting there in pRAM.

We all have enough problems at present, by some conflicts created by Microsoft with many popular Mac control panels and extensions. Adobe appears to have created fewer problems in this regard. But the *installers* of both are highly suspect in my opinion. I installed the new version of Speech-to-Text that Apple recently made available and immediately had problems with Netscape 1.1N, Eudora 1.53 and Photoshop 3.01. I disabled the new control panels and extensions installed, restarted, and the problems were still present. I then zapped pRAM and they immediately went away. I enabled them and all works well.

A week earlier I ran into the same situation with the Adobe Installer for ATM 3.82. A variety of odd problems kept cropping up, so I suspected a bad install or a conflict with ATM. I dragged back ATM 3.81 from an external hard drive and the problems continued. So I zapped pRAM and the problems disappeared. I dragged ATM 3.82 back over and have had no problems.

Most of my experience has been with Quadra 610, 630, 650, 700 and 950 models, and 6100 and 7100 Power Macs. I've also used TechTool on a limited number of Performa 405, 475, 476, 550, and 575 models. The Quadra 610 DOS model has been a real problem for me, first with 7.5 then 7.51, but zapping pRAM solved them. Different models seem to have varying problems. It's my *subjective* observation that I have fewer pRAM problems with Quadra 630s, for example. The real dilemma in this discussion is that some of the supposed sources of the problems remain speculative. I've run the install/update of ATM 3.82 on other Macs, for example, and had no problems at all.

Zapping pRAM is not an end all for all problems. For example, a single crash due to a pRAM problem may damage the system file. Many people, unfortunately, seem to ignore the possibility of a pRAM problem and I've seen message threads where frustrated users reinstalled the systems software over and over again without considering the options of zapping pRAM, running the popular utilities like Symantec's Disk Doctor, etc. to see if there was something else contributing to their problem.

For further comments on this and related problems with Systems 7.5 and 7.51, I would especially refer you to Ric Ford's homepage at:, accessible from this site as "Macintouch." As sysop of MacWeek Forum on Ziffnet, CompuServe, he sees and notes the problems of many users. That forum is also one of the most popular ones used by many Mac gurus, a tribute to Ric's own knowledge, and part of the trouble shooting suggestions you'll find on his page are based on that experience.


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