Force-Sleep the Display on a 2010-2011 MacBook Air

[Update: It looks like Mountain Lion finally restored this functionality—you can press Shift + Control + Power key, and the screen will immediately go to sleep.]

The 2010/2011 MacBook Air models are all amazing, and I believe Apple will eventually convert all their Mac laptops to the same basic design (just different sizes), forgoing the optical drives.

The only downside to this new design is the lack of an eject key—of course, most people probably only knew the key could eject discs, so it's no big loss for them. I, however, use that key in a standard Shift + Control + Eject combination to instantly turn off my Mac's display to conserve power and prevent any pixel ghosting. I've used the combo for a few years, and it took me some time to find out a way to reliably do something similar on my new 11" MacBook Air.

There are a few ways you can get this functionality back:

  1. Assign a Hot Corner: Open the Mission Control System Preference, click on 'Hot Corners...' and assign 'Put Display to Sleep' to one of the corners.
  2. Use the Sleep Display Dockable App: Dockables are little apps you can throw in your Dock, or open on your own (either using a keyboard shortcut assigned with something like Quicksilver), that perform single tasks... like 'Put Display to Sleep'.
  3. Reassign the Eject Key: Use KeyRemap4MacBook and assign something like the F12 key to the Eject key (check 'F12 to Eject' under the 'Change F1..F19 Key' heading.

And there you have it! I'm currently using method #3, with the new key command Shift + Fn + Control + F12, and I'm happy with it. I just wish Apple had exposed a keyboard-shortcuttable command, or at least a shell-scriptable command that I could run in the terminal. Having to install more software on my Mac to get back this shortcut is an annoyance.

Jeff Geerling is a Technical Architect at Acquia, owner of Midwestern Mac, LLC, and author of Ansible for DevOps. He is an active contributor in the Drupal community, and has primarily been a Mac user since the 1990s.


TFE's picture

I do not like using a Hot Corner (alone) because too often I would inadvertently sleep the screen by random movement of the the cursor. However, there is a solution....

You can add a "modifier key" (e.g., the "Command" key) to the hot corner sequence so that moving the cursor to the chosen hot corner does NOT sleep the screen unless you also push and hold the modifier key.

To add a modifier key, open "System Preferences", go to "Desktop & Screen Saver", choose the "Screen Saver" tab, and click on "Hot Corners…". Open the dropdown for the corner you prefer. Before clicking "Put Display to Sleep" hold down the Command key (or another modifier key*) and then click "Put Display to Sleep".

Voilà! Now the display will sleep only if you hold down the Command key before moving the cursor to the chosen Hot Corner.

*I believe the only modifier keys available for this are Shift, Control, Option and Command -- you can use any one of them or combinations.

Pete's picture

I just use control-shift-power (ie, the power button key, top right key on the keyboard). It works fine on my 2010 MacBook Airin the same way that control-shift-eject used to. Have you tried that? I am running Mountain Lion so maybe it's a feature of the new os.

Jeff Geerling's picture

Interesting - looks like this is a new feature (well, more like an old feature added back in) in Mountain Lion. I just verified that it works as you say on my Air, so I guess I'll just update this post accordingly. Thanks!

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