There are a lot of different reasons why you might want to use your MacBook with the lid closed. You might want to plug into an external display and move your MacBook out of the way to free up space on your desk (although you could always use both screens). Alternatively you might be wanting to download something or play music from your Mac without needing to keep the lid open - you'll find that as soon as you close the lid the download will stop.

If you want to stop your Mac from sleeping when you close the lid then jump to this section.

One related problem you might come across if you are using your Mac with the lid closed is that when it comes to turning your Mac on it would seem that you have to open the lid to press the power switch... Luckily there is a workaround for that scenario that you might find useful. Read about how to turn on your Mac without opening the lid here.

How to use a MacBook with the lid closed

  1. We'll start by addressing the first scenario: using your MacBook with an external screen while keeping the lid closed. Luckily that's pretty easy to set up. Here's what you need to do:
  2. Connect an external keyboard (can be wireless).
  3. Connect an external mouse (can be wireless).
  4. Connect an external monitor.
  5. If you are using a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, make sure that Bluetooth is on and that the peripherals are paired with the Mac.
  6. After your Mac notebook's Desktop appears on the external display, close the computer's lid.
  7. Your external monitor may flash off for a moment but it will then show your Desktop (you may need to wake your Mac by pressing a key on the keyboard or moving the mouse).
  8. You may find that your MacBook needs to be plugged in via the power adaptor for the screen to appear on the external monitor, but ours didn’t.

You can read more about using a second display with your Mac here.

How to turn on the MacBook with the lid closed

It’s easy to wake your MacBook from sleep without opening the lid - just click or move the mouse or tap on the keyboard. But what if you want to start the Mac up without opening the lid to reveal the power button.

Can it be done? It can! (Sort of)

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Click Energy Saver.
  3. Click Schedule.
  4. Now click beside Start Up or Wake and choose the days and times you want your Mac to start up. Note that the Mac will only turn on when it is plugged into power - so you could just leave the Mac unplugged, and then when you want it to start up, simply plug it in.

How to stop a MacBook from sleeping with the lid closed

Suppose you don’t want your MacBook to sleep when you close the lid - maybe it is busy downloading something and you don’t want it to stop but you need to carry it somewhere, or maybe you’ve left it downloading an update overnight or syncing your Time Machine backup and you’d prefer not to see the backlit keyboard. Another scenario you might want to play music from the MacBook without having to have the lid open - something likely to appeal to a few DJs.

The problem is that your Mac will go to sleep when you close the lid if it’s not plugged in and connected to an external display.

You could set never goto sleep in the System preferences, but it seems that closing the lid will cause the Mac to sleep regardless.

Luckily there are some third party apps you can use to prevent sleep with the lid closed:

Insomniac

Available on the Mac App Store for 99p here, this little utility will prevent your Mac from going to sleep.

Amphetamine

A free download from the Mac App Store here, Amphetamine keeps your Mac awake by overriding the Energy Saver settings.

Caffeinated

Available on the Mac App Store here for 99p, this app overrides the Energy Saver settings to keep your Mac awake, preventing your Mac from going to sleep.