I have read a number of threads including this one How can I reset the PRAM if Recovery Mode keeps overriding the PRAM command?

Where Adriano says "PRAM reset is not working because you turn on Password Firmware Protection"

My daughter's Macbook Pro (around 2011) has never asked for a login, now it asks to login either her or guest. She has not changed any settings - I believe.

She cannot login because Caps Lock is always on causing $%£%£^ characters and backspace key does not work.

Looking online, it seems I need to reset PRAM.

Pressing PROptionCommand always loads Recovery utility. I have tried many times, and all variations in timings before and after pressing power.

Based on Adriano's comment I need another way to reset PRAM, as I cannot log in to turn off Password Firmware Protection.

Any Suggestions

Thanks Colin K

  • Did you try an external keyboard?
    – n1000
    Feb 5, 2017 at 21:01
  • Based on @Monomeeth's answer below it seems that a firmware password is not present on the macbook, just a user password. I still have an issue with PRAM - I replied to Momomeeth below.
    – ColinK
    Feb 6, 2017 at 11:24
  • Have you tried just pressing enter and submitting a blank password?
    – owlswipe
    Feb 12, 2017 at 15:55

2 Answers 2


After reading your question a few times I've made an assumption (dangerous, I know). My assumption is that the only password you're being prompted for is your daughter's User Account password and NOT a firmware password. The reason I assume this is because the only reason (it seems) that you think it's prompting for a firmware password is because of Adriano's answer to another question.

So, if my assumption is correct, then my first thought was the same as that offered by n1000 in the comments - Have you tried an external keyboard?

However, if you haven't got an external keyboard handy, and since you're booting into Recovery Mode anyway, you can actually change your daughter's password from Recovery Mode and then log in using that and change the settings so a password is no longer required.

Why would this help? Well, since your Caps Lock key is stuck, creating a password with how your keyboard is right now will mean that you will be able to log in using that keyboard.

Resetting password from Recovery Mode

To reset your daughter's password password from Recovery Mode, follow these steps:

  1. Power off your Mac
  2. Boot into Recovery Mode by pressing the power button while holding down CommandR
  3. Select Disk Utility and press Continue.
  4. Choose Utilities > Terminal.
  5. Enter resetpassword (all one word, lowercase letters)
  6. Press Return
  7. Select the drive with your daughter's account (typically the main hard drive)
  8. Choose your daughter's account using Select the User Account.
  9. Enter a new password
  10. Re-enter the same password
  11. Enter a password hint
  12. Click Save
  13. Ignore the warning about the password changing
  14. Click OK.
  15. Shutdown the Mac using Apple > Shut Down
  16. Restart the Mac normally and use the new password to log into your daughter's account
  17. Once logged in, go to Apple > System Preferences
  18. Click on Users & Groups
  19. Click on Login Options
  20. From the Automatic login pop-up menu, choose your daughter's account

This will ensure that whenever your daughter's Mac is booted it will automatically boot into her account (which it sounds like you want to do).

If I've misunderstood your question, or you have any questions/issues, let me know by posting a comment.


Now that we've got you logged in, let's try sorting out your keyboard issue. Since you can't reset the PRAM as per usual, it's actually worth resetting the SMC instead. Sometimes this will resolve the issue preventing a PRAM reset.

For your MacBook Pro, here’s what you do:

  1. Shut down your computer
  2. Keep the MagSafe adapter (power cable) plugged in.
  3. Press at the same time shiftoptioncontrol (on the left side of the keyboard) and the power button
  4. Let go
  5. Turn your computer back on with the power button.

Once you've done this, log back in and see if there's been any change to your keyboard and report back.

  • Thanks for your detailed reply. Your assumptions were correct, Macbook has a user password set - not firmware.
    – ColinK
    Feb 6, 2017 at 11:25
  • Firstly on the steps you suggested. Item 5 "resetpassword" because of the CAPS issue I could not enter in lowercase but uppercase worked OK. I set a new password as !"£$ (1234 in CAPS) which did let me login after re-starting. First screen popped up with "...unable to unlock your login keychain" plus three options 1. Continue Login 2. Create New Keychain 3. Update Keychain Password. I tried option 3 but it would not accept the new password !"£$. I clicked "continue Login and the user desktop did open, but next popup stated "Identity servicesd wants to use the login keychain.
    – ColinK
    Feb 6, 2017 at 11:41
  • I stopped there. I assume I need to create a new keychain? Apart form that issue I still have the CAPS and No Backspace key issue. I have not tried steps 17 to 20, but I assume that even if these worked, I would still need to reset PRAM, which I was unable to do at the start. Any further guidance would be appreciated.
    – ColinK
    Feb 6, 2017 at 11:41
  • 1
    @ColinK A number of thoughts and questions come to my mind reading all this: 1. Did I understand correctly that the internal keyboard is simply broken? Why wait and not replace it now? 2. Did you double check your regional preferences? I once had the issue that my recovery partition used a different keyboard layout for some reason and I wrongly assumed my passwords were not working. 3. Due to all the edits and comments your question has become a "moving target" and almost impossible to answer. Please consider asking separate questions for each problem you encounter.
    – n1000
    Feb 12, 2017 at 12:04
  • 1
    I have to agree with @n1000 - you really need to ask a separate question now. As I mentioned previously in an earlier comment, as far as I can tell my answer has resolved the real issue behind your question (i.e. we've changed the password and your daughter can now log in). If the SMC reset instructions I've added do the trick, great! Or if n1000's suggestion resolves your problem, also great! But if not, I'd ask a new question specifically about this and you can mention that you've already tried an SMC reset, checking regional settings, etc.
    – Monomeeth
    Feb 12, 2017 at 12:13

As you have already found, you can't reset the NVRAM1 because your Caps key is in the "locked" state. What this does is add another key to the NVRAM reset sequence making it Command Option P R Caps - this will never work.

However, we do have a solution to get you around the Caps problem...

  1. Hook up the Windows keyboard
  2. Boot normally and enter your password
  3. Disable Caps
  4. Reset NVRAM from Terminal
  5. Turn on sharing (optional)
  6. Most Important - Fix the keyboard

Hook up the Windows keyboard

You said in one of your comments that you have a Windows keyboard. Hook that up because you need a functioning keyboard.

Boot normally and login

To do anything to your machine, we need to get in first and our goal here is to get to a point where we can start working. Use the Windows keyboard you attached in step one, type your login credentials and gain access to the system

Disable Caps

You do this in System Preferences by customizing the modifier keys and setting *Caps Lock * to "No Action".

In System Preferences, select the Keyboard panel

enter image description here

Once you are in the Keyboard panel, click on the Modifier Keys button found near the bottom.

enter image description here

From the dropdown box in the Caps Lock field, choose "No Action." This should now disable your Caps key.

enter image description here

Click Ok to Exit.

Reset NVRAM from the Terminal

From your post, your whole goal was to reset the NVRAM, though you never mentioned why. Resetting your NVRAM will not fix a broken keyboard - it needs to be fixed.

However, to reset your NVRAM, you can do it by issuing the nvram command.

  • Open Terminal
  • Issue the command nvram -c2
  • Reboot your Mac

Your NVRAM is reset.

Turn on Sharing

(This step could also be done when you are disabling your Caps Lock)

I personally like to have a remote access to my Mac for various reasons. One of them being to get in when I don't have access to the keyboard (whether I physically don't have access, or in your case, the keyboard is hosed)

In System Preferences, select the Sharing panel

enter image description here

Have either, the Remote Login (Terminal via SSH) or the Screen Sharing (VNC), or both checked.

enter image description here

Once you have this setup up, you can "remote in" to your Mac to work on it.

Final Steps.. Fix the keyboard

This problem is only going to get worse, not better. Resetting the NVRAM and/or SMC doesn't repair a broken keyboard. Get the keyboard fixed.

1 All Intel based Macs use NVRAM (nonvolatile random-access memory). Apple stopped using PRAM (Parameter RAM) when they switched from the PowerPC architecture. -- How to Reset NVRAM on your Mac

2 From the nvram man page (man nvram) The nvram command allows manipulation of firmware NVRAM variables. To get a listing of currently set variables in XML format, issue the command nvram -xp.

  • Nice systematic answer :) Did you verify that keyboard configurations also work in a pre-boot state?
    – n1000
    Feb 12, 2017 at 14:08
  • 1
    @n1000 - disabling Caps lock only works while the OS is loaded.
    – Allan
    Feb 12, 2017 at 14:12
  • 1
    Yes, nice answer! @Allan And thanks for jumping in! :)
    – Monomeeth
    Feb 12, 2017 at 21:37
  • Thanks for all the replies, particularly the detailed replies from Monomeeth and n1000 Update and new question here. apple.stackexchange.com/questions/207375/…
    – ColinK
    Feb 13, 2017 at 20:30
  • @ColinK - that's an old question...
    – Allan
    Feb 13, 2017 at 20:49

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