Tip: quickly turn off your Mac’s screen with this handy keyboard shortcut

By , May 2, 2016

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If you don’t want a bystander to read what’s on your Mac’s screen or just want to temporarily shut off the display—for instance, to save battery—you can take advantage of several built-in OS X features.

For that purpose, I’d typically define hot corners in Mission Control settings so that moving the mouse pointer to the upper left corner would instantly start my screen saver. The problem is, even a blank screen saver won’t completely shut off the display.

As it turns out, OS X makes your life even easier by providing a dedicated keyboard shortcut to quickly turn off a Mac’s display without having to define a screen saver or use dedicated third-party applications.

How to quickly turn off your Mac’s screen

It doesn’t get any easier than this: at any time, press Shift (⇧)-Ctrl (⌃) – Eject or Shift (⇧)-Ctrl (⌃) – Power (⎋) on newer Mac models.

Pressing the shortcut will instantly fade to black both the built-in display and any external screens connected to this Mac and shut off their backlighting. As mentioned, this is a great way to save battery on Mac notebooks without having to set up a blank screen saver, prevent a bystander from seeing what’s on your screen and more.

Requiring OS X password after display sleep

As a precaution, you may want to make some customizations so that OS X requires your Mac user account’s password after the screen goes blank. Doing that will prevent others from using your computer if you, say, press the key combination to hide what’s on your computer’s screen or leave the machine unattended for a short period of time.

First launch System Preferences on your Mac and then hit the Security & Privacy preference pane. Now click the lock icon and type in your OS X administrator password to unlock the settings.

OS X El Capitan Safari view saved passwords Mac screenshot 001

Next, hit the General tab, tick the box next to “Require password after sleep or screen saver begins” and then click the pop-up menu and choose an option: Immediately, 5 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, 15 minutes, 1 hour, 4 hours or 8 hours.

OS X El Capitan System Preferences requires password after screen saver Mac screenshot 001

My Mac is set to ask the password 5 seconds after it goes to sleep or the screen saver kicks in. This lets me quickly resuming using the machine after accidentally pressing the keystroke, without needing to enter the password.

The shorter the password lock, the better

Having OS X require password a few seconds or minutes after the screen goes to sleep versus 15 minutes or more will drastically shortening the window of opportunity for any possible foul play while your computer is unattended.

In my case, five seconds is an ideal setting. If I shut off my Mac’s screen by intentionally pressing the keystroke, I can press any key within the next five seconds to wake the display from sleep and continue using my Mac immediately.

OS X El Capitan login profile image Mac screenshot 002

But after five seconds have passed, OS X requires me to type in my administrator password to continue using the computer. The best thing about this handy keyboard shortcut is that it doesn’t put your Mac to sleep, nor does it log out the current user.

While the display is shut off, the machine continues to function normally as if nothing happened: you’ll still receive emails and notifications and running task won’t pause. I’ve actually completely disabled my screen saver: using this shortcut in conjunction with the password timeout setting described above lets me save power when needed while increase my privacy—without degrading my user experience.

As commenters have pointed out, you can set up Hot Corners to put the display to sleep rather than start your screen saver, which can be quite useful as well.

OS X El Capitan Hot Corners Put Display to Sleep MAc screenshot 001

Hope you like this handy little tip?

Hat tip goes to iDownloadBlog reader Peter B.

Need help? Ask iDB!

Got stuck? Not sure how to do certain things on your Apple device? Let us know at help@iDownloadBlog.com and a future tutorial might provide a solution.

Submit your how-to suggestions at tips@iDownloadBlog.com.

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  • jp2002

    Hot corners is definitely the easiest and fastest. You need to select put display to sleep instead of start screen saver.

    • I second this, I use this since I bought my mac.

    • Mr_Coldharbour

      Likewise, I’ve been using this since my first Mac back in 2009. Bottom-right corner, but mine’s set to Start Screensaver, still requires you to put your password when waking it.

  • tunutsaigon

    Why you need to press Shift (⇧)-Ctrl (⌃) – Power to quickly turn off your Mac’s screen why all is done by simply pressing one key Power only?

    • It’s possible, if you just hold power button for a small time, about a second. So, yeah no need to press other keys.

      • With one notable exception: pressing the Power button alone will put your Mac to sleep. The key combination mentioned in the article puts only your displays to sleep

      • Ah didn’t know that. Good info.

  • Yes hot corners is definitely faster, but seeing how often I accidentally activate a hot corner, I wouldn’t want to assign one for turning off my screen.

  • :D

    I use Bettertouch Tool – I’ve set it as status bar middle click
    Hot corners activate too easily imo

    • Iskren Donev

      I also have a BTT setup. With the it’s a five-finger swipe up to start a screensaver and a five-finger swipe down to put the display to sleep.

      Nice shortcut thoughI I might consider repurposing the BTT gesture for something else now!

  • Julio M.

    Or, if you have MacID you can make a shortcut for it.

    Everyone should have MacID, it’s a great program.