On my MacBook Air 2013 (Mountain Lion):

pmset has the following sleep settings:

$ pmset -g
 disksleep            10
 sleep                1
 displaysleep         2

while systemsetup has the following settings:

$ systemsetup -getsleep
Sleep: Computer sleeps after 10 minutes
Sleep: Display sleeps after 10 minutes
Sleep: Disk sleeps after 10 minutes

What is the difference between these settings?

Also, Energy Saver shows "Display sleep" is set to 2 minutes, so coincides with pmset, while "Computer sleep" is no longer shown in Mountain Lion I have read. Why is this no longer possible?

UPDATE: Turns out MacBook Air 2013 dropped separate sliders for computer- and display sleep: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1595455 Using pmset to set these individually should still work however. Not sure I like the change though...

3 Answers 3


In this case, systemsetup is a high level wrapper that is analogous to the System Preferences UI. Both call the lower level power API which are the internals about how the system actually stores these values for the hardware to use and implement. pmset is a lower level tool that reads the API/hardware values directly, so I would generally trust that over the higher level tools like Energy Saver or system setup

If you are right and there is a discrepancy, you might have to file a bug report with Apple to figure out if it's really a bug or just that the information is being mixed up before it is presented to you.

You can go directly to the source file as it's stored at /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/com.apple.PowerManagement.plist and perhaps it can break the tie between which of these three tools is telling you the correct information?

In all my computers, the numbers match up, so perhaps the systemsleep values are incorrect for your hardware or OS build?

  • The .plist matches up with pmset, so I guess that one's the boss. Also, when I move the "Display sleep" slider, the pmset displaysleep value moves with it, as does the value in /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/com.apple.PowerManagement.plist. Jun 29, 2013 at 14:37
  • @uffjohn I also neglected to say that these settings get loaded into memory of the SMC and OS and that running processes can put holds on things like sleep, so it's a little more complicated than just a plist file but that seems to be very close to reality in my experience.
    – bmike
    Jun 29, 2013 at 15:15
  • Turns out systemsetup only affects the Power Adapter settings, see my update above :) Jun 30, 2013 at 15:54
  • It would be best if you edited those details in to this answer or made a new answer. Questions work best when they are short and precise. Answers work best when there is some narrative - what the initial thoughts were - how you got to a solution and in the end a summary of how things work.
    – bmike
    Jun 30, 2013 at 16:06

After doing some more testing, it seems the results from systemsetup -getsleep correlate with the Power Adapter settings on the Energy Adapter prefpane. When I use -setsleep 10, the Display Sleep timer also jumps to 10 minutes, and vice versa.

Also, when I check Prevent computer from sleeping when display is off, systemsetup -getsleep returns Sleep: Computer sleeps Never, while unchecking Put hard disks to sleep when possible causes Sleep: Disk sleeps Never.

In conclusion, it would seem the reason for the deviating values of pmset and systemsetup is that I was testing while on battery power, so pmset returned battery values, while systemsetup always returns power adapter values.


My MacBook Air is an Early 2015 model and installed with macOS 10.14.2, and I've encounter the similar issue.

It puzzled me at first, but after poking-around for a while, I found:

  1. pmset is able to set different sleep configuration for battery mode and AC mode, with -b and -c options respectively. What info pmset -g displays depends on whether the your MAC is using battery or AC power. So, if you want to know the complete settings pmset currently holds, you should run pmset -g twice, with and without power adapter plugged on respectively.

  2. systemsetup has no options to distinguish battery and AC power setting.

  3. If you use systemsetup to change the power settings, the settings in GUI System Preference==>Energy Saver==>Power Adapter changes accordingly, and vice versa. But, the settings in System Preference==>Energy Saver==>Battery always stay the same after using systemsetup. So, it is obvious that systemsetup can only modify AC-mode power settings.

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