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The 2020 M1 Macbook Air lacks keys to adjust keyboard brightness and F5 and F6 don’t appear to have any effect.

Is there a way to adjust - especially to turn off - the keyboard backlight?

MacBook Air 2020 (Winter, M1) F-key layout

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  • I had the same problem mentioned above, and it concerned me that Apple did not add a shortcut to adjust this. So, I have developed an application that adds the following shortcuts in place: “fn + F2” to brighten backlight, and “fn + F1” to darken backlight. Take a look over at naden.co/luminescent.html
    – Denicio
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 16:38

5 Answers 5

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From Control Center, choose Keyboard Brightness and adjust the slider.

Screen recording of instructions.

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  • 2
    Can't find the button by default on MacOS 13.1. I had to go to "System Settings" -> "Control Centre", under "Other Modules" and turn on "Show in Control Centre" for Keyboard Brightness.
    – Lacek
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 17:46
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If you want to be able to adjust the keyboard backlight with F5 and F6 again, you can install Karabiner-Elements to remap the keys. This worked for me on an M1 Macbook Air (2020), running macOS 11.2.1 Big Sur, and the version of Karabiner-Elements I have right now is 13.3.0.

  1. Install with Homebrew

    brew install karabiner-elements
    
  2. Open Karabiner-Elements. The icon looks like this:

    Karabiner-Elements icon

  3. Since it needs to see your keystrokes and modify them, you'll need to enable some accessibility permissions. I can't remember exactly which, but you should be prompted to enable them when you open the app.

  4. With Karabiner-Elements open, click on the "Function keys" tab, and set f5 to illumination_down and f6 to illumination_up. Uncheck "Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys" if it's checked.

    screenshot of Karabiner-Elements preferences pane

  5. F5 and F6 should now attempt to change the the keyboard brightness, but they don't always work, and sometimes you get an icon with a 🚫 flash on the screen (see this GitHub issue for details). Oddly enough, whether it works or not depends on the ambient lighting in the room. To fix this, you need to disable the "Adjust keyboard brightness in low light" setting. Go to the macOS keyboard preferences menu (System Preferences > Keyboard), and uncheck it.

    enter image description here

    You may notice in the screenshot that the "Use F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys" option is checked here. It doesn't appear to have any effect whether it is checked or not, but the setting in Karabiner-Elements does matter.

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7

Apple supports a official way to remap the old style by f5/f6 keys!

It was the first thing which i've changed on a new M2 MacBook. I have no needs for the original keymappings to microphone or sleep, so i found this solution is very handy if you know this keys from older Apple Devices and can live by the misslabled Keysymbols. Found this solution on Reddit¹

Create a new plist file in ~/Library/LaunchAgents named com.local.KeyRemapping.plist and add the code below. Save the file and reboot. F5 and F6 will now work as keyboard brightness up/down keys (after you log in for the first time after rebooting).

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">
<dict>
    <key>Label</key>
    <string>com.local.KeyRemapping</string>
    <key>ProgramArguments</key>
    <array>
        <string>/usr/bin/hidutil</string>
        <string>property</string>
        <string>--set</string>
        <string>{"UserKeyMapping":[
            {
              "HIDKeyboardModifierMappingSrc": 0xC000000CF,
              "HIDKeyboardModifierMappingDst": 0xFF00000009
            },
            {
              "HIDKeyboardModifierMappingSrc": 0x10000009B,
              "HIDKeyboardModifierMappingDst": 0xFF00000008
            }
        ]}</string>
    </array>
    <key>RunAtLoad</key>
    <true/>
</dict>
</plist>

There exists also Web-Editors to generate more functions on keys²

And under Link 3 is an Apple Developer Link for more Infos about Keycodes.

  1. https://www.reddit.com/r/MacOS/comments/jy5ry8/m1_macbook_air_keysshortcut_for_keyboard/
  2. https://hidutil-generator.netlify.app/
  3. https://developer.apple.com/library/archive/technotes/tn2450/_index.html
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For new MacOS Settings -> Control Center -> Keyboard Brightness

Switch on the necessary controls enter image description here

Now you can control the keyboard brightness from the control center (top right corner of the Screen) enter image description here

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keyboard.swift is a macOS tool to read and control keyboard brightness. It can be installed from Github or via Homebrew.

brew tap oschrenk/made [email protected]:oschrenk/homebrew-made
brew install oschrenk/made/keyboard
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