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Almost always, I use my Macbook Air (M1) connected to an external display and closed. This means under the "clamshell mode".

On most occasions, I simply stop using the computer. After 5 minutes without activity, the machine is configured to sleep. If I wanna reuse it, I just need to press a key on the keyboard or move the mouse. When I wrap-up my day, I usually just cease my use which generates inactivity.

Sometimes, I get afraid of letting the computer too long without completely shutting it down. Hence, I click on the "apple" icon and set it to a proper shut down.

It is a bit inconvenient to shut it down because I use a vertical laptop stand. Hence, when I want to turn it on, I need to remove the MacBook from the vertical laptop stand, open it, press the power button, close it, and then put it again on the vertical laptop stand.

I am not sure if shutting down is really recommended (or how often it is recommended).

  1. What is the best practice in this situation?

  2. In case shutting down frequently is the recommended approach, is there any way to turn the Macbook on without opening the laptop and pressing the button?

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    I don't even put mine to sleep, I just use Display Sleep.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 25, 2023 at 23:20
  • 3
    You could always consider just restarting instead of shutting down. It will restart, and then go back to sleep after the time out.
    – trlkly
    Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 0:29

3 Answers 3

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Considering that my Mac is usually on clamshell-mode, should I let it sleep always or should I shut it down?

Let it sleep.

You will cause no damage to your Mac by allowing it to sleep while in closed-clamshell mode. In fact, Mac desktops are so designed to not have to reboot often - many run for months without needing to reboot until an update is applied (take note of my raised hand). In closed clamshell mode, your portable Mac is now behaving as a desktop.

… I need to remove the MacBook from the vertical laptop stand, open it, press the power button, close it, and then put it again on the vertical laptop stand.

And…that’s the logistical reason for not powering down - there’s no access to the power button. By allowing it to sleep, you can easily wake it with the external keyboard/mouse whereas a power down condition requires you to take the several physical steps as you described.

Will you harm your Mac?

You can’t harm the battery, the CPU or any of the components. It’s been designed to operate efficiently whether opened or closed.

And…

Given that you’ve got a snazzy new bit of Apple Silicon kit under the hood, that CPU is designed to run much more efficiently (resulting in cooler temps) than it’s Intel counterpart. Heat and ventilation isn’t an issue (see links below)

So no, it won’t harm your Mac. It’s designed to function this way.

Further reading…

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In modern personal computers (not only MACs, but Windows and Linux computers as well) the "sleep" is not really different from the "full shutdown", at least from a hardware viewpoint.

What the shutdown is: Stop all processes, write all "in transit" data properly to the non-volatile storage ("disk"), mark that we did a "proper shutdown" somewhere on the disk, power off everything that is at all able to power off (display, CPU, RAM, disk, most of the motherboard). Only a small portion of the circuits that serve the power button (and in some cases, the wake-on-LAN or wake-by-keyboard function) are left powered on.

What a "sleep" is: Suspend all of the processes, write all of the used RAM content in a special file, mark that we did a "sleep" somewhere on the disk, power off everything that is at all able to power off (display, CPU, RAM, disk, most of the motherboard). Only a small portion of the circuits that serve the power button (and in some cases, the wake-on-LAN or wake-by-keyboard function) are left powered on.

The picture is somewhat simplified, but as you can see, not a great deal of difference. Some OS (not sure about Mac OS) went as far as faking the "shutdown" and doing a "sleep" instead. The real "shutdown" and the startup afterwards are slower and the users are less happy with them.


In short, let the computer serve you and not the other way round. Modern computers are smart enough to take care of simple tasks like their own general power management.

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    The significant difference is what happens when you come out of the mode. It does much more work to restart from shutdown, because no state is saved and it restarts all subsystems from scratch.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 25, 2023 at 23:20
  • What you describe is "hibernate", not "sleep". In "sleep", the RAM is left powered on.
    – Mark
    Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 4:59
  • @Mark there is no much difference since the introduction of ssd's. RAM is kept powered on for a while, in order to wakeup faster, then powered off - the content is on the disk anyway.
    – fraxinus
    Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 6:56
  • @fraxinus, I don't have any SSD Macs that give me the option to hibernate, but in Windows, there's a distinct difference: waking from sleep takes less than a second, while waking from hibernate takes about 30 seconds (ten of which are spent on POST.)
    – Mark
    Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 22:28
-2

In general, it's usually not necessary to shut down your Macbook Air after each use, especially if you're just stepping away for a short period of time. It's fine to simply let it go to sleep when not in use, as long as it's not causing any issues with your workflow or computer performance.

However, if you're going to be away from your Macbook Air for an extended period of time, it may be a good idea to shut it down to conserve battery life and prevent any potential issues that may arise from prolonged use.

As for turning on your Macbook Air without opening the laptop and pressing the button, it's not possible to do so on most models, including the Macbook Air M1. However, you can try attaching an external keyboard or mouse and see if pressing a key or clicking the mouse will wake the computer from sleep mode. If that doesn't work, you may have to open the laptop and press the power button to turn it on.

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    I'd question whether "overnight" counts as "extended period of time". Many people run laptops clamshell for months with no issues.
    – benwiggy
    Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 21:18
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    @benwiggy Yes. Thanks for pointing this out! :)
    – Thinkr
    Commented Jun 25, 2023 at 7:35
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    I don’t think you understand clamshell mode. Commented Jun 25, 2023 at 13:39
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    @DougMasters Oh? May you explain then?
    – Thinkr
    Commented Jun 25, 2023 at 14:12
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    Sure. You’ll see what I mean if you answer these two questions: what MacBook models CAN you press the power button with the lids closed? And what does battery life have to do with MacBook that is always plugged in? Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 13:56

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