I went through a similar question, but the answer was informing how to hide the monitor, but not how to disable it.

I do not want any new windows to creep into the laptop display when the external display is connected. I could not find any in the Display Settings (under System Preferences).

I don't want to close the lid because I think it impacts the air flow of the MacBook Pro.

14 Answers 14


Reducing heat by adjusting the lid

Having the lid closed or open does not impact the airflow of your MacBook Pro (MBP). Ambient air is never in short supply and the "exhaust" (where the hot air picked up by the blade fan(s) are expelled) is located at the back of the unit (the black stripe on the newer models and the grey stripe on the first generation machines).

Some claim that keeping the lid open allows the chassis to cool down, but these claims have never had any real data behind them (simply anecdotal evidence and unsubstantiated rumour). Personally, I have a 2006 MBP that was eventually relegated to being a desktop. I ran the system for well over a year with the clamshell open, and then closed, and saw no different in CPU/CPU temps (nor any variability in the other heat sensors) as a result. Moreover, the newer models have far more efficient blade fans and would suffer even less from the effects of heat (additionally, the new Intel chipsets run cooler than their predecessors). You can conduct your own testing of course. I had replaced the heat sink, re-applied a sane amount of Arctic Silver thermal paste, and used Lobotomo Fan Control daemon to monitor my system's temperature.

Disabling the internal display, properly

There are two ways to connect a secondary display to your notebook without enabling the default screen (note that this does not mean dimming it, but rather turning it off).

  1. The first is to connect the display with the lid closed when the machine is powered down. Once the external display is connected, turn the machine on—it will detect the secondary display while leaving the internal one turned off. This will alleviate the issues you have with "dragging things off the screen" as the system will constrain your desktop to the one, active monitor.
  2. The second is to connect the secondary display when your system is awake and active, and the clamshell open. Make sure the notebook is plugged in. Once you connect the secondary monitor, the system will recognize it. Once it does, close the lid on your notebook. The device will be put to sleep. Once that happens, move your mouse, or hit a key on your keyboard to wake it. Once it wakens, it will enable the secondary display, but not the internal one.

Additionally, you may set the attribute to leave the system in the sleep state even if the clamshell is opened. You can do this using pmset, a local utility found on OS X that actually handles all your power settings. You can accomplish this with the following command:

sudo pmset -a lidwake 0

The -a, -b, -c, -u flags determine whether the settings apply to battery ( -b ), charger (wall power) ( -c ), UPS ( -u ) or all ( -a ).

To reverse the command, set the 0 to a 1. These settings are persistent, in that, they do not need to be re-applied every time the machine's power is cycled and are saved to the file: /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/com.apple.PowerManagement.plist

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    The command pmset doesn't work on El capitan 10.10.2. Any alternative? – Fred K Dec 16 '15 at 16:01
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    "Once the external display is connected, turn the machine on" on a Mac laptop, that involves opening the lid/clamshell though. – Adrien Be Feb 8 '16 at 5:45
  • Closing the clam shell with my external monitors leaves the mac book pro screen active. – Munkymorgy Aug 4 '16 at 19:48
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    The two ways mentioned in this answer just do not work in MacOS 10.13. – sgon00 Nov 30 '18 at 14:07
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    To use option 2 your laptop has to be plugged in. FYI: Having the lid closed will generate more heat. Part of the aluminum body design is that it dissipates heat through the top case. But no matter. – Chaim Eliyah Jan 19 '19 at 22:56

You could also use a ThirdParty App like https://github.com/Eun/DisableMonitor/


DisableMonitor adds the missing feature to disable a monitor on a Mac. You can also easily disable, enable or change the resolution of a monitor. enter image description here

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    Answers on Ask Different need to be more than just a link. It's okay to include a link, but please summarize or excerpt it in the answer. The idea is to make the answer stand alone. – nohillside Sep 29 '14 at 13:32
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    Probably you have not noticed: this is an old thread, my thread is just for completeness, why writing more than necessary? – Eun Sep 29 '14 at 14:05
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    Answers are more likely to help other users if they explain a bit more about the solution you are proposing. Also please have a look at self promotion in the FAQ. – nohillside Sep 29 '14 at 14:31
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    This application reduces the brightness of the monitor to 0, but it remains on! So probably it consumes more. Is there a way to completely turn off? – Fred K Dec 18 '15 at 10:13
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    PLEASE READ THE WARNING IN GITHUB: It has been reported that the software is able to cause irretrievable damages to your computer. Use at your own risk! – Farshid Apr 8 '19 at 17:46

My suggestion is to set the displays to 'mirror' then turn the brightness down on your Mac.

Both your screens are the same so you won't lose any windows.

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    mirroring wont give me the same resolution. even at 0 brightness, you can see the screen. My problem is that keeping it open blocks a view. hence need to close the lid – Sairam Oct 23 '13 at 3:59
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    In such way, the built-in display still uses hardware/software resources. Turning brightness down does not help anything except you can't see it. – sgon00 Nov 30 '18 at 14:09
  • Fantastic, simple, and it worked! Thanks! :) – appshare.co Jun 20 '19 at 7:26

Update 2017 & Sierra (OSX 10.12.6+)

I didn't find any working solutions in order to configure this on Sierra so I'm posting this for people looking for a solution in 2017.

This should allow you to use your Mac with an external display, external keyboard/mouse or even the built in keyboard including (the very useful) fingerprint scanner and lcd touch bar on newer models.

Here's how I got it to work:

You need to run this command: nvram boot-args="niog=1" but it's not going to work unless you boot into recovery first. It'll give you garbage like this instead:

nvram: Error setting variable - 'boot-args': (iokit/common) general error

To fix this we need to boot into recovery and disable SIP.

  1. Reboot and hold down CMD + R during boot. When it loads, chose your language and use the top navigation bar to go to Utilities -> Terminal
  2. Use csrutil disable command to disable SIP.
  3. Reboot normally.
  4. Open terminal and use the sudo nvram boot-args="niog=1" command
  5. Reboot and close your lid, keep it closed until you've logged in and see your desktop.
  6. Open your lid and the laptop display should stay OFF.
  7. IMPORTANT: Go back to recovery (reboot with Command + R) and re-enable SIP using csrutil enable
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  • this is by far the best answer, works like a charm in Mojave, thanks! – Tiago Zortéa De Conto Jun 29 '19 at 11:19

My question finally answered by running:

 sudo nvram boot-args="iog=0x0" 


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    It does not seem to work any more. I am using Macbook Pro (Retina, 13', Mid 2014) with 10.10.2. – Lex Li Feb 20 '15 at 4:10

Do as described here:

How can I turn off the screen on the macbook when I have an external monitor set up?

Then open the laptop.

In Snow Leopard this will do what you are asking for. The behaviour may have changed under Lion though. Which OS version are you using?

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  • I saw the answer, I wanted to see if there is a better way than this. – Sairam Aug 13 '11 at 11:09
  • Try the keystroke combo Ctrl-Shift-Eject. Does that turn off both monitors or just the internal one? – dan8394 Aug 13 '11 at 11:13
  • The above combination restores to the previous state – Sairam Aug 13 '11 at 12:23
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    Sorry Sairam - I don't understand you. State of what? – dan8394 Aug 13 '11 at 12:36
  • When I try Ctrl-Shift-Eject , it turns off both monitors and internal one . – Sairam Aug 13 '11 at 17:13
  1. Cmd + F1 (switch one display mode - laptop display will turn into mirror of external display)
  2. F1 (until you turn off laptop display)
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You can also make the external display the primary one. By default all new windows will appear on that one. To do this, go to system preferences > Display > geometry, and drag the miniature menu bar to the miniature external display.

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  • I tried that as well. Some applications I rarely use, tend to open windows on the laptop display. – Sairam Aug 15 '11 at 5:06

I write a simple App

Close Inner Screen

It can be easy use

enter image description here

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    Hello, can you please add some details on how it works? Are there any risks? Does it involve turning off SIP? – trusktr Jun 7 '19 at 21:42
  • This app just turns down the brightness, which means windows can still open on the now black screen. – Fuzzy76 Mar 16 at 17:21

I finally found a way to disable the main monitor instead of hiding it for any number of external monitors. I'm saying any number because the mirroring option suggested by other answers mirrors all displays. If you have two external monitors like me, you would find that it doesn't help at all.
You'll need SwitchResX for this (yes, it's paid, but it you don't pay it just annoys you with a warning every day and disables some features, that's all). One thing I want to point out is that the 'disable screen' option just hides the screen and it keeps rendering in the background, which is not what we want, instead we will mirror one of the displays on the built-in one:

  1. Go to video mirroring in the switchresx menu and mirror the built-in display on any of your external monitors
    mirror a display

  2. You might have to set your external display resolution if it displays the wrong resolution
    set external display resolution

  3. Turn off the brightness on the built-in display if you want to

You will see that it's actually mirroring the display if you look at preferences > display > arrangement:
enter image description here And looking at the GPU memory usage, I can confirm again that it's not rendering the built-in display, which should mean much better performance and much quiter fans! memory usage

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for mac users trying to use hdmi to tv and having troubles turning off your screen on laptop and leaving screen on tv on, TURN THE BRIGHTNESS RIGHT OFF!!!! the laptop screen will go black but tv screen stays the same

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    This doesn't prevent windows from begin dragged on to the turned off display. It's nice for saving power and bulb life of course, just not so much an answer to the problem here. – bmike Dec 28 '13 at 20:40
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    Also the screen doesn't go completely black. In low enough lighting the screen is still visible. – Arc676 Jan 7 '16 at 13:29
  • On my 2012 MacBook Pro with OSX Sierra it works perfectly. – Martin Cup Nov 23 '17 at 21:12

When I had my MacBook Pro connected to an external TV, I used the magnet trick.
Placing a small weak magnet (I used one the size of a coin battery) near the bottom of the right speaker would make contact with the Reed Switch, tricking the MBP into sleep mode, with the lid open, while using the external display only.

While this worked fine for the time I had the external TV and I never read any reports about this technique damaging anything (there ARE magnets inside the MBPs), I would try a software based solution, first.

Some references:

iBook and PowerBook Clamshell Sleep Control
Location of magnet and Reed Switch for various Mac laptop models and instructions on how to use both a magnet to force sleep with the lid open or a thin piece of iron alloy to prevent sleep with the lid closed.

Reed Switches
Location of magnet and Reed Switch for the MacBook Pro 15" with pictures.

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Simply closing mac's display when an external monitor is still on worked for me.

My setup:

  • MacBook Pro Sierra 10.12.6
  • External monitor connected through HDMI & monitor USB cable
  • External mouse and keyboard connected to the monitor
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Update for MacBook Pro 2018 running macOS 10.14.5

I found a solution that works quite well for me

  1. Set external display as primary display (by dragging the menu bar in the Displays setting in System preferences)
  2. Check the box to Mirror Displays
  3. Turn down the brightness all the way on the clamshell display

This doesn't quite disable the clamshell display, but it won't actively consume any applications, and setting the brightness to 0 provides an energy efficient way to ignore the mirrored display.

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  • The issue here is that you run into Image Persistence. See here from Apple on how to avoid it: [Avoiding image persistence on Apple displays] (support.apple.com/en-us/HT202580) They suggest "Set the "Turn display off after" slider to a brief interval, like 15 minutes." This is not possible when you are actively working with an external monitor and keeping your laptop open. – StackPancakes Jul 22 at 20:40

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