I'm attempting to run a flaky imac (running 10.8.5) as just an ssh server, headless and without the GUI running.

I've made this work by disabling the com.apple.loginwindow.plist and com.apple.WindowServer.plist and enabled com.apple.getty.plist and adjusting /etc/ttys to run a console with

console         "/usr/libexec/getty std.57600"  vt100   on secure

This is fine. No GUI, I can ssh in just fine and if I have a keyboard attached I can log in on the console.

However, even with a pmset -a displaysleep 1 the display never goes to sleep. I'd like it to be asleep all the time, as I've got the iMac under a desk and only intend to use it over ssh.

Is this possible and I'm just missing a step or am I out of luck?

Update: My notes on how I got it almost working.


Mac OS X's idle time measurements require a Graphical User Interface (GUI) to provide the "user inactivity" measure.

Without this measure, the operating system can not determine if the Mac is unused long enough to sleep the display.

Disabling the WindowServer will restrict most of OS X's unique features. Have you considered booting to a headless Linux or other operating system?

  • Mostly this is a learning exercise and also a way to continue making use of a dev-machine that is already set up with the pieces I want there. I had initially thought it would be relatively straightforward. It does work as I want now, but the display not sleeping is a bummer from a power and light standpoint.
    – anticdent
    Jan 11 '14 at 11:53
  1. Download SleepDisplay.app [$0)

  2. Install to /Applications/SleepDisplay.app

  3. Run /Applications/SleepDisplay.app/Contents/MacOS/sleepdisplay as part of your startup process.

  • Thanks, but unfortunately this does not work. sleepdisplay appears to need the GUI or related pieces to have any impact. On machine A running it from a terminal window sleeps the display, on machine B, which is in console mode it a) doesn't sleep the display, b) kills keyboard input. Presumably there is a still lower level call which can be made.
    – anticdent
    Jan 11 '14 at 11:50
  • Interesting… I kind of wondered if it would. Console mode is such a different beast. I’d be very interested to know if you find a solution.
    – TJ Luoma
    Jan 12 '14 at 2:13

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