I have a MacBook Pro. When it senses the ambient light is low, the backlit keyboard turns on, and there are keys that let me control its brightness.

But when enough light reaches the ambient light sensor, the backlight turns off and I can't adjust it:

In some settings the screen may be illuminated, but the keyboard is not well-lit and hard to see, so I'd really like the backlight to turn on. Is there any way to force-enable it?

5 Answers 5


gentmatt’s answer seems useful!

Alternatively, you could try going to System PreferencesKeyboard, and unchecking the “Automatically illuminate keyboard in low light” setting. That should prevent the “disabled” icon from your screenshot altogether.


LabTick allows you to manually control the keyboard backlight:

enter image description here

  • 1
    +1. I have Command-F6 set to turn on LabTick (F6 is the backlight brighter key, so it's easy to remember). I found the default settings to be way too low on my early 2008 MacBook Pro, especially since the color of the keys and the color of the letters on the keys were almost the same.
    – asmeurer
    Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 3:14
  • I set my toggle to the ± key below escape (on MacBook Air's at least) 1 press on/off is pretty useful!
    – Steve
    Commented Jan 12, 2013 at 15:22

You can just put your hand front of iSight sensor and then press backlight keys.

Like this:

enter image description here

  • If you want to keep the "Adjust keyboard brightness in low light" setting enabled, this is the way to do it.
    – seth10
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 1:05

Another solution: put a piece of tape or something over the ambient light sensor. It will always think it is night. The sensor is either below the speakers or on the display somewhere (on my early 2008 MacBook Pro, it was below the speakers; on my new Retina MacBook Pro, it is right next to the camera). You can find it by running your hand across the computer in full light until the keys light up. Note that if it's below the speakers, it might require both speakers to be covered.



I tried this after replacing my RAM. It works fine now.

  • 1
    If the solution isn't too long / detailed (less than 2 screenfuls, say,) you should copy/paste or paraphrase it and put it directly in your answer. This reduces the impact of broken links, which always occur eventually.
    – gosmond
    Commented Feb 28, 2013 at 8:24

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