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On occasion, I get a "black screen of death" where the mouse cursor is visible and working, but no amount of mouse or keyboard activity will wake the machine back up.

This typically happens after using fast user switching after wakeup from sleep. The computer is a 2012 Mac Mini with OS/X Yosemite (fully patched).

What could be wrong? Is there an alternative to power cycling?

OS X Yosemite Mac Black Login Screen With Mouse Cursor Working

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Much to my surprise, holding Command-Control-Eject pulls my machine out of this state, without rebooting it. At that point I can simply log in. Command-Option-Escape may help also.

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    Happened to me (fully patched Lion, only monitor sleep, no user switching) too after an erratic cursor movement to the menubar 2 days ago. After trying some keys i just waited until the screen really went to sleep. Unlocking the screen was no problem then. Your solution is smarter though. – klanomath Dec 29 '14 at 7:42

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