I like to use vnc on my ipad on my bed. I want the mac to go to a black screen so I can fall asleep while using the ipad, and not have to get up to shut down the mac afterwards. Is there anyway to turn off the imac screen without sleeping?

I'm open to anything that minimizes the light - so if the backlight is off, that would meet the needs even if the screen is still drawing content.

From a semantics standpoint, let's assume the following:

When the system sleeps, the display sleeps or a screensaver engages are all distinct states. The display is asleep when the backlight is off and the GPU doesn't bother drawing any signal to that display but continues to run. This is different than system sleep where everything except the RAM and network interfaces1 are shut off.

1: Network interfaces that support wake on lan (WOL) only do so when power not from a battery is available.

8 Answers 8


You can turn off your iMac (and your macbook) screen without sleeping via the following keyboard shortcut:

+ +

(Control +SHIFT + EJECT)

Machines like the Air and newer MacBook Pro with no optical drives have the power button in the same place as the eject key and it works similarly for display sleeping shortcuts.

  • This command works, but the screen seems to continue to turn itself back on without my touching the keyboard or mouse... I think it's because I'm running an application (youtube playlist with new pages loading after every song). Is there any way to keep the screen off more securely?
    – Paul
    Commented Apr 18, 2012 at 3:25
  • 3
    The combination for new Macbook without "Eject" key is: Control + Shift + Fn + Power, FYI.
    – Ngoc Pham
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 15:20
  • how do you put the system to sleep without having to go to apple> sleep. I don't just want to put the screen to sleep. Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 10:43
  • 1
    @SuperUberDuper or just hold down the power button for about 1.5 seconds
    – redbeam_
    Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 1:05
  • 1
    None of the suggested key combos work for me on an iMac Pro, Mojave. Not ctrl-shift-eject, ctrl-shift-del, option-command-eject, ctrl-shift-power or ctrl-shift-fn-power. This is not an Apple keyboard, but it's clearly designed for a Mac. Matias Tactile Pro. Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 15:33

In Terminal.app:

pmset displaysleepnow


This also works for the lock and sleep functions:

pmset sleepnow
pmset lock
  • 2
    Very good one, and we can create a service to have a menu item with our "turn off screen" action.
    – brasofilo
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 6:14
  • pmset lock doesn't work on MacOS Catalina 10.15.7 using zsh, and the command doesn't appear in the man page either: man pmset.
    – ryantuck
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 6:32

Your first stop should be the energy saver preference pane. Dial down the Display sleep slider as short as you can stand it.

enter image description here

If you don't want to wait for this time out, you could also set a hot corner and black screensaver so you could use VNC to set the mouse pointer to the corner to engage a black screensaver so the screen is as dim as possible until the sleep timer shuts off the LCD lighting as well as the data to the iMac screen.

  • This doesn't work for me, it'll turn off the display if I'm watching a movie or such.
    – Harry
    Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 10:38
  • @bmike not sure if you're aware, but your screenshot is on a MacBook and a lot of those options are missing on an iMac. For example instead of a slider there's a checkbox "prevent computer from sleeping". Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 0:56

On computers without an eject button (iMac with non-Apple keyboard; 2011 MacBook Air; etc.), it becomes difficult to put the display to sleep without using a hot corner. The following script will do the job (in Leopard and later), but it must be run with sudo:

original_setting=`/usr/bin/pmset -g | /usr/bin/grep displaysleep | /usr/bin/awk '{print $2}'`
echo $original_setting
/usr/bin/pmset -a displaysleep $magic_number; sleep 1; /usr/bin/pmset -a displaysleep $original_setting

On of the quick and easy ways I use to put the device to sleep is to use "HOT CORNERS" in System preferences. Its quick, easy, and painless. All I have to do, is mouse over to my top right corner, and my screen goes instantly blank. It puts the screen without putting the computer to sleep. Hope my tip helps

PS:. In Mac OS X Lion you can access hot corners in the Preferences pane under Mission control.


You can use this great open source tool: https://github.com/Eun/DisableMonitor

Tested on iMac (20-inch, Early 2009) with OSX El Capitan 10.11.4 and Dell U2515H external monitor via DP


you just dim the screen all the way down. The controls are beside the escape button in the top left.


schedule you can set any time you want .I watch tv set it 1/2 hour in the future it works well

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