So when you have a ~5-7 year old Apple Cinema Display monitor that looks something like this:

Apple Cinema Display

and you upgrade to Mavericks (MacOS 10.9) or Yosemite (MacOS 10.10), you will lose the ability to adjust the brightness on the thing via the "Display" Preference Pane. In other words, the brightness will be stuck at whatever level it was at when you were on Mountain Lion.

And this is because of a conscious decision by Apple to obsolete these things to motivate you to throw perfectly good monitors into the trash or recycling bin :-( (and buy new Apple products, but of course).

So, how to get your brightness controls back in Mavericks?

  • Have you tried the Hotkeys on a semi new Apple keyboard? Oct 18 '14 at 23:42

There are various threads on discussions.apple.com, but the solution I found on MacRumors I will not repost the solution there, since it's likely to be deleted since it's definitely a bit of a hack.

But one that will extend the useful life of your Cinema Display for at least a few more months (if not a year or two):

I got the following .kext files from a computer running mountain lion.

AppleBackligt.kext AppleBacklightExpert.kext AppleUSBDisplays.kext

The files are placed in /System/Extensions

Then i placed the kextfiles on the desktop, and ran a tool called "KextBeast". This app installs every kext file on the desktop. Then i rebooted and voilá..

  1. Get kext files
  2. Run KextBeast
  3. Reboot

"Running KextBeast" requires registering (i.e. potential spam) to download the KextBeast app.

Here is how to do the same thing in the Terminal:

 # make certain you have the ability to run as root or admin (so you can "sudo")
 cd /System/Library/Extensions/

 # move the old kernel extensions out of the way
 sudo mv AppleBacklight.kext AppleBacklightOLD.kext
 sudo mv AppleBacklightExpert.kext AppleBacklightExpertOLD.kext 
 sudo mv AppleUSBDisplays.kext AppleUSBDisplaysOLD.kext

 # move the Mountain Lion kexts into position
 sudo mv ~/Desktop/AppleBacklight.kext .
 sudo mv ~/Desktop/AppleBacklightExpert.kext .
 sudo mv ~/Desktop/AppleUSBDisplays.kext .

 # set proper permissions and ownership
 sudo chown -R root:wheel AppleBacklight.kext
 sudo chmod -R 755 AppleBacklight.kext
 sudo chown -R root:wheel AppleBacklightExpert.kext
 sudo chmod -R 755 AppleBacklightExpert.kext
 sudo chown -R root:wheel AppleUSBDisplays.kext 
 sudo chmod -R 755 AppleUSBDisplays.kext

 # mv the OLD kernel extensions out of the way 
 # (or put them in the trash via the Finder)
 sudo mv *OLD* ~/Desktop

Reboot and voila! You will have brightness controls with your "Vintage" Cinema Display.

I hope this helps somebody else out.

  • just a quick update... this technique also works for MacOS 10.10 Yosemite! Aug 23 '14 at 15:57
  • Accept this as the answer for the question if it worked so that it can be closed.
    – Jash Jacob
    Nov 11 '14 at 11:06
  • 1
    As far as I can tell, this solution DOES NOT WORK for El Capitan (MacOS 10.11) for at least two reasons: MacOS 10.11 introduced System Integrity Protection (SIP), which means it's incredibly tough to mv or replace Extensions. The way to get around it is to boot into Recovery mode (using cmd-R), but even after replacing the extensions and rebooting, the brightness button does not bring up System Preferences nor can the brightness of Cinema Display be adjusted, so I am thinking Apple changed the API's under MacOS 10.11 as well. What a bummer. Sep 19 '15 at 17:25

This is from Apple's website:

OS X Mavericks: Using brightness controls with vintage and obsolete displays

OS X Mavericks: Using brightness controls with vintage and obsolete displays Symptoms

You may notice when using older Apple displays with Mavericks that you cannot adjust your display's brightness using its built-in controls. Additionally, the Brightness slider may no longer appear in the Displays pane of System Preferences.


The following vintage and obsolete displays are not supported with OS X Mavericks v10.9 or later:

Apple Studio Display 15-inch ADC Apple Studio Display 17-inch ADC Apple Cinema Display 20-inch ADC Apple Cinema Display 22-inch ADC Apple Cinema Display 23-inch ADC Apple Studio Display 15-inch DVI Apple Cinema Display (Original) DVI These displays were designed to work with older hardware that is incompatible with OS X Mavericks. To avoid incompatibility issues, use a newer display that includes a DVI, VGA, HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, or Thunderbolt connector with Mavericks.

You can identify these displays by their exterior design. Each of the older displays listed above has a clear and graphite-colored plastic bezel, and a clear plastic foot. Modern Apple displays include an aluminum bezel and foot.

Last Modified: Nov 11, 2013


Michael Dautermann's solution works!

I would add that when performing

# move the Mountain Lion kexts into position

You should mention that the option to rotate the monitor was also now available (I don't trembler it from 7.5x).

I got different warnings that the files were improperly installed, etc. However the results work flawlessly!! Thank you Michael!


Try the brightness buttons on the apple keyboard

  • Welcome to Ask Different. Per another answer on this question, this monitor is not supported by OS X Mavericks, therefore using the brightness keyboard controls will not work.
    – tubedogg
    Oct 19 '14 at 1:18

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