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Today I encountered a problem with the screen-saver, in which it couldn't be deactivated in order to return to normal work. Normally, hitting escape will deactivate the screen-saver, but this did not work. I could see the mouse pointer over top of the screen-saver, however.

I use hot-corners to activate the screen-saver, and I could still use those to re-activate the screen-saver, but then the escape key brought me back to the screen-saver "underneath", instead of the normal desktop. I could also activate mission control/spaces, and it looked normal, but choosing a desktop just brought me back to the screen-saver.

So, a summary of strategies I tried to get the screensaver "unstuck":

  • hitting escape
  • moving the mouse
  • re-activating and de-activating the screensaver via its hot corner
  • activating mission control with a hotkey and choosing a desktop
  • hitting cmd-opt-escape to try the force quit dialog

How can the screensaver be deactivated without shutting down the machine? I'm running MacOS 10.13.4.

  • To clarify... you mean the screen had locked but the screensaver was still running, rather than it going to a black screen? If so, I've seen that on a few Macs since High Sierra; for some reason the 'screen off' is not being triggered correctly. – Tetsujin Feb 4 '19 at 7:44
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    @Tetsujin The screensaver was still running, even though I was interacting with the machine and trying to get it to shut off – spinup Feb 5 '19 at 20:32
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Lock & Unlock the Mac

Use the key-combo Control+Shift+Power on MacBooks or Control+Shift+Eject on Macs with a full-sized keyboard. This will lock the computer, requiring the usual login and password authentication. After re-authenticating, the machine should be back to normal.

Source: UWGB

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If you have SSH enabled on your Mac and access to another computer on the same network you can start a terminal session and kill the screensaver. For example, I would open a terminal on my Linux PC and SSH into the Mac then run the following command:

killall ScreenSaverEngine

NOTE: This will not unlock the session if the screen is also locked. It will simply dim and reappear. This solution only applies after entering the password to unlock the screen but the screensaver does not dismiss.

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  • Good idea -- would this require root/sudo? – spinup May 17 at 5:23
  • @spinup no, just the user of the session with the screen saver. – Jonathan Neufeld May 20 at 22:34
  • This worked when lock/unlock did not. – atwixtor Jun 19 at 22:16
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I encountered this problem the last two days on Catalina on my iMac. I tried some suggested methods, but lacked an Apple keyboard, and didn't restart or use SSH.

What eventually worked for me, I didn't find elsewhere:

  1. Control Command q
  2. Esc
  3. login

Hitting Esc makes the screen go black, which I guess cancels the screensaver.

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  • That's an interesting one! Thanks for adding it as a solution for non-apple keyboards. So does it take you to a login screen, or just lock the screen and prompt for your credentials? Apple lists Shift-Command-Q as a keyboard shortcut for logging out -- is it possible your non-apple keyboard was mapping to that? – spinup May 28 at 0:50
  • Thanks for noticing a discrepancy. I meant Control Command q. Fixed above. – Cyberthal May 29 at 2:35

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