How to turn off your monitor without turning off your Mac

DisplaysIconXQuite often you may have some task running on your Mac that you might wish to keep going while you step away from your system. However, you may wish to save some energy by turning off your display for a while. Of course if you sleep your Mac, then you will clearly interrupt your task, but there are other ways to shut off your monitor while keeping your Mac going.

First off, if your Mac has an external monitor, then you can simply hit its power button to turn it off. While good for Macs with single monitors, this approach is more of a burden for those who have more than one monitor. When you shut off one, the system may detect there being fewer displays and will automatically reconfigure your desktop to accommodate the new monitors.

The second approach is to dim your monitor’s brightness until it shuts off, using the function keys on your Mac’s keyboard (usually the F1 and F2 keys). This is likely the easiest approach for Macs with built-in displays, such as Apple’s MacBook line. However, it will not work for all systems. For instance, dimming the display on older iMacs will only do so within a small range, and not offer an option to dim completely to black.

The alternative to these approaches, which is universal to most Macs and is particularly useful for multi-display setups, is to use OS X’s hotkey commands for turning off display output. These are the following, depending on the type of system that you have:



For systems with a dedicated eject key on the keyboard, the first option will work. For those without one, the second option should work. When you press these, all attached displays should dim to black, while your computer will still run. As a result this is particularly useful for multi-display setups, but also can be used for others.

Finally, note that this may require you to supply your password when you next use your system, as it will invoke OS X’s display lock. While such security is usually recommended, you can adjust the time for the password requirement to start, or disable this feature altogether in the General section of the Security & Privacy system preferences.

7 thoughts on “How to turn off your monitor without turning off your Mac

  1. lloyd

    Works for me, too. So, what do you suggest for reversing the process? I keep getting a re-start for the monitors, then they go off again. (Of course, Control-Eject will bring them back on, along with long-lived 4-option “Are you sure you want…” window.

    Do this all the time. Manually turning off the monitors for overnight work. Tried again. Turning one monitor off has no effect on the other monitor. Maybe because I’m using a box with standard connections. (Using two Acer 24″ H series HDMI older monitors.)

  2. Ian Van Slyke

    I prefer the hot corner option as well. Mission Control > Hot Corners > then assign Put Display to Sleep to a corner of your choosing.

  3. Partide


    do shell script “pmset displaysleepnow”

    Save as an App or a workflow/service.
    Assign it a kybd shortcut.

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