HowTo: Reset your Newton

So your Newton MessagePad is giving your problems. Either software is gumming it up, or its running a bit slow, or maybe the screen is acting funny. Much like a computer, the first thing to try out is a simple reset. But with Newtons, there are several reset options available: the soft reset, the power reset, and the ominous cold boot. Let’s explore each of these to find out which one could be best for you, depending on the severity of your situation.

Soft Reset

A soft reset is simply pressing the reset button on the inside of the battery compartment. On my MessagePad 110, it’s kind of squishy, so you can feel, say, a paperclip sink into it. This is the easiest and safest way to reset your Newton, and it doesn’t cause any data loss. It’s good for those times when your Newton feels sluggish or runs out of heap memory. A “Deep Reset” is like a Soft Reset, except you hold the reset button down for 20 seconds until you hear the Newton chime.

Power Reset

A step up from the Soft Rest, the Power Reset involves pressing the reset button in the back while pressing down on the power switch at the same time. According to Hutchinson, “a power reset does not cause any data loss but will reset the power manager.”

Hard Reset

Also called the “Brainwipe,” this reset is good for a complete restoration if you’re selling your Newton on eBay, or some kind of major data corruption occurs. Make sure to take out all your PCMCIA cards out, and press the reset button while holding down the power button. A dialog box will pop up asking, “Do you want to erase data completely?” Select yes, and the Newton will ask you to confirm. After the hard reset, you’ll have to restore everything from backup.

Cold Boot

The big daddy; a Cold Boot requires that you remove all the power sources from the MessagePad first (battery, any AC adapters, the round Lithium backup battery, etc.). Some data loss may be involved in this reset. Then you hold down your power button for 10-20 seconds. Do this several times. Then let your Newton sit for 15 or 20 minutes. You may find your clock and calendar information has been reset, so a backup before doing a Cold Boot is a good idea. This also wipes out any System Updates you’ve installed, so you’ll have to reinstall those.

Frank over at PDASoft has a good how-to for the deepest of deep resets, which I tried back when my Newton was misbehaving.

There are several other methods, involving the 2×00 models and one that turns “extensions” off. If you’re feeling really brave (and in a DIY kind of mood), try out Frank’s instructions on how to take apart your Newton completely. Not for the faint of heart.

And with any of these resets, be sure to backup your data – just in case.


  1. [...] the date. L. W. Brown had two of his MP2100s turn into bricks trying to fix the problem. Only a full hardware reset (and a backup file) restored his Newtons to working [...]

  2. [...] It’s amazing to me that Apple still hosts these how-tos from, what, 12 years ago? I’ve found a few Newton-related articles this way, and all of them have been helpful. [...]

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