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TUAW Tip: keyboard shortcuts during Mac OS X startup

David Chartier

For today's TUAW Tip, I thought I'd cover some of the basic essentials for starting up your Mac, especially for recent switchers who feel naked and lost without their BIOS. I compiled the list I have here from Magical Macintosh Key Sequences (which Dave mentioned last September), Apple's own keyboard shortcut documentation and personal experience:

  • X during startup - Force Mac OS X startup
  • option - (eventually) brings up a screen with startup volume choices
  • Option-Command-Shift-Delete - Bypass primary startup volume and seek a different startup volume (such as a CD or external disk)
  • C - Start up from a CD that has a system folder
  • N  - Attempt to start up from a compatible network server (NetBoot)
  • T - Start up in FireWire Target Disk mode (very handy for plugging your Mac into another as an external hard drive)
  • Shift - start up in Safe Boot mode and temporarily disable login items and non-essential kernel extension files (Mac OS X 10.2 and later)
  • Command-V - Start up in Verbose mode.
  • Command-S - Start up in Single-User mode
  • cmd-opt-p-r - Zap PRAM. Hold down until second chime.
  • cmd-opt-n-v - Clear NV RAM. Similar to reset-all in Open Firmware.
  • cmd-opt-o-f - Boot into open firmware
  • hold mouse click - force eject a CD/DVD
While this by no means is a definitive list (and I'm not sure if every one transfers over to the new Intel Macs), it should get you started with what your Mac is capable of on startup. Feel free to add your own in the comments. One word of caution, however: some of these shortcuts aren't meant to be used on a daily basis. For example, Apple doesn't recommend (and neither do I) that you use the Zap PRAM or Clear NV RAM shortcuts any old time your Mac starts acting funny; those are mainly for situation-specific troubleshooting circumstances.

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