There are a few occasions when you might want your Mac to be awake and doing something, but would prefer if the screen was turned off. For example, you might be running a lengthy software download overnight and don't want the glare of your screen keeping you awake. Alternatively, you could be mirroring your Mac's display to a TV but don't want to see the same images on the small screen in the corner of the room. For these moments and other like them, here's how to turn off the screen on your Mac without it going to sleep.

The easy method

Before searching for software settings or other, more complex, ways of achieving this goal, we recommend the utilitarian approach. For many cases the easiest way to essentially disable your screen is to simply turn the brightness down to zero. This will make the display completely dark, but you'll retain all functionality and can change it back in an instant by turning the brightness up once more. To turn the screen brightness down on your Mac you probably need to press the F1 key, but it will depend on the generation of your Mac. The relevant key will have a sun symbol on it.

Should you have a backlit keyboard, then employ the same method to darken the keys. This time the key is probaly F5.

Boom! Stealth mode unlocked.

Disable your Mac's display with Hot Corners

For an instant way to turn off the display on your Mac, a good idea is to use the Hot Corners feature. Here's how:

  1. Open System Preferences and click on Desktop & Screen Saver.

    How to turn off Mac display without putting it to sleep: System Preferences

  2. Select the Screen Saver tab, then you should see a button marked Hot Corners… under the main pane.

    How to turn off Mac display without putting it to sleep: Hot Corners Setting

  3. Click this and you'll see a mini window appear with drop-down menus for each corner. Select the one you're least likely to use by accident and assign it Put Display to Sleep.

    How to turn off Mac display without putting it to sleep: Hot Corner options

  4. Click OK and you'll now be able to instantly disable your screen by moving the mouse cursor to that corner.
  5. To wake the display once more, move the mouse and press one of the keys on your keyboard.

Use clamshell mode for external displays

If you're using an external display attached to your MacBook, then rather than disable its screen you can use the dedicated Clamshell mode so that you can close the lid without the external display also shutting down. For a step-by-step guide to using this feature, read how to use MacBook with lid closed.

You may also find the following helpful: how to use a second screen with a Mac, how to connect a Mac to a TV and best USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 docking stations for MacBook, Pro and Air.