Recent iMacs support a "target display" mode, where you can connect another Mac using a DisplayPort cable, and the iMac will function as an external monitor.

This used to work fine, however now if the iMac is running Mac OS 10.6.7 or later (including Lion), the iMac screen will switch to 100% brightness when put into this mode, and the brightness keys on the iMac keyboard can not be used to adjust the brightness. Has anyone found a solution to this problem?

  • This seems to be a bug. The Apple Knowledge base article about target display explicitly indicates that brightness can be controlled with the iMac keyboard keys. What happens when you try to adjust brightness from the "Monitor" preference pane in "System preferences" ?
    – olivier
    Aug 11, 2011 at 10:01
  • @olivier I can adjust brightness for the source (non-iMac) internal display only. If I use screen sharing to access the display preferences on the iMac, the brightness control is missing. Aug 11, 2011 at 10:07

4 Answers 4


yeah, toggling the function key setting worked for me. I'm on 17" 2011 mbp and the 27 inch cinema display with Lion.


Ctrl-F1 (which has a "dimming" circle with short marks around it) or Ctrl-F2 (which has a "bright" circle with longer marks around it)work on the external display. Dim and Bright, alone, work on the native display.

  • I run OSX 10.6.8 on a pair of 27" iMacs and have the same problem as the OP, unfortunately the Ctrl-F1 doesn't appear to work. Any other ideas?
    – Jagra
    Apr 25, 2013 at 15:12

The brightness keys would sometimes work and sometimes not on the target iMac. So I solved this with a System Preference, Shades for Mac. It puts a set of sunglasses in your toolbar and you can easily adjust the brightness.


Question is a bit old but apparently still an issue since it caused me quite a bit of frustration until I figured out the following which works reliably.

COMMAND-F2 on the iMac keyboard will toggle between the running iMac local display, and the Target Display Mode (TDM) when connected to my laptop via DisplayPort. TDM always starts out at 100% brightness when you switch to it.

COMMAND-F1 will adjust brightness lower until it goes completely dark. If that happens you need to switch back to iMac local then return again to TDM at 100%

Now the important part: COMMAND-F1 sometimes doesn't respond to lower the brightness. I found this seems to happen if local iMac screen is locked.. if I switch back to local iMac display, unlock to log in to the account, then switch back to TDM and the brightness control will now respond.

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